What is 'Sanctity?'

I suppose even the most basic of things are not free from being misunderstood, and quite profoundly at that. I was reading an article the other day about a TV hostess who professed her own opinion that there are no more saints because of modern medicine. Her view: saints were psychotic people that heard voices and saw things that nowadays we don’t suffer from because of an increase in psychological and medicinal treatments. Ya… it’s kinda’ unorthodox…

But, she does bring up a good point. As much as I’d like to simply say that she’s wrong—which I am—I am also inclined to admit that there are probably many, many people who have the same opinion as her. Even if they don’t say that it’s a psychological disorder gone awry, I’d guess that many people think sanctity is truly something unattainable in today’s world, and completely anachronistic. What’s more, I think that, when faced with actual sanctity—with real holiness—most people wouldn’t know what to make of it. Our minds are wired for words, like “good,” “fair,” “caring,” and (the icing on the cake) “non-judgmental”; we live in a world that lauds the trite and clich├ęd. After all, we should ask, what is truly admirable about these things if they don’t lead to holiness?

I think that the crux of much of this misunderstanding was also articulated well by the same hostess, when she disavowed even the sanctity of Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Her reason: recent revelation that Mother experienced doubts in her faith during the last years of her life ‘prove’ that she really didn’t believe in God and thus, that her ‘sanctity’ was really just something human, something humanitarian, something unconnected to the divine.

This claim points directly to the greatest misunderstanding of all, with regard to holiness: that of faith, and the nature of faith in the Catholic tradition. Faith, by its nature, is believing in Jesus Christ, even though there cannot and will not be any definitive, rational proof to hold onto. If we trusted Christ’s testimony based on reason, we’d be knowing not believing. The one who has faith believes even in the bouts of darkness that inevitably occur throughout our lives. In fact, the one who believes in the face of even the most severe doubts—like the ones faced by Mother Teresa—is the most commendable and most faithful of all. Faith has nothing to do with our feeling of God’s presence, but everything to do with our response to his revealed truth, and the love with which he has first loved us. For this reason sanctity, even in modern times and in the face of the greatest oppression and societal decay, is just as possible as ever. In fact, the saints we see today are perhaps some of the greatest in the history of the world.