Archbishop Chaput: Being a Saint is the Only Thing that Matters

Given the outcome of the election, BCI has been pondering what faithful Catholics should do next.  Today, we point you to two thought-provoking pieces–one by Archbishop Chaput, and another at CatholicCulture.

Archbishop Chaput: being a saint is the only thing that matters (Catholic News Agency)

Philadelphia, Pa., Nov 17, 2012 / 06:09 am (CNA/EWTN News).- At a conference on faith and evangelization, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia told participants that sanctity is the single necessity in a person’s life.

“The only thing that matters is to be a saint. That’s what we need to be. That’s what we need to become,” he said at the Nov. 16 Catholic Life Congress in Philadelphia.

Archbishop Chaput began his talk, titled “Renewing the Church and Her Mission in a ‘Year of Faith,’” by discussing the nature of faith. He said the Nicene Creed, recited at every Sunday Mass, is the “framework and fundamental profession” of Catholic belief.

“The less we understand the words of the Creed and revere the meaning behind them, the farther away we drift from our Catholic identity – and the more confused we become about who we really are as Christians.”

The archbishop discussed the importance of personal integrity, and the role of Sunday Mass in forming our lives throughout the rest of the week.

“We need to give our hearts to what we hear and what we say in our public worship. Otherwise, little by little, we become dishonest.”

Faith, he told his listeners, “is confidence in things unseen based on the word of someone we know and love – in this case, God…only a living encounter and a living relationship with Jesus Christ make faith sustainable.”

Archbishop Chaput then reflected on the present state of the Catholic Church in America, painting a stark picture.

“More than 70 million Americans describe themselves as Catholics. But for all practical purposes, they’re no different from everybody else in their views, their appetites and their behaviors.”

This state, he said, was part of the “legacy” left by the baby boomer generation “to the Church in the United States.”

“In a sense, our political and economic power, our addictions to comfort, consumption and entertainment, have made us stupid.”

In response to that state of affairs, Archbishop Chaput urged every one to repentance and to conversion. In the face of a Catholic population indistinguishable from the general public, he proposed a sort of examination of conscience.

“So we need to ask ourselves: What do I want my life to mean? If I claim to be a Catholic, can I prove it with the patterns of my life? When do I pray? How often do I seek out the Sacrament of Penance?  What am I doing for the poor? How am I serving the needy? Do I really know Jesus Christ?”

“Who am I leading to the Church? How many young people have I asked to consider a vocation? How much time do I spend sharing about God with my spouse, my children and my friends? How well and how often do I listen for God’s will in my own life?”

From there, the archbishop reflected on what we need to become, and took Saint Thomas More as an example.

More was an English lawyer and statesman, and chancellor of England under Henry VIII. His Catholic faith made him oppose Henry’s divorce and re-marriage, and separation of the Church of England from the Catholic Church. His integrity led him to be martyred in 1535.

Archbishop Chaput gave his audience a “homework assignment” over Thanksgiving break. He asked that people watch – “with your family” –  the 1966 film on St. Thomas More called “A Man for All Seasons”

He said that “above all, More was a man of profound Catholic faith and practice. He lived what he claimed to believe. He had his priorities in right order. He was a husband and a father first.”

The archbishop then said that More is an example for all Catholics.

“We’re all called to martyrdom. That’s what the word martyr means: It’s the Greek word for “witness.”  We may or may not ever suffer personally for our love of Jesus Christ. But we’re all called to be witnesses.”

Archbishop Chaput concluded his talk by emphasizing that becoming a saint, like St. Thomas More, is the one thing necessary in everyone’s life.

Then we have this provocative piece from CatholicCulture, “The End of Pro-Life Politics,” where Jeff Mirus asks:

“Have we as pro-life Catholics been wrong to invest the lion’s share of our time, talent and energy in the political battle against abortion over the past forty years? Or even if we have not been wrong the whole time, are we wrong now?”   Perhaps it is obvious that I believe the answer is yes. It ought to be clear by now that Western culture is insufficiently healthy to sustain a political solution to abortion. Therefore, it is counter-productive to pour our resources into the effort to achieve such a solution. We must use our resources far more wisely than that.

..What we have learned in recent years is that we are not, as we have long thought, on the verge of winning the battle for human life. Rather, we must recognize that our culture as a whole has slipped into such darkness and error that addressing the problem of the sanctity of human life politically has become effectively impossible.

…we ought to expend our greatest energies elsewhere, in widespread efforts to strengthen the Church, to develop our own Christian subculture complete with vibrant intermediary institutions, to evangelize our neighbors, and to offer practical service to any and all who, increasingly ill-served by a bureaucratic pagan State, may turn to us in their need.

This is, in fact, exactly what Christians had to do in the early centuries of the Church (and what they must never fail to do at any time, even when things happen to be going better politically). In other words, the answer to the disturbing question with which I opened this essay is clear. This is not the time to place the emphasis on politics, any more than it was time for politics when Karol Wojtyla was growing up in Poland. This is the time for Faith and family, evangelization and the formation of Christian culture.

This is not the time to waste immense resources and energies on political efforts which our larger Western culture cannot possibly sustain. It is rather a time to grow in Faith, evangelize those around us, and form vibrant local cultures which draw our neighbors into the light of Christ.

BCI found both of these thought-provoking. We encourage all to watch the 1966 film on St. Thomas More, “A Man for All Seasons.” There is no question we should each invest our energies in trying to become a saint. To what extent do we each listen to God’s will in our lives and respond to it?  Do you see yourself called to martyrdom? If not, why not?  Do our Catholic leaders–from the Cardinal Archbishop down to the pastoral center staff, pastors, clergy, parish staff, and lay people in the pews see themselves called to be martyrs?   At the same time each individual is called to be a martyr and saint,–no small undertaking–if indeed, now is when we should also collectively focus on Faith and family, evangelization and the formation of Christian culture, what do you want your next step to be?

Best wishes for a safe, healthy and blessed Thanksgiving!

15 Responses to Archbishop Chaput: Being a Saint is the Only Thing that Matters

  1. jbq2 says:

    AB Chaput is indeed “The Last of the Mohicans”. He gives an altogether different meaning to the “pew” coming out of Boston. America very easily could be speaking French in the North and Spanish in the South in a Catholic Republic.

  2. jay says:

    Both commentaries by Archbishop Chaput and Jeff Mirus touch on necessities that our present culture warrants.

    The need to become a saint is of long standing and hasn’t ever changed.

    The position that politically we can no longer effect the need by tactical change due to an ever increasing secularism, is an alarming but sobering truism.
    It shines a spotlight on Cardinal George’s ominous words recently when referring to his third successor as someone who will …”pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization as the Church has done so often in human history.”

    Far too many of our cradle Catholics ridicule this sky-is-falling presentation. Their answers are still more compromise, more acceptance, more tolerance for more and more rejection and intolerance from those who would eliminate these fellow travelers in a heartbeat upon gaining enough power.

  3. Jack Shaughnessy, Sr. says:

    BCI: how best to get a copy of the 1966 film, a man for all seasons ? p.s.: your various posts are extraordinarily well written and “right on the mark”.

  4. Boston Catholic Outsider says:

    I have been having this same discussion with a friend of mine regarding finding a political solution to abortion, and I would add gay marriage as well.

    The church is not going to win these battles on the political front. Perhaps we should heed the bishops recent call to individual conversion. The “battle” is for hearts and minds, and it starts with each of us as individuals.

    • Objective Observer says:


      You have hit the nail on the head. If we’re waiting for the Massachusetts legislature or the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation to admit that abortion stops a beating heart, we should think in terms of centuries, not election cycles.

      The real solution is for Catholics and all those who are pro-life to provide significant alternatives to abortion. In Phoenix, Cleveland and elsewhere there are remarkable programs for women to see a pregnancy through. One such program exists in the Boston area, but there is still a significant unmet need in the Boston area for women from poor neighborhoods, but also for university students.

      What every Catholic can do is support programs that support pregnant women who are having a tough time. Time, talent and treasure are always welcome in these programs and in residences that serve these women. In this way one can lend a direct support, and show the world that there is another way.

      To tell women that abortion is wrong, and provide nothing more than a “good luck” is surely not moral.

      Thanks to BCI for providing a platform to think this through.

      • Glad to provide a venue for this topic and discourse! What BCO and OO said make perfect sense to BCI.

        “Insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again, somehow expecting a different result. The approaches by many bishops and many other solid pro-life advocates are not delivering the desired political or societal results. Something has to change.

      • Boston Catholic Outsider says:

        Hi OO.
        I agree an effective place for our time and funds would be in support of ministries that reach out to women in crisis pregnancies. IMO it is the best avenue to reduce abortion.

        As far as the approach of church leadership-I have to say that I personally have been challenged by the prophetic voices of Timothy Dolan and Charles Chaput. And I wonder what we can take away as far as lessons learned from the Question 2 victory? Cardinal Sean lead a valiant and politically successful campaign.

  5. Boston Catholic Outsider says:

    Jack-I suspect you could find the film from one of the streaming online services-maybe even youtube has it for free. Try googling it. I bet you find it watchable online somewhere.

  6. Michael says:

    Anyone have a copy of “a Blog for all seasons” … ? It’s sort of a re-make and it features BCI. Thank God for BCI ! Happy Thanksgiving.

  7. Chris says:

    Let me ask a question: At what parishes are the pastors actively helping people become saints? I’m thinking of parishes that have confession easily available and preach about that sacrament; that support adoration; that have an active pro-life group and preach about assisted suicide and abortion and gay marriage; that have services for the ill and elderly (so many parishes do not celebrate the sacrament of the sick in any meaningful way).

    BCI, why don’t you tackle this as a topic? I think we all have an inkling of what parishes and pastors are likely to lead you down the wide road…

  8. Ray Neary says:

    Of course we should be all seeking to live saintly lives, but it can never be forgotten that politics does exist in the real world – and that politics and morality overlap. And yes, we should all recite and meditate on the Nicene Creed before venturing into our daily activities. But like it or not, we are buffeted by political acts which impact our efforts to live morally. We must pick up the cudgel, not become spectators and then ask, “What happened?’. When I took my basic training with the 10lst Airborne, I was told my best friend was my M-1 rifle and I had to keep it clean. Catholics today are more interested in only hearing what’s in the manual, which is of utmost importance, but they are not interested in actively engaging the enemy. We just witnessed some of the results.

  9. tryingtofigurethisout says:

    BCI here is the follow up post that seems to put both posts together….

  10. […] Campion, agrees with statements from the likes of people such as Archbishop Chaput that “we’re all called to martyrdom,” and builds a culture with his executive leadership team that they are all called to […]

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