In Where There Is Love, There Is God, a collection of writings and talks given by Mother Teresa and edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk, M.C., Mother Teresa says to her sisters:
Jesus wants us to be holy. Holiness is nothing extraordinary…never, never, never joke about holiness. Holiness is not a joke. I read in a book, “Jesus’ love was not a joke.” His dying on the Cross was not a joke. He loved me and delivered Himself for me. I love Him, I deliver myself to Him. So let us never make fun of holiness. It is foolishness for us to say, “I am not meant to be holy.” I belong to Him, I have consecrated my life to Him, then I must be holy. Examine yourself whether there is that desire burning in your heart. Do I really want to be holy?…Ask Our Lady to help you understand how to receive Jesus and take Him to others as she took Him. (p. 231)
Mother Teresa here was addressing her sisters, but she so easily could’ve said this to me.
I joke about my unholiness nearly daily because, come on, there’s just so much material. Recently, though, I’ve noticed that while the great saints never took themselves too seriously, they did take the call to be holy as a sacred missive not to be fooled around with. They took Jesus at His word that He could make them and their families holy.
I think of St. Monica. As she cared for her ill-tempered husband and his ill-tempered mother, she so easily could’ve given in to mediocrity and abandoned hope of ever becoming holy. Who would’ve faulted her for making snide comments about her husband’s awful antics and those of the mother-in-law, or for answering back to them, or for finding escape in a vice? But she didn’t. Instead of making excuses and seeing her situation as one inconducive to holiness, she resolutely went to work and served with determined patience and kindness that eventually won them both over.
And Augustine. What a lost cause he was. Surely some of St. Monica’s friends from church wrote him off in their minds as an impossible case. But not St. Monica, his mom. St. Monica prayed, fasted, wept, prayed some more, badgered St. Ambrose—“Go now, I beg you; it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.”—until she was finally rewarded with the most remarkable conversion of her son, now a doctor of the Church.
I think about my own family. St. Monica’s example of goodness has given me new energy to keep trying my best and to keep working and hoping for my and my family’s holiness. As moms, we have the daunting but oh-so-beautiful task of loving our family into holiness, no matter how unlikely it looks like from the outside. We have the sacraments and the help of Our Lady and the saints, too, whenever we need them.
We can rest in the example of St. Monica that if we allow ourselves to be emptied for the sake of guiding our families to sanctity, we will become saints and will be the mothers and wives of saints. And that’s no joke.
Copyright 2014 Meg Matenaer