Recently, I picked up a book entitled “Saints Are Not Sad,” a collection of biographies of saints assembled by Frank Sheed and originally published in 1949. On the front cover was a quotation from St. Francis De Sales. He says: “A sad saint would be a sorry saint.” I chuckled at the image it created in my mind of a pouting statue of St. Peter or St. Francis.
Opening the text, I read the “Assembler’s Note,” and was delighted. Sheed states that if we want relief from monotony, we should learn more about the saints. Those who are true disciples and live their lives with “holy” integrity do not blend into the mainstream population. Sheed believes that “saints are intensely themselves” and are given a special vitality to live their lives “against the grain of the majority.” We would call that vitality the presence of the Holy Spirit.
If we explored the life of any saint more deeply, we would find the path of a Christian steward. They received, nurtured, and shared the good news of Jesus Christ. Many men and women used both their voice and lives to witness to the truth. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus were a joyful reality for them. There are many accounts of lavish amounts of prayer, service and sharing everywhere in the biographies of these holy men and women. Their stories are often unusual, awe-inspiring and definitely free from monotony! I’m sure we all have our favorites.
The “Spirit” within each saint led them to be self-reflective in light of their faith, their blessings and what God was asking of them. Each was given their life, their special talents and their material and financial resources and asked to make choices. This ability to be “intensely themselves” was not often accepted in their current cultures or the age in which they lived, but it gave them the confidence and courage to persevere. Not only were they able to endure in hostile environments but they were able to do it with a deep happiness because they knew why. It was a response to the truth about Jesus and the call to be his hands and feet in their era.
Today, as people of faith, we need to take time to discern what it means to live “against the grain of the majority.” For most of us, we are pretty comfortable in our circumstances, our routines and schedules as well as our financial lifestyles. We blend in well in our neighborhoods, communities and parishes. It might make us somewhat nervous or even sad to think about living our lives more closely to the Gospel.
Perhaps we have not tapped into that special vitality we have been given.
You and I know that we are the “saints in the making” in our age. Considering this, if you were to rate yourself on a scale of one to 10, where would you fall in being “intensely yourself?” How would you rate yourself in gratitude and generosity in light of the mainstream population? Can you name, do you own and do you live out of and share your God-given talents? Is Jesus the driving force between the time you spend in prayer and the treasure you share in charitable giving? When I consider my ratings, I know I am still on a journey to becoming “intensely myself” as a Christian steward.
One important gauge that we can all use in monitoring our progress is the “inner happiness” factor. The closer we come to living the life God has called us to lead, the more deep joy we experience. It is that joy which sustains us and helps us to face our daily challenges.
I’m grateful for the insight that Sheed gave in the opening of his book. Like the saints who came before me, I want to be “intensely myself” to honor Jesus and help continue the mission of our church. And yes, I want to continue to grow in deep personal joy through Christian stewardship. I am not quite ready for the next edition of “Lives of the Saints.” How about you?