“I don't believe in saints,
They never make mistakes”
I was listening to the radio recently, and my ears picked up this opening line from the song ‘Dirty Laundry’ by the American rock band All Time Low. Immediately I thought…do these guys even know the saints? My mind was drawn to some of the amazing stories of the saints…Saint Augustine, who at times was living a lifestyle which could not have been further from God; Saint Paul who persecuted early Christians before his own conversion to Christianity; or Saint Teresa of Calcutta who admitted that she felt a deep and painful separation from God, yet still chose to serve Him every day.
In the Catholic faith, we consider anyone who goes to heaven as a saint. There are however official saints who are canonized (declared officially by the Roman Catholic Church), who have lived lives especially worthy of recognition. Saints are often thought of as people who are perfect or sinless, who have lived lives without any stain or sin. However, that could not be any further from the truth. Saints are just normal people like you and me – each of them suffered with the effects of original sin. Each of them needed God’s mercy, and each needed God’s help. But what does separate the saints is their enduring quest to know God, to serve Him and His people. They never gave up when things did not go quite right, and never stopped trying to do better. Their mistakes (and yes they did make them!) do not define them.
When I looked a little further, I managed to find out a little about some of the meanings behind the song ‘Dirty Laundry’. Alex Gaskarth, the lead singer of All Time Low said the song is about coming to terms with your past and realizing that everybody around you has a past too. Alex made the point that often the people around us do things they regret and that is part of accepting people exactly as they are.
“Saints are only sinners who keep trying” St Teresa of Calcutta
And Alex is right…all of us do have a past, all of us have things that we might be ashamed that we have done, all of us have probably done things that have hurt others around us, or hurt ourselves. But with that past and our mistakes, there is a choice…to do as the Saints did. To know that our mistakes are not the end, and to keep on trying to live as God is calling each of us to.
Another popular misconception about saints, is that they are people of the past. That the canonization of saints is an outdated tradition from many years ago. But in reality the call to holiness is still just as valid as it was 2000 years ago.
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
Since 2013, Pope Francis has canonized 850 saints – each of them recognized for bringing Christ to this world in a different way. Often people may ask what is the point of canonized saints, or what can we learn from them. And the answer will be very different from each person, and on each saint. We never know how our life, our story, will affect the people around us – but ultimately we must believe that God is using our life for a purpose. And hopefully through us, others may come to know Him too.
This poem below is often attributed to Saint John Paul II, but really we do not know the true author. The sentiment however is the perfect message for us as young people living in the 21st century.
WE NEED SAINTS
We need saints without veil or cassock.
We need saints who wear jeans and trainers.
We need saints who go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with friends.
We need saints who put God in first place, but who let go of their own power.
We need saints who have time every day to pray and who know how to date in purity and chastity, or who consecrate their chastity.
We need modern saints, Saints of the 21st century with a spirituality that is part of our time.
We need saints committed to the poor and the necessary social changes.
We need saints who live in the world and who are sanctified in the world, who are not afraid to live in the world.
We need saints who drink Coke and eat McDonalds, who wear jeans, who are Internet-savvy, who listen to Spotify.
We need saints who passionately love the Eucharist and who are not ashamed to drink a soda or eat pizza on weekends with friends.
We need saints who like movies, the theatre, music, dance, sports.
We need saints who are social, open, normal, friendly, happy and who are good companions.
We need saints who are in the world and know how to taste the pure and nice things of the world but who aren’t of the world.
We need saints.
I do believe in Saints. They did make mistakes. But they were not afraid to learn from these mistakes. To be the people that God created them to be. And I leave this quote from St Catherine of Sienna as an encouragement to each of you reading this – we need saints!
“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the whole world on fire” St Catherine of Sienna