Learning from the Saints
This year, follow the example and wisdom of the holy ones.


LOPEZ: You cover gossip and the “danger of words,” which is a continuing theme of Pope Francis. Why is this crucial to bear in mind?

THIGPEN: The Epistle of St. James tells us that “the tongue is an unrighteous world among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the cycle of nature, and set on fire by hell.” Sadly, universal human experience bears out this warning. Who among us has never regretted something we’ve said that hurt others and even ourselves? And who among us was ever able to call back those words once we set them loose into the world?

One of my favorite analogies in these meditations has to do with gossips and backbiters. St. Bernadine of Siena compared them to dung beetles! They spend all their time, he observed, looking for whatever stinks and then occupying themselves with it. 

LOPEZ: Is Christmas about the call to sainthood? Does our celebration of it have anything to do with growing in holiness?

THIGPEN: To answer that question, we need to ask ourselves: Why do we have a Christmas in the first place? Why did the Son of God take on our human nature in the Virgin’s womb? Why did she bear Him and lay Him in a manger? And why do we still celebrate the event 2,000 years later?

The answer is found in the announcement of the angels that night: “Unto you is born a Savior.” He came to save us; and salvation is not merely some kind of eternal fire insurance that keeps us out of hell.

Salvation, in its fullness, is being reconciled to God so that He can transform us into the image of His dear Son — that is, so we can be holy just as He is holy. We must become perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Only then will we be able to stand before Him in heaven for eternity and “see Him as He is,” because “we shall be like Him.”

That process of being made holy is the process of becoming a saint. So we can say, then, that the first Christmas — and the first Good Friday and the first Easter as well — all took place precisely so we could become saints. If we have no interest in becoming saints, then we’ve missed the whole point of Christmas.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor-at-large of National Review Online.