Last Friday we were all smiles. Both at home and at work, the news of Pope John Paul II's beatification lifted us -- out of the snow and winter colds, beyond the beat-beat-beat of daily concerns -- and into another realm where springtime and Easter never end.
To me, the announcement of May 1 felt just right. Sure, it's soon, and there was plenty of prior speculation that it was likely the Vatican would schedule the event in October. And of course, there must be time to examine every relevant detail of miracles and heroic virtue, reputation for holiness, and -- let's face it -- mental stability.
But as far as I'm concerned, when it comes to matters of sanctity, sooner is always better than later. In the end, we really don't want the canonization process to be like Joan of Arc's. She lived her brief and mystical life in the fifteenth century, but wasn't beatified until 1909. Four hundred seventy-eight years is a very long reach backward for an example to follow.
"Santo subito!" was the cry of the crowds who came to pay their last respects to Pope John Paul II six Aprils ago. "Santo subito!" -- make him a saint now! When I think about it, that's been my cry for a very long time, and not just for John Paul or Mother Teresa. Mostly, I think, it's been the shout that rises from my own soul when I get a momentary glimpse of God's glory, or recognize just how far I am from holiness. Make me a saint, Lord, and now!
Of course, people who are genuinely holy don't make that kind of plea. Real saints know that God will raise them to sanctity only insofar as they trust him to do so. They love him with all their being even if he never casts a glance in their direction. They are expectant without expecting anything. Wherever they look, inward or outward, they see God and know that he is with them. They can wait because they do not wait alone. They can wait, because they already have what they are waiting for.
The truth is that it is a burden not to be holy, and a disappointment not to love the people you claim to love very well. But saints, before they were saints, experienced this too. St. Paul expresses frustration with his inability to do what he sets out to do, and does instead precisely what he does not want to do. St. Teresa of Avila threw herself down at the statue of Christ scourged, telling God that she wouldn't leave until he changed her. And St. Francis De Sales advised us to be gentle with ourselves, and content with progress rather than perfection.
Maybe it's just that turning 50 later this year has made me ask myself about what I did with all the time I've had, and wasted. I'm nowhere near a saint, and yet I've told myself a thousand times that answering the call to holiness is the primary goal of my life.
Perhaps that, after all, is the problem. Because when I think about it, I'm not sure that lives that are freely and completely offered would have any more "goals." Once a gift has been given, it has accomplished the whole purpose of its existence. There is nothing else to strive or reach for.
Lord, if you would override my willfulness, I'd sure appreciate it. If you could change all the things in me that I don't even want to change -- maybe even things I celebrate -- I'd be grateful. But knowing better than to ask for what you will not do, I'll ask for this instead. Be merciful, Lord, to all of us who think we've tried our hardest to follow you when we have not; who offer you our hearts but find a hundred ways to take them back piece by piece; who make the Sign of the Cross with ease, but are reticent to carry a small cross for even a few steps. Lord, be merciful to me; and someday, when the sun no longer sets, make me holy too.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.