March 15, 2019

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Erin Jeffries

Called to holiness: a saint who is just you

It is the week before an event. Phone calls and e-mails flood in, last details to check off, and deadlines loom.

All of a sudden, my (usually) even‑keeled and reasonable self becomes someone I don’t recognize and don’t like much.

Anxiety, irritability, tears, fog on the brain, worst-case scenarios running through my head, and lots of apologies. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I used to think that if I just prayed more, if I consciously worked on developing my spiritual life, these quirks would fade, and I would respond better.

Honestly, some of them have, praise God, and others I still struggle with. However, I’ve also come to the realization that my personality is what it is, and if I grow in virtue, it will be as who I am—as who God made me—albeit perfected by cooperating with his grace in my life.

One of the things I have learned over the years in spending time with the saints is precisely how unique they are in their personalities, which in great part shapes their relationship with God.

You have St. Maximilian Kolbe rightly known for his sacrificial love. But did you know that he was an incredibly competitive chess player? Perhaps it was in part this competitive drive which helped him to say confidently “I want both!” when presented with the two crowns of purity and martyrdom, and to build up a periodical of tremendous circulation, using the most modern means available.

St. Elizabeth of the Trinity was well known in her youth for having a temper and stubbornness. She found a direction for her passion in love for her bridegroom, which resulted in beautiful poetry, and perhaps it was in that same stubbornness that she found perseverance as she waited to join the Discalced Carmelites, and then as she faced Addison’s disease.

Saint Benedict Joseph Labré tried several times to enter a monastery, but because of mental illness was never able to do so and ended up living as a homeless pilgrim in Rome. Yet he shared everything he received with others; prayer and his breviary were his constant companions as he visited holy sites around the city.

While we can and should look to the saints as examples for living virtuously and ask for their intercession to grow in virtue, we cannot be and are not called to be carbon copies. We are called to holiness, to love and to resemble Jesus more and more in a unique way that only we can.

Like the three saints mentioned, we each have our unique gifts, challenges, temptations, experiences and personalities. We are called to holiness through and with these aspects of who we are, not despite them.

Particularly as we journey through Lent, I would like to invite you to consider two questions: In what ways can your temptations, imperfections and challenges be opportunities for growing in holiness?

As the saints’ witness, personality traits such as competitiveness and stubbornness can be directed toward the good.

In what ways can the personality traits you might see as spiritually inhibiting be a spiritual strength?

(Erin Jeffries is the coordinator of Ministry to Persons with Special Needs in the archdiocesan Office of Catechesis. She can be reached at 317‑236-1448 or †

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