Goodness v. Sanctity

My mind wandered this morning while reading an edifying extract from St Thérèse of Lisieux, whose feastday this is. So many people seem to have got hold of a travesty of the saint, seeing her as a hothouse flower rather than the wrench of steel she truly was. In much the same way, I think a lot of us waste time striving to be good rather than aiming at sanctity itself. Of course there are aspects in common. One can’t be a saint and live an immoral or selfish life; but goodness often has an uncomfortable element of self-regard, as though we were taking a perpetual selfie of ourselves in order to scrutinize our motives and keep a tally of our successes and failures. Sanctity, by contrast, is more forgetfulness of self — not in the sense that we are indifferent to the rightness or wrongness of our thoughts and actions, but in the sense that we turn them all over to God and allow him to be the arbiter. If, like me, you are inclined to be lazy, may I suggest you concentrate on sanctity rather than goodness? It is much easier; and ultimately it brings us closer to God. In fact, come to think of it, it is remarkably like the Little Way of St Thérèse herself.

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6 thoughts on “Goodness v. Sanctity”

  1. Oh yes! I am regularly horrified by how much of the time I spend in prayer is with me, rather than with God! But, or is it and?, God loves anyway, without being blind to my faults and foibles. That’s not to say that I can ignore them, as you rightly say, but my sin is as far away as the East is from the West – once I have handed them all to God. Sorry, I’m not putting that very well.

  2. One of the most challenging posts to date!
    I really struggle getting my (lazy) brain around this. It seems right, but the more I think about it the more it drifts away like smoke. Are there any further reading resources you can point me to? Fascinating but really hard to “do”.

    • Yes; but not at the moment. This post is meant to make you think (arrogant of me, I know; but what you work out for yourself will always be much more useful than anything another person ‘tells’ you.)

  3. Sister Catherine’s post and comments are very true. I went on a pilgrimage from Hereford to Lisieux last year and stayed in the Ermitage Sainte Thérèse. The whole experience was memorable; the hospitality of the nuns, the simple white purity of the Ermitage Chapel and the awe-inspiring Basilica. The Carmelite Convent maintain her relics in an astonishingly beautiful casket bedecked with cascading flowers underneath the Chapel of the Reliquary.

    Therese’s autobiography was initially circulated posthumously to other Carmelite Convents and slowly led to a much wider publication and recognition of her ‘Little Way’. The text has an unusual, almost childlike quality to it but describes her life and illness in a very moving way. She was only 24 when she died.

    It can take time to even begin to understand the ‘Little Way’’. Although Therese is a Doctor of the Church, this is not in recognition of the conventional great works of theology. I only began to understand this when I unintentionally carried out the smallest act of charity and later witnessed its effect.

    Acts of kindness can be such simple expressions of love that we often forget their significance.

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