Every saint has a different story. One never hears a saint’s story and says, “this person was exactly like saint so-and-so”. (Saint So-and-So – the patron of people that forget names.) They’re all different, including in the time it took them and the trouble they went through. Some saints seem to hit the mark early, like St. Chiara Badano. Some, like St. Augustine, take the long road. Some suffered tragedy and loss and seeming failure, like St. Kolbe. Neither how they get there nor when they get there is consistent.
What does this mean for us? This is good news — literally Gospel — that we all need to hear.
“On learning that weather erodes granite one inch every 100,000 years, sculptor Gutzon Borglum added an extra three inches to each president’s features on Mount Rushmore. ‘Three inches would require 300,000 years to bring the work down to the point that I would like to finish it,” he said. “In other words, the work will not be done for another 300,000 years, as it should be.'” (Greg Ross, Taking Time, FutilityCloset.com)
We are God’s workmanship, not “we were God’s workmanship, and now we’re on a shelf, finished”. God is still forming each of us into his finished masterpiece, sometimes through His direct hand – the strike of His hammer, sometimes through the slow weathering of difficulty. We may feel that life is wearing us down, that we cannot weather the storm. That may be just the point – to weather. To be formed by our experiences, even our suffering, into the saint we’re meant to be.
“And what did God do? First of all He left us conscience, the sense of right and wrong: and all through history there have been people trying (some of them very hard) to obey it. None of them ever quite succeeded. Secondly, He sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and, by his death, has somehow given new life to men. Thirdly, He selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was — that there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
We are each God’s workmanship. We are each of us a masterpiece. Some of us will be finished in this life, some of us will be polished and sealed in purgatory, but in any case the goal is to be completed. It may take a lifetime, but the goal — the only goal — is to be a saint, to be God’s finished masterpiece. And for us to take shape, the Master has to keep chiseling.
Copyright 2014, Joe Wetterling