Who Wants to Be a Saint?

A Reflection for Advent


In her book Saint-Watching, poet Phyllis McGinley writes:


When I was seven years old I wanted to be a tight-rope dancer and broke my collar bone practicing on a child’s-size high wire.  At twelve I planned to become an international spy.  At fifteen my ambition was the stage.  Now in my sensible or declining years I would give anything (except my comforts, my customs, and my sins) to be a saint.


The author somehow manages in a few words to convey much regret.  I am compelled to ask myself: Am I wasting my life?  Am I squandering opportunities to be a saint?

Saint John the Baptist is telling people not to miss opportunities to avoid evil and to do good.  As for avoiding evil, he says, “Do not practice extortion,
do not falsely accuse anyone.”[1]  As for doing good, he declares, “Whoever has two cloaks
should share with the person who has none.  And whoever has food should do likewise.”[2]  Sanctity (or the lack thereof) depends on daily decisions, moment-by-moment choices, and deliberate actions.

This year, when we pull out Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, let’s pay careful attention to the words of Jacob Marley’s Ghost:


I never knew that any Christian spirit, working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness, never knew that no space of regret can make amends for one’s life’s opportunity misused.


Well said, Jacob Marley!  You speak to all of us.

Let’s not miss even the smallest opportunity to be a saint!

[1] John 3:14, NAB.

[2] John 3:11, NAB.