I couldn’t believe it. I was on the phone with Matthew Kelly, my favorite author and speaker for over a decade, and he agreed to publish my first book. However, he said there was one thing I needed to work on before the work could be published—the title. My working title, “Choosing the Saint Inside”, took many months for me to discern, and I really liked the sound and flow of that title. I had become inspired by the universal call to holiness, and was transfixed by the prospect that we are all called to be saints.
However, in one sentence, Matthew Kelly shocked my naivety in regards to evangelizing the world. He said bluntly, “I don’t think your target audience wants to be saints.” He then explained, “Your book is trying to convince people to become saints, but the title has to convince people to read the book.”
People don’t want to be saints? Why not? Well, I believe there are a couple of different reasons. First off, we are afraid of the cost. Perhaps the most forgotten deadly sin is the secret weapon of the enemy in this country: sloth. Apathy is the spiritual cancer that is eating away at the moral fabric of our comfortable lives from the inside out. Surrounded by worldly comforts, we have settled for a counterfeit, and have stopped thirsting for heaven the way God thirsts for us. We have become complacent with ordinary.
The second reason that most people don’t strive for sainthood is because we picture the saints as God’s favored few, as if they had some talent or ability that we don’t have. Or, maybe even more commonly we believe the saints didn’t have something that we all do have—temptations. Many people mistakenly believe the saints were the ones who didn’t struggle with sin, and the rest of us poor souls are plagued by concupiscence, that constant struggle to sin and fall for temptations.
I’ve come to discover that quite the opposite is true. What is the difference between a saint and a sinner? The saint is constantly struggling with sin, while the sinner stops struggling. The saint ends his prayers with “Thy will be done,” while the sinner ends his with “My will be done.” The saint detests anything that offends God and constantly seeks His mercy and grace to overcome weaknesses. The sinner embraces the sin, celebrates the sin, identifies himself with the sin, and often even becomes proud of the sin. His battle cry (or forfeit cry) becomes the phrase, “This is just who I am; stop trying to change me.”
As Thomas à Kempis points out in the thirteenth chapter of The Imitation of Christ, “We will never be free of trials and temptations as long as our earthly life lasts. . . . It is only gradually—with patience and endurance and with God’s grace—that you will overcome temptations.”
We all have our dragons. There is absolutely nothing wrong with struggling with sin and disordered desires. In fact, it is part of our fallen human nature. The problem is when we stop struggling. We are not on a carnival cruise ship, we are on a Mayflower. We are pilgrims on a journey to a Promised Land. We must fight the temptations to sin, have the courage to face the storms and trials, and struggle and emerge on the other side.
We are ALL called to be saints in the heavenly kingdom. Becoming a saint is a journey, an extraordinary mission, and that extraordinary mission takes place in the everyday struggles of our ordinary lives. It takes place in the hundreds of little decisions we make every day.
We are all drawn to a great adventure, a challenge, and mission with purpose and meaning. We seek greatness, and by God’s grace, it is truly possible if we are willing to fight an internal battle. And so, while “Choosing the Saint Inside” may not pique your initial interest, I hope that “Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Mission: 5 Steps to Winning the War Within” truly does. I think you will discover that we don’t need to seek a cure for all of our struggles, but sometimes the struggles are the cure to our selfish complacency. As à Kempis points out, the scriptures teach us that “the finest gold is purified in the hottest fires.” Don’t surrender to sin and stay as you are; surrender to grace and become who you were meant to be. If you are willing to change yourself, quite possibly you can change the world, because there is nothing more attractive or inspiring than holiness.
Become a saint. Nothing else really matters.
Dr. John R. Wood is the husband of an amazing wife and the father to four amazing children. His other vocations include helping give sight and vision to others. As a mobile eye doctor, he travels to over 40 nursing homes and developmental disability facilities through his business, Mobile Eyes, LLC, to help people see the world more clearly. John also started the ministry, Extraordinary Mission, and as a Catholic speaker and the author, he hopes to help people see the truth more clearly—that there is genius in Catholicism, and it is simply the best way to live and the greatest gift to give. John is the author of three books, including Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Mission, which has been one of Dynamic Catholic’s bestselling books with over 240,000 copies distributed to date.