Can you become a saint by sheer willpower?

File:Thomas Aquinas in Stained Glass.jpg

Thomas Aquinas from the Cathedral of Saint-Rombouts, Mechelen (Belgium). (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Fr. Thomas Dubay used to tell this anecdote: The sister of St. Thomas Aquinas once asked him, “How can I become a saint?”

St. Thomas answered, “Will it.”

This story came back to me recently. Trying to accept with peace whatever happens during my day has taught me something: I don’t always want to do God’s will. When I ruin the dinner I’m making my family, for example, and according to my Lenten resolution I must say, “Jesus, I trust in you,” I sometimes say first, “Jesus, I don’t want to trust in you. I don’t want to let go of my anger and frustration.” Or, “Jesus, I trust in you–sort of.”

The words “I trust in you” are a prayer. They aren’t magic. They remind me to trust in God and ask for His help. But they can’t make me trust when I don’t want to. I must open my heart to grace. I must will it.

God is all-powerful, but there is one creature that can keep Him from sanctifying you–yourself. Our relationship with God is familial. It’s based on love. Love cannot be forced. You must give it willingly.

I’m not saying you can be holy by your own power. As St. Paul wrote, “God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). God offers you the grace to desire His will. You must open your heart to receive it.

It’s hard. Especially on the days when temptations come at you like arrows, one after another.

“Though an army encamp against me, my heart does not fear; Though war be waged against me, even then do I trust(Psalm 27:3).

Dear Lord, help me to always will it!

Connie Rossini

For the flip side to this issue, read You can’t lose, unless you give up.

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About Connie Rossini

Connie Rossini gives whole families practical help to grow in holiness. She is the author of Trusting God with St. Therese and the free ebook Five Lessons from the Carmelite Saints That Will Change Your Life. She writes a spirituality column for The Catholic Voice of the Diocese of Omaha, Nebraska, and blogs at Contemplative Homeschool. She is also a columnist for Connie and her husband Dan have four young sons.
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