A huge number to help us on the way
We need to be holy. Not ‘Holy Joes’, or ‘Holier-than-thous’ who look down on everyone else. Holiness means trying, with God’s help, to become what God is asking us to be. For that task, we have the weapons given to the Church, through the apostles, by Christ. Those weapons are the sacraments and the word of God (the Bible, the Sacred Scriptures) sustain us in our efforts to become holy.
And there’s more: the Church is made up of a countless number, both visible and invisible, living and dead. The angels (pure spiritual beings) and saints (those who have gone before us in the way of holiness) are there to help us. Together with the angels and saints in heaven and the souls in purgatory, we all make up the ‘Communion of Saints’.
The Communion of Saints is a huge number of witnesses to Christ, “impossible to count”, says the book of Revelation (Revelation 7,9) who are enjoying the presence of God and each other forever. And they want us there with them.
The ‘Universal Call to Holiness’
“Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5,48) says Our Lord to those who would listen to him. This is a call to all of us: the wholehearted devotion to God’s glory and to the needs of our neighbour. It is nothing short of an invitation to holiness. To be holy means to live out our lives to the ‘full potential’ for which we were created. Holiness means to become more Christ-like every day. All of us need to become holy if we are to become like Christ and inherit eternal life. The challenge is nothing short of that!
Getting to know a saint or two
What better way to help us than the example of the saints themselves? There are thousands upon thousands of them. Some are officially recognised by the Church to be in heaven: these are the ‘canonised’ saints.
There are the big guns like St Peter, St Paul and St John. These are the apostles who lived with Jesus. St Peter was the first Pope, St Paul brought the Gospel to uncharted territories, St John was the ‘Beloved Disciple, who wrote a Gospel, some letters and the book of Revelation (the Apocalypse). St Mary Magdalene and St Martha are also great figures of the Gospels. St Mary Magdalene had been a prostitute, St Martha was a housewife.
Other saints down the ages light up the history of the Church: St Augustine, St Athanasius, St Mary of Egypt, St Cecilia being examples from the early period.
There are saints famous for their theology: St Thomas Aquinas, St Catherine of Siena. Others are famous for founding great religious orders: St Benedict, St Francis, St Dominic. Others still are famous for their missionary zeal: St Ignatius Loyola, St Francis Xavier.
Still more inspire us to pray more: St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross.
Then there are the martyrs of England, put to death for refusing to accept the authority of the King or Queen over that of the pope in the 16th and 17th centuries. Some, such as St John Plessington or Blessed Thomas Holford, were priests, and brought the Mass to communities in secret. Others, such as St Margaret Ward and St Margaret Clitheroe, were brave laypeople who would rather sacrifice their lives rather than their fidelity to the truth.
There are patron saints of families (St Maximilian Kolbe, St Joseph), of students (St Jerome, St Joseph of Cupertino), of the unemployed (St Cajetan), of shepherdesses (St Bernadette), of actresses (St Pelagia), of astronauts, of flour merchants, of glovermakers, of printers, of politicians…
Get to know a saint. Start with your own patron (your name-saint), if you have one. Look him or her up. Speak to your saint. Ask him or her for guidance. They will, even immediately, be of immense value on your road to holiness.