The road to sainthood

“If we are called by God to holiness of life, and if holiness is beyond our natural power to achieve (which it certainly is) then it follows that God Himself must give us the light, the strength, and the courage to fulfill the task He requires of us. He will certainly give us the grace we need. If we do not become saints it is because we do not avail ourselves of His gift” (Thomas Merton, “Life and Holiness,” p. 17). 

How do we become saints? How do we attain this holiness of life? Why would we want to?

Let’s start with the last question, why would we want to be saints? 

The “Catholic Faith Handbook for Youth” writes that a saint is “someone who has been transformed by the grace of Christ and who resides in full union with God in Heaven.”

So, we want to go to Heaven, we will then be saints. To get to Heaven though, we need to live a relationship of faith and love with God. We can do this when we accept God into our lives, the graces He gives us, the mission He entrusts us. Yet, we seek to be saints not just because we want a good reward, we seek to live in union with God, to be holy because it is our identity as children of God. It is how we achieve the goal of our pursuit for happiness, fulfillment, peace and success.

Holiness isn’t something only achieved by monks, nuns and those who spend their entire days in prayer. It is achieved when we seek to live life according to God’s Word, in the vocation He has called us to, seeking to know Him and love Him better.

Perhaps the image that forms in our mind of a saint doesn’t appeal to us, or it seems to be something beyond our reach. To be a saint is simply to be human. That is what Merton will tell us, that is what the Gospels tell us. The saint is the one who accepts their humanity: the strengths and the weaknesses, confident that the Lord makes Himself present in our moments of vulnerability and our moments of glory. 

To be a saint means to take the time to accept who we are: a mom or dad, a husband or wife, a son or daughter, etc. To be a saint means to recognize Christ present and working in the day-to-day of ordinary life. To be a saint is to see the Sanctity of the ordinary — to respond to Christ present in those around us at each moment.

To be a saint is not to be focused on self, but on the other.

This past week at UMass Dartmouth orientation began for the incoming students. The semester ended just a month ago, high school graduations have just wrapped up and we are already off to the next semester!

I tell students that learning is a religious activity. It is the pursuit of truth, knowledge and wisdom. This pursuit will lead us to God. Thomas Merton, whom I quoted at the beginning of this article, became a Catholic through his pursuit of truth.

Campus Ministry exists in higher education to walk this journey with students, faculty and staff. In addition to providing the opportunities for participation in the Sacramental life, we also provide the opportunity to grow intellectually in the faith. Catechetical and theological activities help students apply critical thinking to their lives and to learn the relationship between faith and reason. Campus Ministry also provides opportunities for Spiritual nourishment and the support of a community of faith and love that provides stability during a time of intense development in the lives of students. 

To put it another way, Campus Ministry exists to help students, faculty and staff to become saints, to live the fullness of life that Christ offers. 

To all those who will be heading off to college: congratulations!  I encourage you to touch base with the Campus Ministry at your school. If you aren’t sure how to get in contact with them, or if it is an off campus program, the Office for Campus Ministry can help you. You can reach us through our website ( or at 774-202-3047.

Anchor columnist Father David Frederici is pastor of St. George Parish in Westport and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

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