On Being Saints

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Diego Fares SJ

 Diego Fares SJ / Church Thought / 12 December 2019


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Holiness is the choice of a friendship. Every path of holiness implies a choice that is renewed at every step. Pope Francis writes: “More than rules and obligations, the choice that Jesus sets before us is to follow him as friends follow one another, seeking each other’s company and spending time together out of pure friendship” (Christus Vivit, No. 290). And also: “Let the grace of your baptism bear fruit in a path of holiness. Let everything be open to God; turn to him in every situation” (Gaudete et Exsultate, No. 15).

But is it really true that you choose to be holy? Let us try and place holiness as a radical option, a choice. It is difficult, in fact, to say “no” to holiness in a direct, definitive and exclusive way.

 Our practical reason prevents us from choosing evil as evil. It is more likely that the “no,” in fact, is a “yes” delayed indefinitely, a “yes, but…,” a conditional “yes.” It would seem unrealistic to choose something that exceeds our potential. More importantly, saying “I choose to be holy” sounds pretentious. But if it is, it is because the image we have of holiness is not evangelical.[1]

The choice of being holy, as the pontiff shows well, is not first and foremost our own, but that of our Creator: “He chose us in Christ before the world was made to be holy and faultless before him in love” (Eph 1:4, cf. GE 2). The one who gave us existence imagined us as saints. And it is important that this holiness be realized through love, not through other extraordinary qualities.

The love mentioned in the Letter to the Ephesians is, on the one hand, the love that God gives us and, on the other hand, our love, that which we can give as we are. It is not a heroic love, let alone a plain or stereotyped love, but a simple personal love, that of God and that of ourselves, each as we are: God’s love is infinitely merciful and creative; our love is small and shaky, but it is still love.

The Ignatian basis of choice

At the end of the second week of the Spiritual Exercises (ES), St. Ignatius sets out a section consisting of 20 sections: these are the rules on how to “make an election,” that is, to choose to reform one’s own direction and state of life (ES 169-189).

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