A want of will is the chief obstacle to our becoming saints. We are not holy because we do not really wish to become so. We would indeed gladly possess the virtues of the saints – their humility and patience, their love of suffering, their penance and zeal. But we are unwilling to embrace all that goes to make a saint and to enter on the narrow path which leads to sanctity. A strong will, a resolute will, is needed; a will which is not to be broken by difficulties or turned aside by trifling obstacles; a determination to be a saint and not to faint and falter because the way seems long and hard and narrow. A big heart, a courageous heart, is needed for sanctification, to fight our worst enemy – our own self-love.
COMMENT: If one was to pick a handful of quotes that summed up Fr Doyle’s spirit and life, this would definitely be on that list. He is correct – we are not holy because we do not really want to be holy. We are all called to holiness – every single one of us. And we are actually all capable of it – the grace is there for us to be holy if we really want it. Our holiness doesn’t depend on the actions of others or on the circumstances in which we live – holiness is as readily available now as it was for our ancestors during the 16th century or the 1st century. It is as obtainable for the wealthy as it is for the poor. But that doesn’t make it easy. We have to make many sacrifices to correspond to the graces we have received. We can do this if we want to – moral and spiritual perfection is an option for everyone.
St Ignatius recognised this reality. While he recuperated from his battle wounds, he was stirred up while reading the lives of the saints. Reflecting on their heroism, he realised that these spiritual heroes were still flesh and blood like he, and that he too could follow in their footsteps.
Yes, we have to want to be holy. But thankfully our holiness does not depend entirely on us – if it did we would get nowhere. We rely on God’s free gift of grace to us to transform us and make us holy. The discipline comes into play in terms of truly corresponding to that grace and making the sacrifices that it demands. But the grace is there for us if we want it, here, now, in the 21st Century just as much as it was in the lives of any saint in history.
As Blessed Columba Marmion said:
Now let us remind ourselves that, in these our days, the Heart of Jesus is not less loving nor His arm less powerful. God is ready to shed His graces upon us…as abundant and as useful as those he shed upon the first Christians. He does not love us less than he loved them.