To reach the high peaks of sanctity is something entirely accessible to each one of us. But to climb to the top of this glorious mountain there is only one path: the cross! It can only be scaled by feet that bleed.
Leafing through the pages of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we come across a very important affirmation: “God created everything for man, but man in turn was created to serve and love God.”1
This is the glorious summit to which Providence calls us! However, to reach it, a climb full of uncertainties and mysteries stretches out before our eyes.
Sanctity is not impossible
At least once in their lives, many have asked themselves: “Is it really possible to attain sanctity? Is it feasible for man to endure so much suffering, to overcome terrible temptations and to persevere in an unceasing struggle until the end of his life? Could this not be a useless endeavour, since it aims at the impossible?”
If sanctity were really something impossible, Heaven would not be full of Saints! In fact, the Church today has thousands of souls canonized for their holiness of life. And these are only the ones in the Martyrology, because there are many just souls throughout history who have never been recognized by anyone except those closest to them and, of course, by God.
Now, if so many have succeeded in reaching the peak of this sacred mountain of the practice of virtue, so can we, with the help of grace. Indeed, we cannot think that the Saints were beings of a “higher nature”, or born with some special superpower… They were ordinary people, just like us!
St. Therese, for example, records in her memoirs that as a young child she was quite spoiled, with a strong and proud temperament, which she had to overcome through sacrifice, renunciation and more than a few tears…2
The great Poverello of Assisi, St. Francis, also had to face a real struggle against his worldly ways and his frivolity before fulfilling the mission that God had reserved for him.3
Even the Apostle, St. Paul, humbly recounts his weaknesses and frailties: “And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Cor 12:7-9).
Holiness is thus something entirely accessible to us. And God, like a loving Father, in the depths of our souls, never ceases to invite us: “My son, my daughter, have courage! Undertake this climb that seems impossible to you. I will be with you! Advance step by step, and when you least expect it, the Angels will be carrying you!”
There is only one way!
Faced with the challenge of ascending to a high summit, it is natural to begin by analysing the best way to reach it. However, for the “mountaineering souls” who have decided to be Saints, there is only way to reach their goal: to carry the cross!
Sirach says: “My son, if you come forward to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for temptation. Set your heart right and be steadfast, and do not be hasty in time of calamity. Cleave to Him and do not depart, that you may be honoured at the end of your life. Accept whatever is brought upon you, and in changes that humble you be patient. For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation” (2:1-5).
In His infinite mercy and loving fatherhood, God wanted to be the first to face the suffering that He demands of us, and He did so in unimaginable proportions, not only so that He could pour out upon us torrents of grace that sustain us, but also to give us the example to follow.
God the Son could have redeemed mankind with a smile when He became incarnate, for His every act was of infinite value. Nevertheless, He wanted to shed His last drop of Blood in the most cruel and humiliating martyrdom. Insults were heaped upon Him and He was despised by the very ones for whom He was offering himself. He could not have suffered more!
Accordingly, it was the Son of God made Man who established and inaugurated the only path that can lead us to Heaven. The glorious mountain of sanctity can only be scaled by feet that bleed!
A proof of God’s love
Therefore, when the whirlwinds of temptation, perplexity and anguish assail us, let us not be discouraged. On the contrary, let us be convinced that these are the best moments of our lives, in which we can offer God a love that is entirely pure, without expecting anything in return, feeling abandoned by Him.
At such times, we ought to kneel and give thanks, certain that we have been chosen to enter through the narrow gate that will lead us to Heaven!
In today’s world, showing preference for someone means showering them with honours and pleasures; but God is not like this. The proof of God’s love for someone is the sufferings He sends him, for it is in the crucible of affliction that the soul is united to the redeeming Passion of Christ and becomes one with Him.
Therefore, let us not take adversity as a punishment or vengeance for our sins. On the contrary, even when we endure sufferings that we have deserved, let us be aware that they were permitted by Providence out of love and for our good. Let us take advantage of them to progress in virtue, and “let us rejoice in so far as we share Christ’s sufferings, that we may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed” (cf. 1 Pt 4:13).
Let us have recourse to Heaven’s aid!
The Saints shine in the firmament of history because they were perseverant and climbed the mountain of God’s love with enthusiasm. In this hard battle of life, let us turn to those who have already fought the good fight, kept the faith and received the crown of glory in eternity from the hands of the Lord, the Just Judge!
They are our brothers! No doubt they are waiting anxiously to hear from our lips a humble request for help, a devout prayer, a fervent act of faith! As soon as we utter it, they will surely come running to meet us and strengthen us in the ways of virtue!
And if, even then, we lack courage or if doubt assails us, let us, through the intercession of Our Lady, throw ourselves into the arms of our Divine Redeemer and abandon ourselves to His omnipotent care, and we shall soon hear His sweet voice whispering within our soul: “Be not afraid of sufferings; I am with you!”4 ◊
Life’s Best Moments…
There are moments in our life when the trials and temptations that we suffer seem to toss us relentlessly like a boat lost amidst the tempest on a raging sea. These are the best moments, the best times, in which God puts us to the test, even allowing demons to sift us by means of tribulations, as they strive to bring about our perdition.
It is thus that God tries his righteous ones, that the love they offer Him may be pure, without expecting recompense, feeling abandoned by Him.
If this should befall you, give thanks, for you were chosen to enter through the narrow door that leads to Heaven.