Every Saint Has a Past


By Charles Johnston:

“We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.”— St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

If you are waiting for perfection until you start serving God, you’re going to be waiting forever.

A common position amongst Christians is “I’m not good enough” or “I’ll get more involved when I kick this habit or sin, or sinful habit,” this train of thought couldn’t be more wrong. We are all sinners, we all struggle with our own personal vices. Even Pope Francis, when asked after being elected the supreme pontiff of the Catholic Church (with over 1 billion believers under his care), responded to the question of who he was by saying “I’m a sinner.”

Pope Francis recognized his own sinful nature, a nature that we all inherited due to original sin, but he didn’t let that stop him from being who God has called him to be. We are washed clean of our personal sins and original sin through the Sacrament of Baptism, but what remains is what the Church calls “concupiscence”, this is sometimes translated to mean lust, but actually means an attachment to sin.
“CCC 2520:Baptism confers on its recipient the grace of purification from all sins. But the baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires. With God’s grace he will prevail.”

This struggle continues for life, we can subdue it, but we need God’s grace to do so. This is why we should get involved in the life of the church, even in our imperfect states, because we can only be made perfect through God’s graces. Look at the stories of the lives of the saints, they all started out with imperfect lives, but through the gift of God’s grace they were transformed into the heroes of the faith that we look up to today. As the saying goes, “every saint has a past, and every sinner a future.”

I myself am a sinner, but through the help of God and by the graces attained through the sacraments of the church, I’ve put off a lot of my sinful inclinations (thank God). I used to constantly tell myself that I’d seek God more; or get more involved in the church; or even just pray more often, as soon as I got my life in order. This is the opposite of how grace works. When I decided to let God help me get everything in order, is when it actually started to move that way.

If you seek God as you are today, He will alter you for His purposes. If you wait until you are “good enough” you will wait forever, because without Him you’ll never be “good enough.”

Even if you are thinking “I can’t do this or that because I’m not ready”; you’ll never be ready, it’s not about being ready for God, it’s about being available for Him. Making yourself available to God is truly the first step along the path to holiness, and holiness is what we are aiming for.

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, ” You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

St. Peter, and through him, the Holy Spirit, would never tell us to do something that is not possible to do. They would never say “be holy” if being holy was impossible. But what did Christ himself tell us? “But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

That is the key; “with God all things are possible.” God does not set a bar that is too high for us to clear, he sets a bar that is too high for us alone to clear, but with Him it is possible.

Where to start?

1. This may sound redundant, but a Christian should pray and pray often. Begin every day with a prayer for help from God, follow that with the three prayers central to our faith; the Lord’s Prayer, a Hail Mary, and a glory be.
2. Frequent the sacrament of reconciliation. Confession wasn’t even a reason why I became Catholic, but now I don’t know how I survived without it. What a beautiful gift God gave us in this sacrament.
3. Fulfill your Sunday obligation. This shouldn’t even need to be stated, but the stats on this are very sad, a majority of Catholics don’t go to mass weekly. When you do go to mass, be an active participant and not simply a spectator.
4. Read God’s word daily. The Bible was written for our benefit, and now we live in a time of almost universal literacy, take advantage of that. Don’t allow a day go by without at least reading a small portion of the gospel.

Start small, and as you “grow in graces and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” you will find the attraction to sin, no matter how habitual it was/is, to be lessening.

Remember that even great saints like St Augustine didn’t go from an adulterous pagan to a doctor of the church overnight. Not every conversion is instant and miraculous, sometimes conversion of the heart takes time, but just be open to God and allow him to mold you and shape your heart and mind. Permit Him to make you the person He wants you to be.

“Yet, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)

We are all saints-in-training. As the saying goes, “every saint has a past, every sinner a future.” It’s time we put off the excuses and step up to the plate.

Look at the calling of St Matthew, Jesus didn’t tell Matthew “go become a righteous man, and then follow me,” He called him and by being present with Christ, he became a saint. Jesus says in verse 12, that He came for those “who are sick,” that’s you and me. Don’t try to cure yourself, allow the grace of God to do it for you.

“As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘ I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)

“We must never believe that holiness and courage are things of the past! You and I are called to a holiness that shows Christ to the world as our forefathers have done countless times throughout history, following the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

– Thomas J Olmsted, Bishop of Phoenix
(This post originally appeared at Catholic365.com )

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