Mary and the Saints/My Faith/Teen Faith/Theology

You Don’t Need to be Old to be a Saint

“If you will look into your own heart in complete honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not a saint: you do not wholly want to be one.”
-William Law

I do not like this quote. If I could, I would pretend that I didn’t stumble across it, that it didn’t rattle my soul. I am guilty of falling short of sanctity because I don’t will it enough in my daily actions. Oh, I am so guilty of this. Becoming a saint is no easy task, but it is one we are called to.

I remember as a little kid flipping through our almanac of saints, seeing their shiny faces and haloed glows and likening them to an ideal rather than a reality. They were always just characters, like those out of a fairytale, never real people. It wasn’t until my encounter with St. Therese of Lisieux that all of this changed. I saw for the first time a girl my age who had achieved sainthood but still sassed her father. I saw a yearning imperfect heart who didn’t give up her pursuit of sainthood. But, mostly, I saw a girl, just like me who actually believed sanctity was achievable.

“To be a saint is to will the one thing.”
-Søren Kierkegaard

The lives of these next two Venerables (holy people who are on the path to canonized sainthood in the Church) have deeply moved my heart. I am inspired by their stories, their tenacity, their love for Our Lord and Savior. But, may they be more than just stories, may they be our brothers and sisters this side of Heaven challenging us to never ever take our eyes off of the goal — the perfect reward of an eternal union with the only One who can truly satisfy our souls.

Venerable Alfred Pamplona

Alfred was born in Canada to a large and humble family of twelve. Although frail in health and seen as a “mediocre” student, in 1876 he entered college to study business and proved to be successful through his devotion of study and to Mary. After a near-death bout with pneumonia, he journeyed to the shrine of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre (in Quebec, Canada) and heard the call to the priesthood. At the age of 20, he took perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and served the Redemptorist community for the rest of his life. At the young age of 28, he died from complications due to tuberculosis.

Although Alfred’s path to sanctity didn’t involve any dramatic twists or turns, mystical revelations or gifts he didn’t waver in faithfulness to God’s calling to the priesthood despite an entire life of illness. His life speaks particularly to me when I get “bored” and give up the daily practice of prayer easily. How easy it would’ve been for Alfred to say “hold the phone, no one believes in me and I’m not getting anywhere… what’s the point?” But, he didn’t. Actually, he stayed far far away from that line of thinking. It was in this weakness that he allowed God’s strength to prevail (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Dear Venerable Alfred, please teach me patience despite the monotony of life. May I learn how to give all that I have for the sake of the Kingdom. Please bring these prayers to the feet of our Father in Heaven. Amen.

Venerable Antonietta Meo

Antonietta was a charismatic little girl who was known for her joy and charm. Truly extraordinary from a very young age, she was popular with all she came into contact with. At the age of five, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer. Although treatment required amputation of her leg, Antonietta didn’t waver in her joyful spirit only increasing in faith and devotion to Jesus.

Considered a mystic by many theologians because of her profound letters to Jesus, Antonietta is the youngest person (at the age of 6 – think the same age as those wild and crazy kids in Kindergarten) to be on the path of canonization. The depth of her insight and unwavering joy despite incredible suffering has been the source of much inspiration since her death in 1937.

“Dear Jesus, I love you very much. I want to abandon myself in your hands. I want to abandon myself in your arms. Do with me what you want. Help me with your grace. You help me, since without your grace, I am nothing.”
(Venerable Antonietta Meo)

Antonietta’s story proves to us once again that God calls not only the little children to His heart, but those who suffer greatly. This incredible girl lived such a short life with so much suffering, yet her faith didn’t waver. It’s incredible that Antonietta understood this at the age of 6 – I mean the girl lost her leg to cancer and she still praised God with her whole heart. What the heck? That’s amazing! So, I ask myself more fervently today than I did yesterday, what is it that I need to change in my own life to be open to God’s grace through suffering? May we see my suffering more through the faithful and saintly eyes of this little girl than we do my own.

Dear Antonietta, please pray for me. May your example inspire and teach me how to suffer well for and with Christ. Amen.

The path to sainthood may seem daunting. I think I’ve been intimidated by this task my whole life. But, what joy and peace it brings to learn about such holy souls who have done nothing more than just offered their every moment to Christ. It’s amazing how grace works when you allow it to permeate every aspect of your life. I mean, if Antonietta could accomplish sainthood by the age of 6, what is my excuse? Sainthood isn’t just for the old or religious! May we learn from the examples of Antonietta and Alfred, that sainthood is less about “achieving the reward” of heaven but rather, it’s about loving Christ well in every moment with everything we can.

For more information on each of these Venerables, check out the following sites:

Venerable Antonietta Meo
Venerable Alfred Pampalon

About the Author

Rachel Penate

I am a Wisconsin girl at heart who has a slight obsession with the band Switchfoot. When I was little I dreamed of becoming a professional figure skater, but instead found myself studying Education. Currently I reside in the great, yet terribly hot state of Arizona and am neither a figure skater or teacher - I joyfully serve the Church as Assistant to the Executive Vice President of Life Teen. When I'm not typing away at my desk, I'm spending time with my family, working out, or relaxing with my nose buried in a book.

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