January 24, 2013

I love the saints for many reasons, one of which is the reassurance that it is possible for each one of us to attain holiness. I used to fear that if I turned my life over to God, I would lose myself, that I would stop being me. Far from being flattened by their devotion to God, the saints are vibrantly, entirely, whole. It gives me hope that while the active and outspoken Catherine of Sienna is recognized for her holiness, so is quiet and hidden Therese of Lisieux. Holiness does not have one face, and very often it is hidden in ordinariness, but if we look for it, we will find its presence in our lives. In fact, you are a model of holiness to someone in your life!

I’d like to tell you about someone who models holiness for me. She would be the first person to laugh at my suggestion, and say she’s no saint, but her awesomeness comes from living her Catholicism, so I’m going to ask her to trust me on this. 

The ordinary saint I’d like to tell you about is my friend Carly. If each saint exhibits one particular quality, and together they all demonstrate that every quality can be used for the good of the Kingdom, then Carly’s quality would be strength. She has many fine attributes and each of them make her, her. She is kind, loving, generous, hospitable, creative, funny, talented (look at this, and this, and the girl can sing!), hard working... and so on.  But each of them is coloured by, accentuated by, her strength.

From Carly I have learned to not look for others to tell me what to do or what I should think. She consults her own conscience which has been formed by Catholic teaching. She is always herself, no matter who she is with, consistent in her own behaviour and her expectations of others. She doesn’t compromise her convictions, even when talking to a gay friend about his lifestyle, or confronting sensitive issues in parish ministry.

Carly has the wonderful gift of correction. She is able to address sticky situations, difficult people, recalcitrant children, and troublesome employees with directness, kindness, and diplomacy, keeping to the issue rather than the personal. For women especially, this is a difficult gift to cultivate and I really admire her ability in this area. I’ve seen her in action with teenagers and colleagues alike, and believe me, this is a gift the Church needs to cultivate. To be able to tell a young man that his actions are hurtful and he needs to clean up his act in such a way that he mends his ways benefits not only that young man, but everyone in his life too, his community, his parish, his family. In this age of entitlement and superlatives, having people who are able to point out the error or the fault with charity is incredibly valuable.

All that strength and certainty and conviction would be less attractive if they didn’t also come with generosity and creativity. Carly has an innate eye for beauty, and the ability to bring order out of chaos. She has created a warm and restful home, to which she often opens the door for someone who needs a meal or a bed for the night. She has a keen eye for the ridiculous and has a ready sense of humour. I like her irreverence and earthiness and the fact that she doesn’t pretend being Catholic has erased her humanity.

Catherine Doherty would have liked Carly, I think.

To read more about ordinary saints, click here.


  1. You are right Tess. If we look around I think we could point out one particular person who we see as saintly. I didn't have to look far, but to my older brother. He would be the epitome of earthiness but also of faithfulness. NOTHING stands in the way of his faith. I mean that. Just to give you an example, I remember when we was dating this particular girl and I could tell he was more interested than just a casual relationship with her. One day he told me that he asked her to marry him and that she said yes! What I didn't know was that during dinner on the night he asked for her hand, all of a sudden he took out his rosary that he ALWAYS keeps in his pocket unless he's praying it of course ;) , held it up and asked her, "Do you have a problem with this? I pray it every day and nothing will deter me from praying it." She looked at it while a bit startled and said, "No, of course I don't have a problem with that." It was then that he asked her to marry him. That is my brother. He is a Catholic first and foremost and his faith is to be envied. Her acceptance of his faith and all its trappings was the clincher for him :) People like this cross our paths in life for a reason Tess.

  2. Oops! This line, "I remember when we was dating" should have read "HE was dating". That must have twisted a few noses...eh? Thanks.

  3. Your brother sounds like a fine man, Bobby; thank you for sharing about him. Someone else, somewhere, is saying the same thing about you.



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