For a couple of years, the concept of sanctity implied an attitude which consists on rejecting whatever comes from the world as defilement and leading to sin. The world during medieval period was regarded mostly by Catholics as being created by the devil, a core of all evil doings and sins; hence, to gain the reputation of being saint implies abandoning the world and all its facilities. For a long time in the history of the Church, this mentality and conception has played a leading role which pushed many great minds and theologians to leave the world and to enclose themselves in monasteries to avoid all impurities from the world. All the worldly pleasures and facilities were regarding as a highway leading to hell and above all against God’s will. The sanctity was connected to leaving the world and its joys for an enclosed life which could not favour any contact with it: the religious life during this time was tough with many rules and prescriptions which prevented the consecrated people to be in touch with worldly things.
As the world evolves so does the Church teaching which is mostly connected to the way of thinking of people, the history and the world evolution. In her wisdom, the Catholic Church has always tried to adjust and adapt her teaching according to the signs of times as we read in Gaudium et Spes, one of the documents released by the Vatican II Council. In the same way, each pope tries to mark his passage in a way or another thanks to his personality, charisma and vision of the world. The current pontiff astonishes many people by his powerful words, humility and concerns regarding the least and the marginalized of our societies. His way of updating and contextualizing Church teaching to the time being has gained him the reputation of great man of our time; some people affirm that with him we are leaving a turning point in the history of the Church. The prestigious American newspaper Time Magazine which portraits Francis the person of the year 2013 affirms that the first Argentinean pontiff has brought the papacy outside the walls and buildings of the Vatican City.
During his trip to Brazil, the first outside Italy, for the World Youth Day, the Pope has said and tackled various issues and problems faced by young people all over the world: employment, youth’s role and responsibility in spreading Gospel, youth and the Church etc. One of the topics which caught our attention as youngsters was what the pope said on the new paradigm of sanctity. For Francis the time of saints who enclosed themselves and left the world as core of evil is over. He loudly affirmed we need saints of all kinds who enjoy whatever the Lord offers us in the world as signs of his great love for humanity. Indeed “We need saints without veil or cassock. We need saints who wear jeans and sneakers. We need saints who go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with friends. We need saints who live in the world and who are sanctified in the world, who are not afraid to live in the world. We need saints who drink Coke and eat hot dogs, who wear jeans, who are Internet-savvy, who listen to CDs. We need saints who passionately love the Eucharist and who are not ashamed to drink a soda or eat pizza on weekends with friends. We need saints who are in the world and know how to taste the pure and nice things of the world but who aren’t of the world. We need saints who have time every day to pray and who know how to date in purity and chastity, or who consecrate their chastity. We need saints who like movies, the theatre, music, dance, sports.”
Through this poem on sanctity the clear idea is to see God’s people getting involved in the world in order to transform and sanctify it. As Jesus’ followers we are called to fully live in the world because God created it for our goodness; so no reason to disregard what it offers to us. Being inspired by God and the Holy Spirit, we are encouraged to ask for the grace of discernment to find the true way which leads to sanctity amidst all that is in the world. I wholeheartedly believe the Church needs lay men and women to become saints “without veil or cassock”, saints who are willing to live in the world and become holy through the world.