Holiness, Sainthood and the Life of Virtue
Pope Benedict XVI encourages both young and old to become saints, lovers of God, to become so seized by Christianity that they experience it as a profound joy and hope. The path to sanctity is one of ascent to God which requires purity of heart and love of neighbour for “love is the ladder that leads to God.” Using another analogy, if life is akin to a voyage on the sea of history which is often dark and stormy, we must watch for stars that indicate the route. These stars are people who have lived good lives who allow God to enter into our world because they are fundamentally open to truth and love. They became God’s fellow workers, the saints, who continue to inspire us with their heroic lives and whose ranks we are destined to join if only we choose to do so. Ultimately God wants our friendship but this gift is an invitation which is never forced.
From His speeches
“There is something I very much want to say to you. I hope that among those of you listening to me today there are some of the future saints of the twenty-first century. What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness.” (Pope Benedict’s address to pupils Sports Arena of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, Friday, 17 September 2010 11:45 am)
“Cardinal Newman’s motto, Cor ad cor loquitur, or ‘Heart speaks unto heart’, gives us an insight into his understanding of the Christian life as a call to holiness, experienced as the profound desire of the human heart to enter into intimate communion with the Heart of God. He reminds us that faithfulness to prayer gradually transforms us into the divine likeness. As he wrote in one of his many fine sermons, ‘a habit of prayer, the practice of turning to God and the unseen world in every season, in every place, in every emergency – prayer, I say, has what may be called a natural effect in spiritualizing and elevating the soul.’” (Pope Benedict’s Beatification Homily Cofton Park, Sunday, 19 September 2010 11:15am)
“God wants your friendship. And once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life. You are attracted to the practice of virtue. You begin to see greed and selfishness and all the other sins for what they really are, destructive and dangerous tendencies that cause deep suffering and do great damage, and you want to avoid falling into that trap yourselves. You begin to feel compassion for people in difficulties and you are eager to do something to help them. You want to come to the aid of the poor and the hungry, you want to comfort the sorrowful, you want to be kind and generous. And once these things begin to matter to you, you are well on the way to becoming saints.” (Pope Benedict’s address to pupils Sports Arena of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, Friday, 17 September 2010 11:45 am)
And From His other Writings….
“The Church lives her life precisely from the identity of all the generations, from their identity that overarches time, and her real majority is made up of the saints. Every generation tries to join the ranks of the saints, and each makes its contribution. But it can do that only by accepting this great continuity and entering into it in a living way.” (Salt of The Earth. The Church at the End of the Millennium, P.189)
“The saints are like stars rising over the horizon of our history. From the midst of our over clouded time, in the midst of its darkness, light falls again into our world, so that we can see something of the brightness of God.”(Sermon on the beatified Bavarian Abbess Irmengard of Chiemsee, delivered in her monastery on 18th July 1993 quoted in The Thought of Pope Benedict XVI, An Introduction to the Theology of Joseph Ratzinger, Nichols, Aidan, P.236)
“While the ordinands are lying on the ground, the whole congregation sings the Litany of the Saints. I shall never forget lying on the ground at the time of my priestly and episcopal ordination. When I was ordained bishop, my intense feeling of inadequacy, incapacity, in the face of the greatness of the task was even stronger than at my priestly ordination. The fact that the praying Church was calling upon the saints, that the prayer of the Church really was enveloping and embracing me, was a wonderful consolation. In my incapacity, which had to be expressed in the bodily posture of prostration, this prayer, this presence of all the saints, of the living and the dead, was a wonderful strength – it was the only thing that could, as it were, lift me up. Only the presence of the saints with me made possible the path that lay before me.” (The Spirit of the Liturgy, P.188)
Questions for reflection, discussion and further study:
- How extra-ordinary do you have to be to become a saint – or is the invitation to all Christians?
- How do we grow in holiness?
- At the Popes ordination as Priest and Bishop, when the congregation sang the litany of saints, what was he feeling and how did he become strengthened by the experience?
Benedict XVI Pope, 2008, 196.
 Ratzinger, 2007, 269.
 Benedict XVI Pope, 2008, 94-95.
 Benedict XVI, of the Supreme Pontiff (2007), Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi, The Vatican, Rome, (49) P25.
 Ibid, (35) P18.