As Christians, our whole life’s purpose is to become a saint. When I think of the saints, I recall so many incredible women whose stories of heroism and accomplishment inspire within me the desire to do what they did. St. Teresa of Calcutta founded the Missionaries of Charity. St. Kateri followed God’s call despite rejection from her family and community. St. Faustina revealed God’s mercy to a world in desperate need of it. St. Joan of Arc led armies. St. Catherine of Siena is a Doctor of the Church.
But when I think of these women and my own call to sainthood, I often wonder how I could do anything as beautiful as them; if I could actually become a saint, too.
Though these women did great and heroic things, their real secret — the secret of their holiness — was not just the incredible things they accomplished and are often remembered for. It was also something hidden, subtle and often forgotten — the everyday, moment by moment decisions that led them to eventually make great acts of faith and trust.
The moment when Mary gave her “yes” to God is known as her fiat. In this moment, she was invited into the great plan of salvation, to bring the Son of God into the world, raise him, watch him die and rise to save us. But before Mary gave her great yes, she spent her whole life giving little yeses through her faithfulness to God in prayer and living a holy life. We are often invited to ponder what our fiat, our own great yes, will look like in our lives. But what about our little fiats?
It’s tempting to picture our call to sainthood and only think of the big things — our vocation, a ministry we lead or starting a new nonprofit. But we often forget the little things — sacrificing for our family, carving out time for daily prayer, frequenting the sacraments, speaking charitably about our neighbor, changing our baby’s diaper, etc. It is only in doing the simple, everyday tasks with heroic virtue that we can become the saints God is calling us to be.
Maybe we’ll be asked to do the great works of the most popular saints, but maybe our stories will look a little bit different. Blessed Maria Quattrocchi was an ordinary wife and mother whose life was full of fears and doubts, but through it all she allowed herself to continue to trust in where the Lord was inviting her to follow him. Venerable Teresita Quevedo had one foot in the world and one foot in heaven, but her determination to become a saint led her to the Carmelites, where she lived simply for two years before dying of Tuberculosis.
Whether our life is full of notable works or the everyday call of sainthood, it is only by doing the little things well that we will be prepared to say yes to the big things. We see in the scriptures, “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones” (Lk 16:10). What are the little things that God is calling us to do today, in this moment?
The saints were women of intense prayer, spending hours before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and constantly asking what God wanted for and from them. They lived in community serving their families or fellow sisters in big and small ways every day. They served the poor, frequented the sacraments, withstood persecution and suffering. When they failed, they ran to God begging for mercy. And their example is one that can inspire us to see those same invitations in our own lives.
St. Thérèse often spoke of her “Little Way” of sanctity, from folding napkins out of love to treating a sister who bothered her with kindness. Servant of God Thea Bowman fought for racial justice even while undergoing breast cancer treatments. St. Gianna Molla took care of three littles while working as a pediatrician. And it was these everyday “yeses” that gave these women and so many others the courage to do the big things.
“The now-moment is the moment of salvation,” said Venerable Fulton Sheen. “All of us would like to make our own crosses tailor-made trials. But not many of us welcome the crosses God sends. Yet it is in doing perfectly the little chores he gives that saints find holiness.”
If we want to become great saints one day, we must look at the crosses and little chores that the Lord is inviting us to say yes to today, the small acts of virtue that lead to heroic ones. These crosses are invitations directly to our hearts, specifically made for each of us to reach our ultimate goal of eternity with God. We must ask the Lord for the courage to do the little things with great love so as to say “yes” when he asks big things of us.
We won’t always be able to perfectly do the will of God, and as sinners who fail often, our failures can become discouraging. In these discouragements, though, we can take confidence in God’s mercy and desire for us to become the saints he created us to be. St. Faustina wrote, “Let no soul doubt, even the most pitiful, so long as they are still alive, that they can become a great saint.” Following the example of the saints, let us take courage in our pursuit of holiness and say “yes” to God, every moment of every day. And when we fail, let us not tire of running back to him and asking for his mercy.
Retired FOCUS missionary and theology teacher, Claire resides in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband Andrew and their son Joseph. She enjoys spending time on her screened-in back porch and in conversation with friends over a good beer. You can find her on Instagram at @eclaire_collins.