Ten Steps to Becoming a Saint
By Jean M. Heimann
What do the saints have in common?
1. They are realists – They recognize themselves to be imperfect human beings with a sinful nature and they know that they cannot be holy without the grace of God. They understand that the past is behind them and they must now live in the present and not worry about the future. When they are hurting the most and feel nothing but emptiness in their hearts, they realize that God has not abandoned them, but is closest to them.
2. They hear God’s voice and are obedient to it. They take the time to enter into the silence and to converse with God there. They know that there are many times they will not hear His voice clearly, but they will continue to come to seek Him with all their hearts, to fight the annoying external and internal distractions which attempt to block out the communication between them. When they hear His call, they follow after Him. Though there are many obstacles on the path, they accept and embrace their cross, uniting their trials and their suffering to His, offering it all up for the salvation of souls.
3. They use the unique gifts they have been given to know, love, and serve God with their whole hearts, their whole minds, and their whole souls. They realize that they can serve God, whom they cannot see, by serving and loving those whom they can see – those they encounter in the everyday, ordinary circumstances of their lives. They preach by their actions – by carrying out the corporal works of mercy and the spiritual works of mercy. They obey the commandments and practice the beatitudes. They obey God by living out their vocations to the best of their ability and they depend on Him to help them accomplish that.
4. They have a deep love for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. They understand that as Jesus offered His life for us and gives Himself to us in the form of simple gifts of bread and wine, which have been transformed into His body and blood, so, too, must we give ourselves to Him, offering all that we are, all that we do so that we may also be transformed into bread for others.
5. Saints live simple lives, devoid of materialism (worship of material goods), to help them stay focused on the Purpose of their lives. Of course, there have been some saints who were wealthy, like St. Elizabeth of Hungary, but she had a deep love for the poor and a servant’s heart and gave much of what she had to them. St. Katharine Drexel is another example of a saint who was wealthy, but she learned from a young age to share her wealth with the poor and those in need. She also donated her large family inheritance to the poor. These saints used their money for God’s purposes and did not worship the gift, but loved the Gift Giver.
6. Saints have a deep and active prayer life. Prayer is not simply uttering a few mutterings in the morning and mumbling a list of blessings before bed at night, but it is a continual conversation with God throughout the day.
7. Saints carry their crosses. They also fast and do penance. Saints accept the suffering and the crosses they are given in the life. Some suffer from physical deformities or handicaps, such as Blessed Margaret of Castello, who was born blind, hunchback, and had one leg shorter than the other. Her noble parents were ashamed of her, locked her up for years in a cell in the forest, and then abandoned her in the city of Castello, Italy where she became a beggar in order to survive. Was she bitter about this? If she was, it certainly did not effect her behavior. She displayed a cheerful, sweet disposition and was later taken in by a family, became a Dominican and then spent her time serving the outcasts in society – prisoners, the poor, and the unwanted.
Other saints carry the cross of living with difficult people – as in the case of St. Rita of Cascia, whose husband was ill – tempered. She prayed for his conversion for eighteen years and he converted shortly before he was stabbed to death by an enemy. Her sons had the same disposition as the father and swore vengeance on his murderers, but through Rita’s prayers, fasting, and various penances, they forgave the offenders.
Even living with other nuns in the convent is no guarantee that one won’t suffer from this cross; St. Therese of the Child Jesus and St. Bernadette are two saints who both had to deal with the jealousies and the hypersensitivities of other Sisters who were like thorns in their sides. If this wasn’t enough, these saints, too, took on penances of their own to offer up in union with the Lord. I just want to add that each person’s cross is unique -created especially for that individual and God gives each of us special graces to carry our cross.
Many of the saints lived austere lives for the Lord – for example, St. John Mary Vianney’s diet consisted of potato soup he made himself. The frail Cure of Ars allowed himself only two hours of sleep each night, and began hearing confessions at one o’clock in the morning, spending from 14 to 18 hours a day in the cramped confessional.8. Their lives are virtue-driven. They have a strong desire to live holy, sanctified lives. Each saint possesses their own unique set of virtues, but the most common virtues I have noticed in the saints I have studied are: love and humility.
9. Saints frequent the sacraments, which offer them many graces to ease the load they carry and keep them moving in the right direction. They frequent the sacrament of Reconciliation, accepting the forgiveness and the tender love and mercy of God. Whatever their past lives were, they know that no sin is too great to separate them from the love of God. They accept His grace to change their sinful ways, even if it means giving up one’s lustful pleasures and addictions and deciding to live a chaste life, as in the case of St. Augustine of Hippo.
10. Saints have a deep devotion to Our Blessed Mother and realize that the simplest path to Jesus is through His Mother, who always points them in the direction of her Son.
~ copyright 2007 Jean M. Heimann, updated November, 2011.