Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Making a Saint


Some people believe that leaders are born not made. An organisation I worked at years ago ran leadership training for their managers in order to improve their leadership skills and abilities. I was not so sure about this and commented at the time that we need more followship training; otherwise everyone will be a good leader and there will be no one to follow them.

Thinking about it years later, I wonder whether Saints are born or "made".

Leaving aside for a moment the Catholic Church's perceived "habit" of declaring people Saints. As a Catholic myself, I am astounded that it seems all you have to do is send the Vatican three packet tops from a corn flakes box and Hey Presto you're a Saint. In olden times, I understand, there needed to be well researched evidence of miracles having been performed by/on behalf of certain individuals before the Vatican declared them Saints.

Let's consider real Saints for a moment. People like the early Christians, the disciples who followed Christ, or those who came later like Paul, who spent their lives preaching the Good News and were often persecuted, beaten, imprisoned and suffered cruel deaths for their beliefs. Now they were/are real Saints. People who died for Christ and deserve special recognition for what they have undergone.

Later Saints too seem to have suffered for their beliefs and for their "saintly" behaviour  whilst on earth.

But how about today? How about you and me? Do we have to undergo suffering and pain in order to be accepted as Saints and to be loved by God?

I believe not. I believe God loves each one of us equally but differently. Equally meaning with no special favouritism between you and me; differently meaning loving each individual according to his need. Very much like a parent would love a disabled child differently from the others but not necessarily more or less.

God does not ask us to suffer joyfully as a pre-requisite to entering Heaven. In olden days many Saints thought so and endured self-inflicted pain and suffering for the love of God.

Saint Francis of Assisi suffered severe self-afflicted penances like flagellations and the use of a hairshirt.

Saint Catherine of Sienna used to undergo extreme fasting for long periods, wore sackcloth and scourged herself three times a day.

Saint Ignatius of Loyola practised severe mortifications. He wore a hair shirt and heavy iron chain, and was in the habit of wearing a cord tied below the knee. 

Saint Thomas More, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Marguerite Marie Alacoque, and many other Saints and elders of the Church practised mortification and self-punishments.

Even Pope John Paul II, I understand practised self-flagellation and fasting before important events.

Personally, I believe this is wrong. 

God loved us so much that He gave us His only Son to die for us. 

Christ’s was the ultimate sacrifice, to lay down His life to redeem us and to re-build our relationship with God which sin had destroyed.

There is nothing we can do to repay that sacrifice. Not a million candles lit in church, not a million flowers, or a million Rosaries recited. Nothing we do will repay what Christ did for us.

That is not to say that we should stop doing these things. We do them out of reverence, love and respect for our Creator and not as an act of repayment. I have lit many a candle in my time and will continue to do so.

Fasting and abstinence are also similar forms of sacrifices which we do out of reverence rather than as an act of repayment.

As for self-inflicted pain and suffering in the hope of gaining some sort of Heavenly reward; that is, in my view, wrong.

Yes, some of us bear the pain and suffering of illness and old age. This is natural, and as best we can we live with these pains with the help of whatever is available medically. But these pains, as well as the many other sufferings people endure in life, like cruelty, bullying, unhappy marriages, persecutions and so on, are not a pre-condition in order to be loved by God or to be accepted in Heaven ... or to become a Saint.

God's love for us is already given. With no conditions or expected payment.

35 comments:

  1. Dear Victor, please read this linked article. There's more to mortification than meets the eye, and I think this fellow has at least a part of the answer.
    https://www.osv.com/TheChurch/Practices/Article/TabId/665/ArtMID/13706/ArticleID/4003/How-taking-the-discipline-can-get-us-into-better-spiritual-shape.aspx

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    1. Thank you Uglemor for your visit and for taking the time to comment. I much appreciate it.

      I have read the article by Fr Barron. I still have doubts in what he says. For example, "But what precisely is the point of this unusual practice? First, it is a means of imitating Christ by participating in his suffering."

      I understand that. But Christ never asked us to imitate Him in His suffering. He never said suffer like I do. The only imitation He asked for is "Love one another as I have loved you".

      My concern with this Catholic practice, (I am a Catholic), is that I do not believe we can ever repay what Christ did for us. So by such mortifications, whether in order to "imitate" Christ, or to "train" the body and discipline it, we only end up by satisfying and gratifying our personal needs in believing we have done something in return for Jesus.

      He never asked for repayment. He asked us to obey His Father's Commandments and to love one another. No amount of fasting, praying or mortification will substitute those Commandments.

      I respect people who, like Pope John Paul II, practice such deeds. I am not convinced that they cause any pleasure to God however.

      God bless you, my friend.

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    2. I was more thinking of his comparing discipline to fitnes. Maybe it's not for everybody (I'm sure it's not) bit I fuind it at least as meaningfull as the threadmill and other implements ogf torture found in a fitness studio.
      I maybe think we need more abstinence ect. (not physical self-punishments), and that the inclination to put these and discipline in the same "container/class/..." is what C.S.Lewis would call bringing fire extinguishers when there's a flood. - From somewhere in Screwtape Letters, cited utterly inaccurate after my memory (the meaning is intact, the words surely not).

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    3. ... And the meaning of abstinence ect. I always understood was not to please God, but to help us learn a lesson - which lesson depend on yourself and your favourite sins (I'm a catholic as well). Something in the vein of you cannot feast oif you cannot fast. And I wholeheartedly agree taht we cannot never, ever repay what Christ did, nor surpass God in grace. He's always bigger and better ;)

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    4. I agree Uglemor that discipline and fitness are good for the body. Whether one is an athlete or not.

      But Christ never asked for such discipline, or personal punishment such as mortification, as a way to thank Him for what He has done for us. Indeed, abstinence is good. Especially if the money saved through abstinence is given to charity. However, I just cannot understand why the saints I mentioned, and the Pope, did what they did to themselves. Surely God who loves us cannot be pleased about that.

      God bless you always.

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    5. I agree with what you say on abstinence.

      God bless you Uglemor.

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    6. ... and I do not in fact understand or feel called to do everything other people inside the Church feel called to. I just rejoice that God is good and the Church big enough to embrace us all, sinners and saints, latinists and bongo-massers, discipline-users and not, people loving the rosary or not. We're all inside <3
      God bless you too Victor.

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    7. I agree Uglemor. God is good and loves us all.

      God bless you always.

      Please visit us again here.

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  2. Amen to God's unconditional love.

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    1. Thank you Christine. Unconditional. We cannot repay His love.

      God bless you.

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  3. As Believers, we are all saints. Many scriptures to back this up, Victor.
    Blessings, My Friend!

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    1. Agreed Lulu. How have you been? Missed you in Blogland.

      God bless.

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    2. I am great, Victor. Someday I will get going again!
      Bless You!

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    3. I was really worried about you. I hesitated to e-mail you. So I prayed instead.

      God bless.

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  4. The only imitation He asked for is "Love one another as I have loved you".

    Amen. I agree with everything you wrote here.

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    1. Thank you Terri. Sometimes I am confused by the Catholic Church.

      God bless you and yours.

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  5. Wonderful! Having escaped just this year from 15 yrs. servitude (lol) to a giant corporation, your first paragraph is spot-on. Followship training … yes!

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    1. Oh ... the stories I can tell about large organisations !!!

      God bless you, Mevely.

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  6. Well said, Victor. I agree with you.

    "I was not so sure about this and commented at the time that we need more followship training; otherwise everyone will be a good leader and there will be no one to follow them."

    This makes sense! There really are fewer natural leaders needed, aren't there?

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    1. I meant I agree with you about the love of God. Not just the leadership classes! :)

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    2. Thank you Sandi.

      I worried then, and I worry now, when people follow my leadership because half the time I do not know where I am going. I mean ... I would not want when at work for the workforce to follow me in the toilet!

      We agree on the matter of the love of God for all of us - unconditionally.

      God bless you.

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  7. I don't know where I'd be without God's unconditional love for me, for all of us, no matter who we are or are not. Simply amazing!
    And yes, Victor, I agree that we don't need to go to extremes to show the Lord love and reverence. Jesus has paid our debt in full.
    Blessings, my friend!

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    1. Thank you Martha. I agree. We don't need to, and we cannot ever, repay God's love for us.

      God bless.

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  8. Your words are right on Victor and I agree with you.

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  9. Right on Victor. : ) I agree. I am so happy that Jesus loves even me. : )

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  10. I have no desire to participate in self-inflicted mortification or penances :-) My fasting (mainly during Lent) IS an act of reverence.

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  11. I don't think God loves you any more or less because you undergo self inflicted suffering. The mortifications are not to win God's love. They are to build up endurance and perseverance against evil temptations. They are to strengthen you. Just like the culture shapes people toward sin, you try to shape yourself against it. Anyway, that's what I think.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to visit and comment Manny. Much appreciated.

      Personally, I think prayer is the best way to build up our defences against sin and the devil's temptations.

      God bless.

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God bless you.

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