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Becoming a saint

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What do you need to do to be a saint?

A lot less than you might think.

Lest you misunderstand me, let me explain what I learned at “Boot Camp for Aspiring Saints,” which I participated in as part of my seminarian summer assignment at Holy Spirit Church in Annandale.

This weeklong mission trip for middle schoolers involved many tasks: harvesting corn at a farm, assembling hygiene packets and food kits at a food bank, and visiting gravesites and praying for the deceased.

At the same time, it involved not doing many things — or letting God do them through us.

Any farmer can attest that the work is never done, but we did not spend the whole week harvesting. I am sure the food bank could have used our 100 extra sets of hands to help with other projects. But when it was time for the rosary, everyone stopped what they were doing to unite in prayer.

We spent time at the cemetery, not just placing flowers on graves, but praying for the souls who had gone before us.

Our culture places so much emphasis on doing, and while what we did was important, that was not the “be all” and “end all” of our mission; and neither should it be the focus in our pursuit of sanctity.

Our quiet time in prayer was very important, as was contemplating God in nature. We made sure to have some leisure time; just as God rested on the seventh day, one of our days was spent hiking part of the Appalachian Trail, then relaxing on a river, which we all agreed was more restful than binge-watching a TV show. It was beautiful to be childlike, and to rest and let God refresh us after we had labored for him.

God’s presence was also notable in the unity that was achieved in our mission, as 100 middle schoolers, their chaperones and pastor came together as one body, part of the mystical body of Christ, under Mary’s protection. God showed us that if our hearts are open even a little bit, we become wellsprings of charity to serve his creation and become megaphones to open the hearts of others.

I left renewed to have new oil in the lamp, as I return to seminary and try to focus less on all I have to do (papers, pastoral assignments, house chores) but on who I am as a child of God, resting in him so he can fill me, and I can bring him to others.

O’Farrell, who is from the Basilica of St. Mary in Alexandria, is in his second year of theology at Mount St. Mary Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019