If you will look into your own heart in complete honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not a saint: you do not wholly want to be.
From William Law’s, Serious Call
I was going to write something about the difference between saints and sinners until I realized that saints are sinners just like the rest of us. So what makes a saint become a saint and the rest of us, just like the rest of us, sinners?
When one reads about the lives of saints whether they be the strong-willed, feminine saints like Joan D’ Arc, Catherine of Sienna or St. Therese of Avila or masculine ones like St. Ignatius of Loyola or St. James the Great, one cannot be struck by their obedience. It always boils down to a diminishing of the self, the desire to put God’s interest in front of one’s self-interest. Whereas saints say, “Thy will be done”, we say, “my will be done.” Therein lies the difference: Saints lose their pride, while the rest of us fall into false pride. When Christ said “loses himself” for the sake of the kingdom, He actually means to lose one’s self-gratification, one’s pride, one’s selfish interests. The only way to lose one’s pride is to practice the virtue of humility and one can only practice this if one realizes that this physical world is not all there is. He alludes to children and their child-like quality of dependence which is a form of humility.
Consider atheism. Atheists deny a supernatural reality. They deny God’s existence and look at themselves as insignificant in the scheme of things. It is a self-contradiction. They say, we are here by chance and we are not special but their actions belie their thinking. They live their lives trying to find meaning in their personal accomplishments either from academic accolades, philanthropic endeavors or the championing of human rights. Most atheists I have encountered and who are vocal are usually from the intelligentsia, the academic elite. I have not encountered an atheist who comes from the ranks of what society considers the poor and downtrodden, I wonder why?
Christianity encourages us both to achieve and serve but Christianity does so, not to give one a feeling of personal worth or purpose but because it is a way to sanctification and one can only sanctify his deeds if one’s purpose for doing so is directed towards God. In a sense, a nominal Christian who lives his life like an atheist is in a worst position. Imagine professing belief in God and living a life as though He does not exist!
Excerpts from the Holy Rule of St. Benedict, chapter VII. On Humility
- …then, is that a person keep the fear of God before his eyes and beware of ever forgetting it. Let him be ever mindful of all that God has commanded; let his thoughts constantly recur to the hell-fire which will burn for their sins those who despise God, and to the life everlasting which is prepared for those who fear him. […] Let a man consider that God is always look at him from heaven, that his actions are everywhere visible to the divine eyes and are constantly being reported to God by the Angels.
- The second degree of humility is that a person love not his own will nor take pleasure in satisfying his desires, but model his actions on the saying of the Lord, I have come not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.
- The third degree of humility is that a person for love of God submit himself to his Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says, He became obedient even unto death.