Imitatio sancti

A misspent youth, getting caught up in riches and all sorts of vanity.  A soldier, seeking the honors that the world tells him are worth pursuing.  A stupid battle, a wound, a convalescence, a conversion.  Christ calling him to leave behind the life he’d been pursuing in order to follow him with his whole heart.  A period of various attempts to do what pleases God, making honest youthful mistakes.  Traveling to the Holy Land.  Eventually drawing others to him, founding a movement and later an official religious order that in time had a significant impact not only on the Church, but also the rest of the world.

I’m speaking of Francis of Assisi, by the way, though astute readers will recognize that the exact same could be said of Ignatius about four hundred years later.  Francis was, along with Dominic, the model for Ignatius (“Sainthood for Dummies”)–the one whom he imitated in order to learn how to lead a holy life.

We could do very well to follow Ignatius’ example: imitating a saint, and in the process coming to discern how one’s own life story must depart from that example.  Augustine wanted to be Ambrose; Thomas wanted to be Albert the Great; and so on.  Who inspires you?


  1. What a great question, Andrew!
    One idea for you: holy is the trajectory of our deepest desires. Good is helping one person; holy is helping all people. Good is seeking to excel at my job; holy is seeking to excel at my life. Good is the way I love now; holy is perfect love.

  2. Who decides that a life is holy? Is it ‘God’? If so, does ‘He’ appear to people and say this person or that person is holy? Or is it just some other people saying this person or that person’s is holy? If so, then isn’t holy just a word men such as us created and it doesn’t mean a thing to a perfect Idea such as ‘God’?

  3. Your point about discerning when one’s own story must depart from the example is well-taken. None of the saints you mentioned (and many you didn’t) could have fully developed into the people they became without recognizing when to chart his own course. This, of course, doesn’t just apply to the saints, either. I fail when I try to imitate someone else and not be the person God calls me to be, even when I’m not exactly sure who that person is. Thank you for something to ponder today.


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