Ask students the question, “Who will be remembered as a saint 800 years from now?” After some discussion the general response almost always is, “John Paul II and Mother Teresa.” Then I ask, “Who do you think was the person who was most influential in transforming people and the world 800 years ago in the 1200’s?” People will say they don’t have any idea. When I do this I will then say, “I will give you a clue and I bet that every one of you know who this person is.” I will not say the person’s name but only the city where that person lived. “When I say the clue, I want you to raise your hand when you know who it is. Ready? Set? Here is the clue: “He was from Assisi.” They all answer, “St. Francis.” Then I ask, “What is it that all three of these people had in common?”…
Do this, and as you lead the discussion, help the students to see that common points were that they were people of prayer and faith who gave their lives totally to Christ and the Church. They did not simply want to be acceptable, or good, but to be holy, to strive to be the best they could through the grace of God.
The holiest priests and saints do not strive simply to be good. They understand the law of spiritual generation, that if we want to lead people to be saints, then we cannot strive for less. Only a total surrender to God’s grace can make this possible. How far will you go to bring Christ to others?
Appendix 13: The Spiritual Law of Causality
The Spiritual Law of Causality
If the priest is a saint, the people will be fervent;
if the priest is fervent, the people will be pious;
if the priest is pious, the people will at least be decent;
if the priest is only decent, the people will be godless.
The spiritual generation is always one-degree less intense in its life than the one who begets it in Christ.
( Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O. The Soul of the Apostolate, p. 39)
Each of us desires to make a difference in the world, but are we willing to pay the price? Jesus said, “If you want to be my disciple, deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.” It is easy enough to believe and even attend Mass and do the minimum. The quote above is so challenging because it teaches that if we strive for the minimum, we will teach others mediocrity. If we desire to bring others to Christ and to holiness, then it will cost us our lives.
It is so easy to look at the challenges in life and in the world and to conclude that we cannot make any difference for good. Yes, we live in a difficult culture, but the Lord wants to work through us to transform culture and the world—not that we be conformed by culture to the values of the world. Saints don’t make excuses. They say “There is no age so difficult that saints can’t thrive.”
Think of the challenges that lay before the Apostles’ feet. Jesus asked them to reach out to all ends of the known world at that time and to announce the Good News. An impossible task! The Apostles focused, not on their limitations, but on the call and on the fact that the resurrected Jesus called them to this mission and empowered them with the Holy Spirit. Twelve men along with countless followers loved, preached, taught, suffered, were persecuted and put to death for Jesus—and the world was transformed because they strove for holiness and with the grace of God were able to bring others to a deep holiness.
Throughout the centuries the saints have modeled for us this Spiritual Law of Causality. Saints don’t happen by chance; they happen by choice. They choose daily to surrender themselves to God’s grace in a difficult mission field.
St. John Vianney is held up to us as a special patron saint of parish priests. He lived in a very difficult time during the French Revolution. Born in 1786, his family experienced an oppressive persecution against the Church in which priests were hunted down and put to death. Any family who would take them in and protect them would suffer persecution and be deported. John Vianney’s family harbored enough priests in their time that they would have lost everything and been deported many times over. The people of Father Vianney’s time were living immoral lives, and yet during the forty-one years that he would be their pastor, they experienced a profound transformation unequalled anywhere in France. What was the secret? St. John Vianney strove with God’s grace to be a saint and thus was able to lead others to be saints. By the end of his life a railroad spur had to be constructed to bring over 300 pilgrims daily into Ars, most of whom were seeking to confess to “the saint.”
Today the Lord is calling many to marriage. If you believe the Lord is calling you to the married life, do you strive for holiness with your partner? Spouse? Family? If the Lord is calling you to the priesthood, do you surrender part? Most? Whole? Holiness is a mysterious combination of our free choice and God’s grace.
How far will you go to follow Christ and carry out His mission for you? The Saints teach us through their lives how to give a deeper and more committed response to God’s Call in our lives. We live in an age of poverty, war, oppression, broken families, etc. There are so many challenges, distractions, contradictory values, and yet we live in an age of unbelievable opportunity to do good.
We are called to serve the greatest Cause. We are called to serve the Greatest Leader. We are called to serve within the family of the Catholic Church. What will be your response?
How far will you go to serve Jesus Christ? What will you choose—mediocrity or greatness? It’s your Call!