We do not become saints alone

A weekend in Rome in the company of a group of young families becomes the occasion to be accompanied on the road towards sanctity

A few months ago, we hosted a fraternity group composed of young families in the House of Formation. The number of children far exceeded the number of adults, and what’s more, they were almost all of kindergarten and elementary school age. For three days, the usual silence of our house gave way to the vitality and joy of the young and old.

Leading up to the visit, we had thought about how to use the time, and what to visit in the beautiful city of Rome. In the end, we opted for the “classic but ever new” downtown tour on the trail of some saints such as Matthew, Augustine, Monica, Ignatius and Aloysius Gonzaga. Aided by Caravaggio’s beautiful canvases and the many relics in the Eternal City, some mothers explained the stories of these saints to the 20 or so children (who were all attentive!).

It was a beautiful day, in which both the young and the old looked towards Heaven, beyond those rare gray clouds which, that day, covered the magnificent blue sky of Rome.

The next day, Francesco, a seminarian, explained the mosaic which adorns our chapel to the group. On the part to the right, there are the saints Andrew and John depicted in the moment, which Fr. Giussani loved so much, when they asked the Teacher: “Where are you staying?”. The particular detail of our mosaic is that the faces of the saints, which are shown walking towards Jesus, are extremely close, almost fused one into the other, so as to represent a progressive unity given by following the same Ideal. One of the mothers, after returning home, sent me an email in which she wrote: “The other thing that I bring home with me from these days is the image of John and Andrew from the mosaic, who are walking together, where the one is almost the extension of the other, because we cannot become saints by ourselves.”

These words made me think about what I had seen the day before while going around Rome: a group of friends following the traces of the saints, in which the parents showed their children the treasure hidden in those lives and, at the same time, present today in theirs.

This is the true task of every parent, but also of every priest and consecrated person: to show Heaven with their own life. How? Seeking it and discovering it in the depth of other lives.

This is the true task of every parent, but also of every priest and consecrated person: to show Heaven with their own life

If it is true that the vocation contained in every vocation is sanctity and that it is absolutely personal, it is equally true that “we do not become saints by ourselves,” but together. The personal path is always sustained by those who went before us, those who accompany us and those who, in some way, follow after us. These three aspects of the companionship of the Church are all necessary in every step we take towards Christ.

We cannot truly be together without saying our personal “yes” to Christ

But the opposite is also true. We cannot truly be together without saying our personal “yes” to Christ. What does this mean though? Saying “yes” to Christ means accepting His invitation to follow Him through the circumstances that He gives us. Therefore, above all, it is accepting to walk, that is, to change our position and outlook on reality, trying to conform ourselves to Him. It means being ready to risk: in every step, there is a moment of instability, of risk, of launching forward. And all of this embracing our circumstances, which are made up of events but mostly of faces to follow, accompany, guide.

This is the task of every family, of every one of our houses in the world, of every vocational companionship. Where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there with them (Mt 18:20). Which is to say, where there are men and women decisively walking behind Christ on the road of sanctity one can already begin to experience paradise.

I don’t know if it was for this reason or for the grounds of our house with many soccer goals, but one of the children before getting in the car to return home said to me: “I don’t want to leave; I want to stay here forever.”

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