Can We Be Saints?

“Can We Be Saints?” is an early work by Servant of God Frank Duff. It is a pamphlet which was written before the Second Vatican Council about the theology that forms the basis of that Council.

At the heart of the Council was a renewed call to holiness for everyone — the core of the gospel preached in every age and place. Frank Duff’s pamphlet offered a great explanation of what this means for us as individuals.

Here are some excerpts:


Do not say “I cannot,” or “I am not fitted,” or “Nobody heeds me.” For there is one thing that can clothe you with power in your dealings with others: affection for them. This is the great secret of all real influence. To possess it, follow this simple rule – Look only for good qualities in anyone you meet; you will find them. Never look for faults, for you would find them.  Act thus, and you will easily develop the habit of love.

Convince those around you, by deeds, not phrases, that you truly have this feeling for them, and you can lead them where you like.

“Can We Be Saints?” on the Spirit of the Legion, by Servant of God Frank Duff

What is a Saint?

In the heart of every right-thinking Catholic, God has implanted the desire to become a Saint. Yet few make a serious attempt to realise the ambition. The cause for this is to a large extent discouragement, due to the misunderstanding of what a Saint really is.

What is a Saint? The answer usually returned to this question is: one who does extraordinary penances and works miracles. Now, this is an incorrect description, for neither miracles nor great penances are essential. The man who works a miracle does not raise himself in God’s eyes by it; and, while penance in some shape is necessary, still the teaching of the Saints on this difficult question is encouraging.

What they direct is not bodily penances of a terrifying kind, but rather the strict avoidance of delicacies, softness, comfort. We are told to beware of injuring our health, and to eat enough plain food to enable us to work and pray without hindrance. There is ample opportunity for the severest mortification in the restraint of eyes and tongue, and in a warfare against the seven Deadly Sins.

Thus, there is another definition of what a Saint is. It is this: One who, with the object of pleasing God, does his ordinary duties extraordinarily well. Such a life may be lived out without a single wonder in it, arouse little notice, be soon forgotten, and yet be the life of one of God’s dearest friends.

It is obviously an encouragement to look on sanctity in this way. When we see that those things which so terrified us in the lives of the Saints, because we felt we could not do them ourselves, are not the important part of their sanctity at all, we should feel heartened to begin to-day and make a serious effort for great holiness. Believe this: it is only the first few wrenches given to the will that really hurt. Perhaps the following words of Cardinal Newman will tempt us to take a step forward on the road:

“If you ask me what your are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first do not lie in bed beyond the time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening mediation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.”

“Can We Be Saints?” on what saints are, by Servant of God Frank Duff (emphasis ours)

Who are Called to be Saints?

Every person that is born is called to be a Saint. Take it as most certain that you – no matter how unfitted your life may seem for holiness – are being given graces sufficient, if corresponded with, to bring you to sanctity. We have already seen that nothing beyond our strength is expected; neither is sanctity the exclusive property of any grade or manner of life. Among the Saints canonised by the Church are kings and beggars, and representatives of every trade, slaves, hermits, city people, mothers of families, invalids, soldiers, and persons of every race and colour.

As a canonised Saint is a pattern provided by God, it is evident that an invitation to become Saints is extended to men and women of every type. It is equally a fact that to those who seriously try to respond to His invitation, He gives help sufficient to carry them to the goal.

“Can We Be Saints?” on those who are called to be saints, by Servant of God Frank Duff