Why were the canonized saints so holy and yet we fail so miserably?


The private confessor of St. Padre Pio admitted that Padre Pio had never committed a mortal sin in his entire life. Now Pio was flesh and blood, and a fellow fallen son of Adam. He surely had to fight the tenacious sinful proclivities of fallen human nature. Why did he perservere on to great holiness and fidelity to God while a lot of us modern day Catholics fall away into mortal sin weekly if not daily? Surely God loves us and gives us all the grace we need to never fall into mortal sin. And yet we fail God over and over again. There comes a point when we have to make a definitive decision for God and decide not to make provisions for the flesh. It’s what Jesus meant when he said he would spew lukewarm Christians out of His mouth. They try to ride the fence between conversation with and enjoyment of the world AND severing all ties to worldliness and it’s enticements in order to live for God. I believe the saints made that fateful decision for God and lived it out to the end of their earthly days. It’s the determination to live the spiritual life that St. Teresa of Avila mentions is the absolute prerequisite to becoming holy. By contrast, most of us waver in our commitment to God and that is why no progress is made.


You’re assuming that no progress is being made by ordinary, sinful people. Progress is slower, but not necessarily non-existant. Don’t you suppose that saints like Padre Pio, who received the stigmata, were spiritually open and receptive in a way that people with ordinary concerns may not be able to be and received towering grace because of it that kept him from serious sin? Not everyone has the vocation to live a monastic life away from the daily annoyances and temptations of everyday life. Giving up the world is a wonderful idea, but how do you provide for a family when you’re living on locusts and honey? Give people a break and remember Dismas, the Good Thief, who Jesus pardoned at the last moment of his life, and the
late-hour vineyard workers whose story we heard today at Mass.


We will probably not know the actual answer to this until after our earthly death, however I think that God uses our Saints in a form of teaching and as a role model for each of us (talk about Mercy!). I think He gives the Saints, from their youth in some instances, a larger amount of Grace since they will need more - they will need a “head start” so to speak.:shrug:


Oh, I don’t know. St. Augustine lived a sinful life of fornication. St. Jerome had a terrible temper. St. Cyril of Alexandria can even be considered to have some degree of responsibility for the death of Hypatia.

If Padre Pio never committed a mortal sin in his entire life, then he’s the exception among the saints. Most saints must have fallen into mortal sin at one time or another. But the thing is, most saints have also loved the sacrament of Reconciliation. That’s a large reason they’re saints.


Actually, there are several saints who never committed mortal sins. The one the Church holds up as the Saints’ saint is Francis of Assisi, Padre Pio’s spiritual father and another is one Francis’ spritual sons, St. Maximilian Kolbe. Then we have some secular saints such as St. Maria Goretti, Aloyisius Gonzaga and Bl. Pierre Giorgio.

I believe the OP says it correctly when he says that saints, canonized or unknown, are people who make up their minds to be saints. Karl Rahner once used a term that applies very well here. He spoke of a fundamental option for Christ and in another of his writings he spoke of a leap of faith.

The leap of faith is certainly not a new concept. But Rahner put it this way. I’m paraphrasing, because I don’t have the book in front of me. The leap of faith is one that we take when we make a fundamental option for Christ, to live as Christ lived and as Christ commands, you have no other choice but to trust in his grace to keep you going.

This is where we sometimes fall apart. It has nothing to do with living in a cloister. As a matter of fact, Padre Pio was not a monk nor did he live in monastery as people say. Padre Pio was a friar and lived in a convent like all Capuchin Francican Friars do. Friars are in constant contact with the world. The difference between their life and that of the secular man or woman is that they live within a religious community. A religious community, it is fertile ground for sin. Living in close quarters with people who are not your biological family, with different backgrounds, of different ages, different interests, different abilities, different degrees of holiness and whom you did not choose to live with, but with whom you are assigned to live with whether you like them or not can be very difficult. You have to love these people more than you love your biological family, because this is the family that God has given you for the rest of your life. This love does not come without a price and without effort.

Obedience is not as easy as it sounds, especially if you disagree with the superior or you don’t like your superior very much. It can be very humbling when orders come from someone who is young enough to be your child or grandchild and you have to obey them as Chris obeyed, without murmuring, without self-pity, without questioning. You have to hear the voice of Christ in their words. This journey has plenty of room for sin.

This is where Rahner’s fundamental option comes in. Saints made their choice. They were going to be saints. They did not know how they were going to get there, but hey had faith that God would provide the graces.

You have great saints like Rita of Cassia, Louise de Marillac the foundress of the Daughters of Charity and Elizabeth Ann Seton. They were mothers and widows. They gave up everything to follow Christ. Their children shared in their detachment from material things, from friends, from their home, from their biological family to go where Christ called their mothers. These mothers often asked themselves whether it was fair to put their children through this kind of ascetical life. The answer that they always received from Christ was that he would provide. This was their leap in faith. They trusted that Christ would provide for their children and he did.

Elizabeth of Hungary was married. She was also a queen. She became a Secular Franciscan. The Rule of St. Francis said that she had to give up all attachment to material things. That she had to fulfill God’s call to be the perfect wife as Mary was to Joseph. She also had to find time for the Liturgy of the Hours, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, silent prayer and time for her Francican brothers and sisters. Eventually, her husband died and Elizabeth moved out of the palace to live among the poor as Francis had done. She fulfilled the Rule of St. Francis and lived the Gospel. She lived a life of prayer, sacraments, silence, detachment from material things, and was a model family woman.

The point is that we can live the Gospel as Christ lived it. The canonized saints are the sign that we can.

In his Gospel St. John makes frequent use of the word “sign” to mean proof. The saints are proofs that the perfection of the Gospel is possible for everyone. We have to make a choice to be a saint and trust that God will provide what we need: material, emotional and spiritual.

Many of us have been convinced by the world to believe that we have to provide every possible security for our spouses and families. This is not true. The Church does not subscribe to this. We have to provide what our families need and what they have a right to have. We need not provide everything they want. There is a difference between need and want.

Sometimes a great deal of our time and energy is spent on working to provide for the wants of our families or for the things that society says our families need. One reason why we have a younger generation that is searching for God is because few younger people have ever experienced God. Every desire was provided for by their parents who often become obstacles between the young and God. Few young people have had to live with the words “NO” and “SACRIFICE”.

If you have little experience with detachment and with sacrifice, you usually have little experience with God. Why look for God when mom and dad are closer? What happens is that parents become gods to their children. When this happens, parents and children drift further and further away from sanctity.

True sanctity is a choice to live the journey of the Gospel one day at a time, believing that God will provide what we need at all levels of our human existence. It requires prayer, sacraments, community living, the Church, scripture, silence, penance, detachment, and charity, all offered to God in return for the grace of faith.


JR :slight_smile:


I’ve read a quote somewhere (don’t know who it’s from) that ‘a saint isn’t someone who has never fallen, a saint is someone who falls often but gets up again every single time’.

And I remember reading about a dream or vision experienced by St Rita of Cascia, who was agonising over her perceived lack of holiness. She had a vision of a ladder reaching to heaven, and understood it to mean that becoming holy, like climbing a ladder, is a matter of concentrating on one step at a time.

I think many of us tend to be lacking in the perseverance - the ‘getting up again’ department - more than anything else.

And many are characterised by a love for (or at least frequent resort to) the sacraments of both confession and the Eucharist, so we would all do well to receive Communion as often as we can, and confess frequently (every two weeks or so is a good rule of thumb).


We also have to add to the frequent reception of the Eucharist and confession the life of prayer. The saints are people of prayer. We often forget to discuss this today. Whether they are religious, priests or lay, they pray constantly. They stop what they are doing to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. They dedicate time to silent prayer. They spend time before the Blessed Sacrament.

Then we need to add to this charity. Saints are people who seek to do little things with great love, as St. Therese of Lieseux said.

We must never forget penance. St. Francis wrote that those who fail to do penance will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He wrote a long letter to the faithful on the importance of penance.

Without penance it is very difficult to bring the mind and body under control. We live in a society that encourages us to take so much care of the body that it forgets the importance of sacrificing the body and the mind.

We go back to need and want. We do need to take care of our health. But we have gone too far in our day. We have turned fitness into an obsession. It funny how we diet and exercise because we want to be fit, but we shy away from fasting, abstinence, physical labor and other forms of bodily disciplines.

Detachment is extremely important. Unless we become detached from the things that do not lead us to God we will always be in need of confession. Confession is a good thing. But many times the sins that we confess are repeated over and over again, because we do not detach.

This leads to material poverty. Poverty of spirit is the total dependence on God. However, it is difficult for the mind to become dependent of God when we do not sacrifice ourselves. For example, do we really need a new car every three years? Do we really need the huge flat screen TV in every room? Do we need that large house with the swimming pool? Do we need that extra outfit of clothing when our closet is packed with clothes?

We can go to communion and confession, but not do anything else. If we do that, the true meaning of the sacraments have not taken root in our hearts and minds. The mass is the encounter between the soul and the crucified Christ.

The saints demonstrated a proper understanding of the Eucharist. It is the summit of the faith. It is the place where the soul who aspires to be crucified with Christ meets the crucified Christ. A soul that is comfortable in every respect and does not live much of an asecetical or prayerful life may be lacking in understanding the meaning of the Eucharist.

The soul who goes to confession but does very little to change his or her value system may be missing a proper understanding of penance. Penance means conversion of manners, said St. Benedict.

We must live as we pray. Therefore we must live the reality of the sacraments in our daily lives.

As Lily says. A saint gets up each time she falls. This means that she continues to struggle to change, one day at a time or as St. Rita saw it, one rung at a time.

But let’s not just go to communion and confession without that daily change. Daily prayer will help us get the most out of communion and confession and will help us appreciate communion and confession at a deeper level.


JR :slight_smile:


St. Seraphim of Sarov was once asked why there were not as many miracles as in the days of the Apostles, and he replied, “There is just one reason: lack of resolve.”


I never heard that one before, but I like it.

JR :slight_smile:


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