We are all called to be saints. This is a common message shared at All Saints’ Day, which is a holy day of obligation in the Catholic Church. This means I’ve been going to mass for years, drawing inspiration from the saints.
One year, a Jesuit at our school, Fr. Bruce, challenged us to look at the lives of the saints (those who are officially canonized and the people in our lives we look to as saintly) and then look at our own lives and contemplate how we can live this in our own way.
I have a very easy time identifying those in my life who are inspirations to me, saintly people in my daily life. I also believe in angels, spirits that accompany us on our journey. Not to conflate the two, but I often find saintly people to have an aura about them, almost as if the presence of their guardian angel can be felt.
In Theology studies at Loyola University we were challenged to engage in the study of “higher things” as we make our way as creatures here on earth. Focusing on higher things, while being rooted in earthly things, is a way of describing the path to sainthood. When I was younger I believed that in order to do this, I literally needed to look up, because that’s where heaven is. I also believed that in order to get there, I needed wings.
For most of my adult life, I laughed at this way of thinking. It was naïve and overly simplistic. It turns out that I don’t think I was too far off.
Recently a friend gave me a copy of The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis. My heart leapt when I read this passage, “With two wings a man is lifted up above earthly things: that is, with simplicity and purity.” He goes on to explain how living with this duel focus will free us from what binds us, all that holds us back from being who we were created to be.
So I do need wings.
It is a tall order, and one I found to be inspirational and haunting in it’s accuracy. Rising above the daily hinderances which inhibit freedom requires personal focus and communal support. As I was reminded earlier this year by a guest speaker, Carlos Aedo, who said “no one is saved alone.” As I’ve grown in understanding, I now know that heaven is much closer than I think. Focusing on higher things involves looking up but also looking around, being inspired by the people in my life and as St. Ignatius of Loyola would say, “see God in all things.” Thankfully, I can now believe this and also let my imagination run free with the childlike notion of having wings that help me soar free from all that holds me back.
“I can’t get to heaven without wings.” Maybe that wasn’t such a silly thought after all.