By ARCHBISHOP WILTON D. GREGORY, Commentary | Published April 20, 2018 | En Español
After serving nearly 35 years as a bishop, I still delight in celebrating the sacrament of Confirmation. I love the time that I spend with our youngsters, supporting them as they receive the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit in this sacrament. I never tire of engaging them with questions and conversation during the ceremony. These encounters are really important opportunities for me to teach—not just the kids, but equally important, the entire assembly participating in this ritual moment of grace.
The questions that I propose are now all quite well known and are really moments for our youngsters to understand more clearly the faith that we share. They are also invitations for their parents and family members to remember those same teachings of our faith.
One of my very favorite questions is, “Does God want us all to become saints?” Pope Francis recently answered that question for the entire Church with the issuance of his apostolic exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and be Glad”), in which he boldly proclaims that we are all called to genuine holiness according to the circumstances of our lives.
Sanctity, the Holy Father reminds us, is not something limited to the great publicly recognized figures of holiness from the Church’s past nor something only reserved to the clergy or religious. We are all summoned to become saints each in our own daily lives. The Pope takes this theme from the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, “Lumen Gentium” (“Light of the Nations”) (paragraph 11).
Many people fear seeking holiness because we wrongly believe that it demands we have to deny our feelings, our human condition, our personal culture. Pope Francis rejects those sentiments and ways of thinking in his very readable pastoral exhortation. While he admits that pursuing holiness is always a challenge for every person, it is not an impossible challenge. He suggests that countless millions of people achieve holiness each day. He uses the approach of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who suggested that we must strive to do little things with great love—following the “little way” to holiness.
Pope Francis’ exhortation invites us to remove everything from our hearts that blocks love. This is for all of us a lifelong journey toward holiness. Doing those little things—the ordinary things, the repetitive things that we face constantly—with humble acceptance is our pathway to sanctity. Whether we are young or old, laity or cleric, new to the faith or a lifelong Catholic, we are called to take the small steps toward holiness that we must follow each day.
I suppose that the greatest challenge for everyone is not being able to see much progress in making great strides along the way. This is particularly challenging for us, living in a world that demands and expects instant resolutions and indulgence. But that is the way of love: it takes an entire lifetime to perfect love—unless, of course, you are God. Still it only took 33 years, but even then, it came with a cross.
Does God want all of us to become saints? The answer is a resounding and unconditional yes! But the paths that we must take are usually slow and not often very flamboyant. We are called to become saints of the daily grind whose success will come only at the end when we finish the race and claim the prize.