Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Above all, I want to be a saint

Today is my birthday. Today I turn 24. Age-wise, I'm advancing one more year into adulthood. Yet my life's aim has turned full circle into the silent awe-inspired dream of my little self.

I never voiced that dream. When asked about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always gave an answer according to my most recent interest: an architect, a researcher, an astronaut, an astronomer, an archaeologist, a marine biologist, a conchologist (that's a person who studies seashells. You didn't know that, did you? I read the strangest books as a child). My dad of course thought that becoming a doctor would do me the greatest good. Resource-wise it was also an easy option because my mum was already one, so she had the books and the experience. Obedient as I was, I thought yeah whatever, I excelled at human biology anyways, and I did like counselling, and a doctor is pretty cool too, so yeah sure.

But apparently it was never enough. Looking back, I realise that what I always wanted was to be "great". I couldn't really explain how "great", and how exactly I would achieve this "greatness"—it was a vivid yet largely abstract idea. And I don't know when or how the seed was planted, but it was there.

This aspiration was visible from the things and ideas I got attracted to. For instance, I always loved being surrounded by intelligent and outside-the-box people, people who "shine". The TV series Heroes was my favourite. I strived to always be different, always be unique, always first in everything. I became upset when I did not get involved. I questioned myself when people consulted others instead of me. I doubted my abilities when someone else did something first as a pioneer. I looked down at certain jobs that I deemed too simple, too traditional, not "out there" enough, not heroic enough.

In other words, my previous version of "greatness" was a greatness in the eyes of the world. And I sought it in the wrong places and the wrong people.

Shortly it became an unhealthy excess. I became prideful and spiritually I had degraded far below. Dr. House is a good enough caricature of the kind of friends I had back then. We were a miserable bunch. Admired, feared even, but miserable.

After I reverted back to the Church, this desire for greatness did not subside. As a medical student almost finishing med school, I dreamt about continuing my career abroad, preferably in a first-world country like the US. I dreamt about taking a "great" specialty. I dreamt about transforming the world into a better place. My logic was, in order to do that I had to get the best education and the best, most respectable position in the world, so that my voice would be heard. I was even more certain about this because my med school "friends"—who apparently didn't know me very well now that I think about it—were positively supportive because they believed I would achieve whatever I wanted easily.

I'm not sure when it all changed. Perhaps because over time, I was blessed with more and more holy people whom I met online (looks like God knew that most offline folks in my life couldn't be trusted!). Maybe that was it, or maybe not. One thing for sure: my desire for greatness was being directed to the right place.

Slowly God reminded me about the stories of the saints I had read voraciously as a child. I remembered I read about Saints Joan of ArcThérèse of Lisieux, Tarcisius, Bernadette Soubirous, Francis of Assisi, Odilia, Anna Wang, Catherine Labouré, Maria Goretti, Gemma Galgani, and Elizabeth of Hungary. I remembered how the little me thought these people, though coming from different backgrounds and leading different lives, were all "cool" and "awesome" and yes, "great". Once I re-discovered my admiration for the Church's saints as an adult, I came to a happy conclusion: I had misplaced my desire—it wasn't for greatness, not in the worldly sense at least, rather it was greatness in the eyes of God: it was a desire for sainthood.

A saint does not pretend. He is himself. Our Lord has died for him; there is no need to be somebody else.

A male saint is truly man, a female saint is truly woman. They are not just holy men and women, they are THE men and women that God has in mind when He created them.

A saint is unique. His vocation is unique. His life is unique. His death is unique. No two saints are the same.

A saint transforms the world. With their words, with their deeds, with their blood, with their prayers.

A saint is a rebel. A saint is courageous and radical. In a fallen world that continues to fall, the only radical and rebellious thing you can do is to be holy.

A saint is sincere, and because of this, a saint does more: he loves more, he gives more, he receives more, he studies more, he prays more, he contemplates more, he laughs more, he smiles more.

In the communion of saints, there is a place for everyone, for every charism, for every vocation, for every walk of life.

Becoming a saint is difficult. It is a big challenge. It is the aspiration of the most daring men and women. We need tremendous, continuing grace from Him who is holy, and from our part, we need to be constantly vigilant.

Now, although I still plan for my life, still have preferences, principles, dislikes, wants, needs, I no longer put an emphasis on them. God willing, from this day onwards, I can be more detached from worldly things so that I may own them but they don't own me. Even better, from now on, I desire that my preferences, principles, dislikes, wants, needs should serve to help me love my Lord more.

Because above all, I want to be great: I want to be a saint.

Please pray for me as I pray for you.

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