At a conference on faith and evangelization, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia told participants that sanctity is the single necessity in a person's life.
“The only thing that matters is to be a saint. That’s what we need to be. That’s what we need to become,” he said at the Nov. 16 Catholic Life Congress in Philadelphia.
Archbishop Chaput began his talk, titled “Renewing the Church and Her Mission in a 'Year of Faith,'” by discussing the nature of faith. He said the Nicene Creed, recited at every Sunday Mass, is the “framework and fundamental profession” of Catholic belief.
“The less we understand the words of the Creed and revere the meaning behind them, the farther away we drift from our Catholic identity – and the more confused we become about who we really are as Christians.”
The archbishop discussed the importance of personal integrity, and the role of Sunday Mass in forming our lives throughout the rest of the week.
“We need to give our hearts to what we hear and what we say in our public worship. Otherwise, little by little, we become dishonest.”
Faith, he told his listeners, “is confidence in things unseen based on the word of someone we know and love – in this case, God...only a living encounter and a living relationship with Jesus Christ make faith sustainable.”
Archbishop Chaput then reflected on the present state of the Catholic Church in America, painting a stark picture.
“More than 70 million Americans describe themselves as Catholics. But for all practical purposes, they’re no different from everybody else in their views, their appetites and their behaviors.”
This state, he said, was part of the “legacy” left by the baby boomer generation “to the Church in the United States.”
“In a sense, our political and economic power, our addictions to comfort, consumption and entertainment, have made us stupid.”
In response to that state of affairs, Archbishop Chaput urged every one to repentance and to conversion. In the face of a Catholic population indistinguishable from the general public, he proposed a sort of examination of conscience.
“So we need to ask ourselves: What do I want my life to mean? If I claim to be a Catholic, can I prove it with the patterns of my life? When do I pray? How often do I seek out the Sacrament of Penance? What am I doing for the poor? How am I serving the needy? Do I really know Jesus Christ?”
“Who am I leading to the Church? How many young people have I asked to consider a vocation? How much time do I spend sharing about God with my spouse, my children and my friends? How well and how often do I listen for God’s will in my own life?”
From there, the archbishop reflected on what we need to become, and took Saint Thomas More as an example.
More was an English lawyer and statesman, and chancellor of England under Henry VIII. His Catholic faith made him oppose Henry's divorce and re-marriage, and separation of the Church of England from the Catholic Church. His integrity led him to be martyred in 1535.
Archbishop Chaput gave his audience a “homework assignment” over Thanksgiving break. He asked that people watch – “with your family” – the 1966 film on St. Thomas More called “A Man for All Seasons”
He said that “above all, More was a man of profound Catholic faith and practice. He lived what he claimed to believe. He had his priorities in right order. He was a husband and a father first.”
The archbishop then said that More is an example for all Catholics.
“We’re all called to martyrdom. That’s what the word martyr means: It’s the Greek word for “witness.” We may or may not ever suffer personally for our love of Jesus Christ. But we’re all called to be witnesses.”
Archbishop Chaput concluded his talk by emphasizing that becoming a saint, like St. Thomas More, is the one thing necessary in everyone's life.