You’re Not St. Therese. And That’s a Good Thing

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By: Mary Boneno, The Catholic University of America

If you check the “Saint of the Day” tab on any Catholic app, you will find that there is a feast (or multiple feasts) celebrated each and every day. Whether it is the feast of a well-known saint — such as October 1st, the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux — or of a lesser-known one — such as June 16, the Feast of St. Aurelian — there is an abundance of holy men and women to fill up the days of the year, and then some. At first, it may seem intimidating. There are so many people who lived true lives of holiness and did great things to illustrate the greater glory of God; how can we possibly imitate them all during our own pilgrimage to Heaven? 

The good news is that we do not have to be exactly like them. And furthermore, it is actually impossible to imitate every saint. Some were married; others were bishops, and still, others were martyred at a very young age. Take a closer look at each saint, and you will discover that each one of them lived an incredibly different life, and yet all of them fully responded to the call to holiness.

What does this mean for us? It means that you do not have to worry if you are not called to be a Carmelite nun like Therese, or if you do not receive the stigmata like Padre Pio. God called them equally to holiness but in a very particular way, just as He calls you to say yes to His Divine Plan for you, even if it looks different from the life set out for your neighbor. 

In her autobiography titled The Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisieux writes a beautiful analogy of a garden filled with a variety of flowers. Each flower is different, and thus must be cultivated and nourished differently in order to bloom to its full potential. If a gardener were to plant a violet in the same way he planted a rose, the violet would wither away and die. But if a gardener planted a violet in its proper climate and nourished it according to its needs, the violet would flower and bloom and fully display the vibrancy of its petals. In our own lives, Jesus is the gardener, and He knows exactly what type of flower He created each one of us to be. He knows the nutrients we need, where we need to be planted, how much sunlight we need: He knows best how to fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts to cultivate us into the Saints we were made to be. 

This is certainly not to say that any kind of sin can be justified because that is what “works for you.” No; the universal call to holiness is precisely that, a call to holiness. How you choose to answer that call given your personal talents and gifts is what differs from the choices of those around you. There is but one Truth, though many holy ways we can permit that Truth to influence our lives. 

This concept is displayed clearly by the charisms of religious orders. The Dominicans dedicate their lives to studying the Word of God and preaching its Truth; the Carmelites pursue contemplation and commit to praying for priests; the Daughters of St. Paul strive to evangelize using the power of modern technology and media. Even if you are not called to religious life, you can see how even the lives of those with such a vocation differ, though they are ultimately united in holiness.

Whether you take religious vows, enter into the Sacrament of Marriage, or live chastely as a single layperson, you are called to fully commit yourself to that state of life and allow the Lord to sanctify you continuously. Whatever your occupation may be, you are called to do all things for the greater glory of God. Find Him in your own unique daily life, and you shall find the ways in which He is making you a saint.

Edited by Rachel LeMelle

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