Saints are not prefabricated. Too many people seem to think that they had a halo handed to them at their Baptism. Let's blame some of their biographers who sometimes picture them as a spiritual elite dispensed from the normal struggles and ups and downs of average mortals. Be sure of one thing: saints are made, not born!
The truth is that they are ordinary persons like ourselves, full of the same miseries, and subject to the same weaknesses. The start of their great holiness was usually quite simple and ordinary. In fact, it seems to be a law of Divine Providence that the higher the holiness, the more hidden and simple the beginnings of it.
Holiness is like a mighty river. It owes its greatness to the dozen of smaller streams that feed it...to hundreds of rivulets...and to thousands of raindrops that dropped from the skies. You'd hardly notice one of these tiny rivulets; but you can't fail to admire the strength, beauty, and majesty of a mighty river.
So it is with great holiness. It starts with the raindrops of many actual graces from God. When these daily graces are faithfully corresponded with, they grow into the streams of growing sanctity. Finally, they lead to an immense river of God's sanctifying grace that sweeps all before it. Yet, it all started with seemingly insignificant graces.
Why is this growth so tiny and so gradual at its beginning? Because essentially holiness is but the life of grace. Planted at Baptism, it is subject to the normal laws of growth and development. God rarely produces a saint by casting him into a mold and producing a finished product. Rather, the Master Workman puts together the pieces until His masterpiece is completed.
There are hundreds of examples to prove that great holiness usually has small beginnings. With Francis of Assisi, it started when he bypassed a beggar; with Ignatius of Loyola, it began with boredom during his convalescence from battle wounds. With some other saints, it started with a close look at a corpse.
The exuberant, fun-loving, sensitive Francis returned to the beggar and offered him help. Later on he gave away everything and became wedded to Lady Poverty. He knew that God finds an empty heart irresistible. And he was right. God began to pour such a love into the heart of Francis that eventually it led to the seraphic transformation at Mt. Alvernia.
The passionate Ignatius was mending wounds received at Pampeluna. To ease his boredom, he took to reading. Fortunately the only available books were a life of Christ, and the lives of the saints. These started the reformation and the resolutions that changed the life of the founder of the Jesuits...and the countless thousands that have followed him.
Suppose Francis hadn't returned to help that beggar? He might have broken the link in a chain of graces that led to the holiness of one of the most beloved saints in history. And suppose Ignatius hadn't tried to ease his boredom with some inspirational reading. The Society of Jesus might never have been founded and its great and varied works, never accomplished.
And so it is with any saint. Their start was hardly different from anything that could happen, or has happened, to any of us. Sanctity is the only true success in life, and this success has its start in a very ordinary and sometimes hidden way. Indeed, it could happen to you...and it should!
(Used with permission, from the Passionist Priests, to help spiritually guide the layman.)