In 2010, Patty Spears reflected on her trip to France on the Seton Heritage Pilgrimage in a blog post titled “Following a Saint to Become a Saint.” The purpose of this pilgrimage is to follow in the footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac, founders of The Daughters of Charity. Patty goes on to say that over the past ten plus years of attending the Seton Family of Hospitals’ missions, she has often heard stories of Vincent and Louise. She reflects, “I have admired and respected these founders, but too often thought of them as saints to be revered and emulated and not as a brother and sister who could actually guide me in my daily challenges of living out the Seton mission.”
It difficult to reflect of the lives of those anointed into statehood and recognize their humanity. As icons of spirituality, it is easy to place these individuals on a pedestal in our minds when reflecting on their lives, their deeds, their missions, and their messages. In which case, it is easy to believe that, as Patty states, “things were somehow easier for them because they possessed some mystical goodness and power that the rest of us lack. Their accomplishments were so monumental and far-reaching that we may naturally assume that they were superhuman.” However, it naïve to assume these mortals were anything other than just that.
“According to Ronald Rolheiser, a saint is someone who can channel passion and desire in a creative, life-giving way.” Rolheiser goes on to define a saint according to Soren Kierkegaard’s definition, as someone who can will the one thing. Patty goes on to reflect and states that as she followed in the footsteps of Saints Vincent and Louise, it quickly became apparent that they did not know what that one thing was at the beginning of their adult lives. Their path was just as convoluted as all of ours are; they took step after step, “forging a path of self-knowledge, wisdom, and compassion as they moved their lives.” They did not start out knowing they’d be deemed saints.
Vincent and Louise’s lives are examples of true authenticity. A life lived authentically reflects persistence; it means that we must continue to pave the way for ourselves despite obstacles, and to continue to “accept the invitations that unfold before you.” On this journey, it is important to take time to dive deeper into one’s inner self, “so as to gradually become more attuned to your True Self.” Deepak Chopra discusses the definition of true self in an article from 2012. He recognizes that though “true self” isn’t a familiar term to most, it is close to what religion identifies as your soul; the purest part of yourself. Chopra goes on to define the qualities of the true self as opposed to the everyday self. He states that the true self has 5 specific qualities: it is certain and clear about things, it is stable, it is driven by a deep sense of truth, it is at peace, and it is love. These qualities are undoubtedly ones that the Saints discovered along their life journeys and which ultimately propelled them to be revered by those around them, and those who would come to know their teachings and actions after they passed on. More than this, Deepak touches on these truths of the True Self; that as we journey forward, we strive to discover these aspects of our souls, and live them out through our words, thoughts, and actions.
Towards the end of her writing, Patty speaks of Sr. Mary Rose McPhee, Seton Cove’s founder, who used to remind her in times of strife that “if it is of God it will endure.” St. Vincent and St. Louise pursued God’s will in the discovery of their true selves; it is in following their footsteps on our journeys that we can do the same.