Posted on Leave a comment

Can you become a saint by sheer willpower?

Thomas Aquinas from the Cathedral of Saint-Rombouts, Mechelen (Belgium). (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Fr. Thomas Dubay used to tell this anecdote: The sister of St. Thomas Aquinas once asked him, “How can I become a saint?”

St. Thomas answered, “Will it.”

This story came back to me recently. Trying to accept with peace whatever happens during my day has taught me something: I don’t always want to do God’s will. When I ruin the dinner I’m making my family, for example, and according to my Lenten resolution I must say, “Jesus, I trust in you,” I sometimes say first, “Jesus, I don’t want to trust in you. I don’t want to let go of my anger and frustration.” Or, “Jesus, I trust in you–sort of.”

The words “I trust in you” are a prayer. They aren’t magic. They remind me to trust in God and ask for His help. But they can’t make me trust when I don’t want to. I must open my heart to grace. I must will it.

God is all-powerful, but there is one creature that can keep Him from sanctifying you–yourself. Our relationship with God is familial. It’s based on love. Love cannot be forced. You must give it willingly.

I’m not saying you can be holy by your own power. As St. Paul wrote, “God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God offers you the grace to desire His will. You must open your heart to receive it.

It’s hard. Especially on the days when temptations come at you like arrows, one after another.

“Though an army encamp against me, my heart does not fear; Though war be waged against me, even then do I trust(Psalm 27:3).

Dear Lord, help me to always will it!

Connie Rossini

For the flip side to this issue, read You can’t lose, unless you give up.

P.S., If you’re new to my blog, please consider subscribing, so you don’t miss any of my posts. Use the tools at the top of the side bar. Thanks!

Posted on 5 Comments

You can’t lose, unless you give up

Penitent Girl by Pietro Rotari. (Wikimedia Commons).
Penitent Girl by Pietro Rotari. (Wikimedia Commons).

How is your Lent going? Did you accidentally eat meat today? Did you give in and eat chocolate, drink coffee, or indulge in whatever else you promised to give up? Have you missed your prayer time, slept through daily Mass, or skipped your spiritual reading?

Don’t despair. This could still be your best Lent yet.

Lent is not all about you

If you focus on yourself and your own agenda, you will likely fall. In fact, God might put a few stumbling blocks in your way for your own good. Perhaps His plan for this Lent is different from yours. If you keep failing to do what you promised, take some time to ask God what He wants this Lent to be all about.

But what if you prayerfully considered your sacrifices and good works, were convinced that you chose what God wanted, and still keep messing up?

Be at peace. You haven’t failed.

God is bigger than your sins and failings

As regular readers of my blog know, I am working on trusting God more. (If you’re not following me yet, please use the tools at the top of the right sidebar to sign up. Thanks!) So far, this has been one of my best Lents in years. I feel like I can’t fail. You see, I have a tendency towards anger, frustration, and self-pity. For Lent, I am trusting that everything that happens during the day is part of God’s plan for my life. I am striving to accept everything peacefully. Sometimes I forget, and my habit of anger kicks in. Then I need to repent.

But here’s the interesting part. I started this year trying to trust God radically when I sin. I have practiced being peaceful when I fail. I no longer beat myself up. I’m no longer tempted to despair. I lay my sin at Jesus’s feet, ask for forgiveness and a quick kiss, and move on.

So if I fail to trust God originally, I always have a second chance. I can grow in trust, no matter what.

Unless I give up.

Your shortcomings don’t surprise Him

God knows your weaknesses better than you do. He also knows how sincere you are. As long as you are trying, He doesn’t see you as a failure. He sees you as a potential saint. And in order to become that saint, you have to trust Him. Ultimately, He is in charge of your spiritual life, not you. Your perfect practice of penance this Lent can’t earn you union with God. That’s a gift. And He will give it to you in His own time.

Unless you give up.

Connie Rossini

Share with us: How has God surprised you this Lent? How can we pray for your spiritual growth right now?

This post is part of this month’s Catholic Bloggers Link-up Blitz.