When I was a boy growing up, I was imprinted by the concept of sainthood. At the time, this was defined by Catholic conceptions, but as I dropped my Catholicism in favor of other spiritual beliefs, the concept never left me. A purpose of living is, I have always believed, to live a good and righteous life. You do it well enough to be emulated by others, especially after your death, and you become a saint.

As I have done research on the subject, it seems that achieving sainthood is popularly believed to be out of the reach of ordinary mortals with ordinary ways-of-life. This is why, early in my business career when I was being recruited by a corporation for an open job, I was dropped like a hot potato when asked what my life’s ambition was, and I answered, “To become a saint.”

At the time, I didn’t realize what an oddball answer it was, or what potential difficulties (for an employer) such an answer might presage. Better for most employers to select for less celestial ambitions.

While researching this post, however, I discovered a swami—Sada Shiva Tirtha—who says, “It is hoped that all can see that there is no real chasm between people and saints—each of us has saintliness within and is closer to being a saint than one may believe,” he says.

This popular attitude to sainthood arises, he says, from ten misconceptions:

1.   Saints must perform miracles
2.   Saints never get angry
3.   Saints don’t display human emotions
4.   Saints don’t get sick
5.   Saints wear special ‘holy’ clothes
6.   Saints remain unmarried
7.   Saints never have children
8.   Saints never make mistakes or fail at anything
9.   Saints only do literal holy things
10. Saints never watch TV or movies

“Just by discussing or trying to do something a little better, a little nobler, remembering God a little more often, those higher, nobler things charge us with those feelings,” he says. “God infuses us with His inspiration. It is the attempt towards these qualities that develops saintly qualities. And due to the power of these qualities alone affecting us, it is not as difficult to act and feel more saintly as one would first believe.”

The swami says: “By simply and sincerely trying, one finds instant upliftment and raised self-worth. The attempt to follow one or more positive habits is the highest of medicines. The reason it is so easy to experience upliftment is because the mind is—even if for a moment—focused on God or Godly behavior. The Vedas tell us that as we think so we become.”

Whether you believe in God or not, you might agree with me when I say that our souls are victimized many times by our lack of self-control, lack of self-discipline, and lack of desire to achieve a pure state of mind and body.  It seems to me that this is so because most of us have placed our soul as something we cannot touch or feel, something we are not in tune with.

I think we must correct this wrong opinion of our soul, and see it as a vital part of our whole being. As the old saw goes, we are spiritual beings having a human experience. We must remember that our souls are not separate from us, but as much a part of us as our flesh and our minds.

Our ultimate purpose is revealed to us and enriched by the eyes and ears of our souls.



martyr 5.


gertrude of nivelles.

martyr 6.

st martin.


mandela as saint.

martyr 1.

st laurent.


the saint.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Billy Eckstine performing “Body and Soul”


3 Responses to “saintliness”

  1. July 28, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    Perhaps giving us your definition of a saint would make this a more interesting and more personalized article? In my opinion, a saint is simply someone who tries to make this a better world, for those who need it the most, consistently standing by the truth and justice even when it means great personal risk or personal sacrifice. More or less, this is a quick definition. So I don’t see any relation with God or religion. Just, as you say, righteousness.

    And I don’t believe it calls for any sort of perfection, especially self-control. In fact, as we humans are not perfect, being in total control, always calm and achieving perfection would make us not human. Being a saint doesn’t mean not making mistakes and not.. falling. If even angels can (and have) fall(en), then perfection may only refer to God. So I also believe that both Colt Lundy and Paul Henry can still be saints, though I am aware most would think I was crazy. But it is far harder to believe anyone else can be a saint, when we still let kids suffer. And I am sure that the 12 yo Paul Henry has inspired more people to fight for what’s right than I ever will. And he continues to do so, year after year, under the worst of circumstances.

    • July 28, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      Of course I agree with you and don’t think you’re to be faulted for saying so: Sainthood is available to anybody, even someone who has taken a life.

      As you say, this is not subject to the standard of perfection. Perfection is available to few but the remarkably boring. We have much to learn from our own imperfections and those of others.

  2. July 28, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    Danny –
    I think that saints must achieve a certain amount of Enlightenment
    and therefore have a Fun and Happy Life……And yes your new name is – Saint Danial of the Desert

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