G.K. Chesterton once remarked, “There are saints in my religion, but that just means men who know they are sinners.” For the great English apologist, the relevant distinction is not between sinners and non-sinners, but between those sinners who know their sin and those who, for whatever reason, don’t. The heroes of the faith – the saints – are precisely those who are ordered toward God and who therefore have a keener appreciation of how far they fall short of the ideal. Saint John of the Cross compared the soul to a pane of glass. When it is facing away from the light, its smudges and imperfections are barely noticeable, but when it is directed at the light, every mark, even the smallest, becomes visible. This explains the paradox that the saints are most keenly aware of their sins, even to the point of describing themselves as the worst of sinners. We might mistake this for false modesty, but it is in fact a function of a truly saintly psychology.
* This excerpt is from “Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith” by Fr. Robert Barron
** Photo credit