Why do the saints' standards sometimes come off as much more strict than the Church's official teaching

Like on things like poverty or humility?

Your question is too vague and general.
Can you explain what you mean by giving us examples of both?

That’s why their saints, they are living up to the ideal. Some like St. Francis, for example, sets an ideal standard of poverty an humility. So what you see as saints being “more strict” is really just the difference between sinners and saints. Saints, of course, were sinners themselves at one time, but some of them, through upholding strict humility and poverty, were able to rise above the base materialism that afflicts most people.

You could also say something similar about Christ. Certainly the example of Christian poverty set by Jesus Christ was far more strict than the average Catholic manages to accomplish.

Often, it was because it was in accord with the culture they lived in.

As we have evolved spiritually, Saints of our age were less radical in their levels of mortification.


Often times “Church teaching” is designed more as “minimums” or “guidelines”. The saints you refer to are drawn to a deeper observance of these things in their pursuit of their first Love which is God.
They desire that nothing stand in their way of reaching union with Christ.
As the progress on the journey and as others ask them for guidance they begin to write things down that they find to be true. These things may exceed Church “requirements” but never do they contradict Church teaching.

Lastly - note that Jesus was always pushing the disciples to do more. Look at how he expanded on the understandings of Mosaic Law about Anger, Lust, Charity, and other things. Look at how He responded to the Rich young man. Look at how He calls on us to give up all in order to follow Him.
We should never “rest on our laurels”, but always seek to grow in holiness.


I can’t quote chapter and verse, but isn’t there a story where a young man asks Jesus what he must do to be saved? Jesus told him to obey the commandments. When the young man said he had done that since he was very young, Jesus told him to sell everything he had and follow Him.

To me that suggests that once you have a good grasp of obedience of the commandments, there are other things we could/should do to increase our holiness. The saints chose different ways to go beyond the merely necessary practices to those they know are pleasing to God. Our whole lives should be spent finding ways to become closer to God. Once the saints mastered the basics, they found the “nice to do”.

It just makes me feel like I’ll never be holy enough, because I like and have nice things and don’t consider others my superiors or count only my flaws and sins as belonging to me (although that last one is starting to make sense) etc. etc. It’s like I’m never going to be able to be fully holy because I’m a lay person, too. Although I guess it helps that I basically worship God through enjoying the good things He’s created. I just don’t understand why the saints are sometimes so down on them. Their radical holiness just kind of makes me feel hopeless for my own.

Good question. You have to bear several things in mind however. The Church has only really canonized a very small number of those who are in Heaven. Many “ordinary” people who lived good lives would have passed away without recognition or further inquiry. These people would have maintained ordinary jobs, lived “ordinary” lives and did not enter the religious life. They are in Heaven, but are simply not canonized.

Secondly, the Church canonizes the “best of the best”. This is done to prevent critics from trying to “debunk” how pious the individual in question really was. You can consider this as a “sure bet” that the person is in Heaven. If the Church canonized every man off the street, it would make itself susceptible to intense criticism, and would even degrade the importance of canonization.

There are many saints that commited a number of massive sins in their past. Moses murdered, King David committed adultery and St. Paul persecuted. All three were central figures in the Bible. St. Peter denied Jesus three times and wavered in his faith constantly; the Church now considers him to be the first Pope.

In addition, St. Therese of Lisieux revolutionized Catholic spirituality by promoting her message of the “Little Way”, which rendered the “tick-box”/scrupolous mentality of spirituality as void. She was declared a Doctor of the Church precisely because of this.

Another thing to bear in mind is that most canonized saints lived in the Middle Ages and before. Hence you won’t find many saints who were politicians, bankers, programmers, musicians, etc. Give or take 200+ years, and this will increase in frequency as more “modern” individuals will be canonized.

Do not despair. Not all are called to the kind of harsh spirituality practiced by these saints.
Begin with Love. Begin with Mt 22:36-40. Work out from there.
Love is the essence of God (1 John 4:8)

The more perfected in Love we become, the more Holy we become. Then the things that are troubling you will fall into their proper place and perspective.


please provide an example of a saint who is binding you and me personally, rather than themselves, or those who were under their authority in spiritual direction or religious life, to standards higher than those set by the Church.

Jesus gave that direction to one specific person in the bible who asked him for specific personal individual spiritual direction. Jesus called his disciples personally, and they alone, for the mission on which he sent them and to the standards he set for them. He did not on those occasions turn to the crowd and proclaim that all present were called to that manner of life at that time. Neither should we assume that direction meant for one person or one group in one time or place is of necessity demanded of us today.

Give off worrying about living to a radical standard of holiness that some saints have been called to and instead spend the spiritual energy discerning what God is calling you to do, in your life, today. Pick up the cross assigned to you to day, whether it is your family, your job, your school work, combatting a specific sin, working on a specific virtue, whatever, and carry that cross today.

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