Ave Maria! Among the many homilies, messages and addresses that Pope Benedict XVI gave while he was our Holy Father, one of my favorites is his homily on the Solemnity of All Saints in 2006, which can be found here. The lines below always increase within me my longing to be a saint. According to Pope Benedict, saintliness is not really such a complicated thing after all, but it does mean trusting utterly in the Lord who calls us to follow Him, walking the Way of the Cross with Him, and dying to ourselves so as to live in Him. As Pope Benedict says so succinctly, "Holiness demands a constant effort, but it is possible for everyone because, rather than a human effort, it is first and foremost a gift of God, thrice Holy (cf. Is 6: 3)." Glory hallelujah!
"This, then, is the meaning of today's Solemnity (of All Saints): looking at the shining example of the Saints to reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God's friends. Being a Saint means living close to God, to live in his family. And this is the vocation of us all, vigorously reaffirmed by the Second Vatican Council and solemnly proposed today for our attention.
"But how can we become holy, friends of God? We can first give a negative answer to this question: to be a Saint requires neither extraordinary actions or works nor the possession of exceptional charisms. Then comes the positive reply: it is necessary first of all to listen to Jesus and then to follow him without losing heart when faced by difficulties. "If anyone serves me", he warns us, 'he must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one serves me, the Father will honour him' (Jn 12: 26).
"Like the grain of wheat buried in the earth, those who trust him and love him sincerely accept dying to themselves. Indeed, he knows that whoever seeks to keep his life for himself loses it, and whoever gives himself, loses himself, and in this very way finds life (cf. Jn 12: 24-25).
"The Church's experience shows that every form of holiness, even if it follows different paths, always passes through the Way of the Cross, the way of self-denial. The Saints' biographies describe men and women who, docile to the divine plan, sometimes faced unspeakable trials and suffering, persecution and martyrdom. They persevered in their commitment: "they... have come out of the great tribulation", one reads in Revelation, "they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb" (Rv 7: 14). Their names are written in the book of life (cf. Rv 20: 12) and Heaven is their eternal dwelling-place.
"The example of the Saints encourages us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God, for the one true cause of sorrow and unhappiness for men and women is to live far from him.
"Holiness demands a constant effort, but it is possible for everyone because, rather than a human effort, it is first and foremost a gift of God, thrice Holy (cf. Is 6: 3). In the second reading, the Apostle John remarks: 'See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (I Jn 3: 1).
"It is God, therefore, who loved us first and made us his adoptive sons in Jesus. Everything in our lives is a gift of his love: how can we be indifferent before such a great mystery? How can we not respond to the Heavenly Father's love by living as grateful children? In Christ, he gave us the gift of his entire self and calls us to a personal and profound relationship with him.
"Consequently, the more we imitate Jesus and remain united to him the more we enter into the mystery of his divine holiness. We discover that he loves us infinitely, and this prompts us in turn to love our brethren. Loving always entails an act of self-denial, 'losing ourselves', and it is precisely this that makes us happy."
~Pope Benedict XVI, 11/1/06 Homily