I once saw a statue of Mother Teresa without wrinkles. No lie. It was like the Hollywood actress version of the saint, free of any blemishes or imperfections. It was one of the most bizarre things to witness, but absolutely fascinating. Here was, by all intents and purposes, an extremely ordinary women—no advanced degrees, no landmark works, no heroic accomplishments—who lived with an extremely large heart. Anyone, it would seems, could follow in her footsteps. And yet, in this statue, she was to be somehow glorified, somehow unattainable, somehow special beyond us.
Imperfections? No, we won’t allow it. She must be placed on her pedestal above us.
As strange as this may sound, it is pretty par for the course when it comes to saints. For centuries, people of faith have exalted the saints far beyond their due, highlighting their extraordinary graces and overlooking (or even removing) their mistakes. Sometimes it means removing wrinkles from a statue. Other times it means subconsciously believing that they never sinned or struggled at all.
This could not be further from the truth.
As I suggest in this week’s video, the saints were just as much sinners as we were. They did not believe themselves worthy of sainthood. Like us, they looked to the saints before them with awe and wonder, overwhelmed with the prospect of living up to their greatness. What made them special was not that they were superhuman, beyond sin, or remotely perfect in themselves. No, what made them special was that they recognized their sinfulness and so relied on God.
All Saints Day is a time to remember the saints in heaven, yes, but it is also a time to remember that we are all called to be saints as well. And we can be.