(This post is part of a series. Read Part 1 here.)
Until I put it into the context of the child and parent relationship, I never understood how desperately God wants sainthood for every human being. I knew that God was my Father, but my concept of that love was based entirely on my experience as a child.
When I had children of my own, I began to understand, however imperfectly, how much God loves us and what it might be like for Him to lose us. If I think of being separated from my children forever, I can barely breathe. The pain of that loss would break my human heart.
The divine Heart, which loves perfectly, completely, and more than I can imagine, desires to be with us all for eternity. The Father does not need us, but He wants us. For each human soul, He made the universe and redeemed it from sin, providing the way to be reunited with Him. He made us for Himself, to be happy, in the truest sense, with Him alone.
As a mother, it is love which leads me to make rules for my children, rules to keep them safe, happy, and healthy. They don’t understand yet that I ask them to obey for their own sake. Their good is my foremost desire. Therefore, I want them to be saints as well. I will do anything to have them with me, with God, in eternal blessedness.
Image Credit: The Assumption of the Virgin by Francesco Botticini (Wikipedia Commons)
By helping me really understand how much I want sainthood for my children, parenting has helped me grasp how much God wants it for all of His children. Because I love them, I want their happiness more than my own — more than anything. Therefore, I will sacrifice what I must and do everything I can to help them choose the road to their heavenly home. Our Father has already sacrificed His only Son, shown us our path, and given us guides along the way. He wants nothing less than holiness for us. He dreams more for us than we could dare: that we may live in perfect happiness forever as His Saints.
While parenting has given me a new perspective on our calling to sainthood, it has also shown me how difficult saintliness really can be. It has brought me face to face with my own littleness, selfishness, and sin. Before I had children, I thought I was a decent person. It turns out a lot of my good behavior was based on the fact that I was allowed to focus on my own interests and do whatever I wanted. As a child and a student, I could be kind, loving, and selfless, as long is it was on my own terms.
Parenting, however, is rarely on your own terms. You must take care of a small, wailing, helpless person whenever they need you. Selflessness becomes a requirement of daily life. As a parent, you are put to the test in so many ways. You are challenged physically, mentally, and spiritually. Parents have to give up a lot, including control, and it is rarely easy to do it gracefully. When you constantly have to put someone else’s needs before your own, you find out pretty quickly just how selfish you are.
As my children grow older and start mimicking my behavior, I see through the eyes of my little audience how often I fall short of the mark. Children come into the world knowing nothing and learn everything from the people they watch every day, namely their parents. We must be examples, then, because every word and action is under the scrutiny of learning minds. I know how often I have caught myself passing on vice, rather than virtue. I hear and see my own faults played out in miniature. I have been called to teach them the way to holiness, though I myself am a sinner. So, I must learn again with my children how to pursue righteousness.
Parenthood has shown me the parts of my soul which are not yet ready for heaven. It has taught me how much I still love myself and the material world. I see how often I fail, how in need of grace I am, and how far I have to go to become a saint, someone ready to live in heaven forever.
We each have our own journey toward sainthood. Our vocation, whatever it is, is the path God uses to bring us to Him. If we allow ourselves to live our lives for our ourselves and turn down the opportunity to sacrifice, we reject the commandment to “take up our cross.” We turn away from our calling and lose our purpose.
Living the vocation to marriage and family is just one way God gives us to become saints, just one path of sanctification and growth in charity. Yet, we are all called to sainthood. The ideal is so high, because God’s love is so great. He does not give us a task we cannot complete, but, rather calls us to come home, to the family where we belong.