Tag Archives: women in religion

The Goal of Sainthood

The eyes of the saint make all beauty holy, and the hands of the saint consecrate everything they touch to the glory of God, and the saint is never offended by anything and judges no man’s sin because he does not know sin.  He knows the mercy of God and he is on earth to bring that mercy to all men.” — Thomas Merton, Seeds of Contemplation

Spencer Butte - Eugene, Oregon


The idea of the saint was very important to me as a child raised Catholic.  I enjoyed the organized system wherein individual saints are patrons of different things (my mother has been known to suggest that I pray to St. Joseph to help with our housing issues – we will be moving into our new home in about a month).  The relation of saints to worldly categories resonates for me in the same way as Jung’s archetypes, the Kabala and the correspondence of Tarot cards to various aspects of reality.

In addition, being female, I understood even as a child that sainthood was the only real power and status that women could ever hope to achieve.  I didn’t particularly want to martyr myself or suffer to the extremes that these women were said to have done, so sainthood wasn’t really a viable option.  But it was at least, unlike popehood, a possibility.

St. John's River - Florida

When I first read this quote by Thomas Merton, the image it presented amazed me.  That a saint’s job might not be to suffer horrific trials and be tortured to death with a pitiful smile on one’s face, but it might be simply to see beauty and acknowledge it as holy.  It might be to embrace all things as reflecting the divine.  It might NOT be to adopt a holier than thou attitude and spend one’s days pointing out faults, but to spread love.  To turn one’s back on evil, fear and judgment and walk always toward joy.

That everything one senses throughout the day glows with the spark of divinity!  That everything to which one reaches out becomes deep connection, an experience of sacred Oneness!  That no one can offend you, because you are open at all times only to love, acceptance, joy and peace.  To know through true union the love of the Great Spirit and to serve as a channel of that love spreading across the world.

Beetle and Bean

The job of saint when seen through Merton’s eyes still seems impossible, but even the attempt to fulfill it may be worthwhile.

If you find this Merton quote inspiring, please share your thoughts!