Whenever I read books of the lives of the saints my soul starts to yearn to become like them, though unfortunately I am unable to do as they did. What would I do?
Many of those who have written about the examples of the saints have mentioned practices which the saints attained – perhaps only after decades of struggle – without having mentioned the exercises which they practised, or the gradual steps which they followed until they reached that level.
Do you want, just by reading, and just in one sudden leap, to perform what it took the saints years and years to attain?!
Put excellence before you, by all means, but remember that you need two things to reach it:
a) a step by step approach.
b) spiritual guidance.
And you also need to look at a third point which is, how that particular virtue is suitable for you personally in your kind of life, which might be quite different from the kind of life of’ the saint whom you are reading about.
For example, silence and constant prayer are suited to the life of’ seclusion, but are difficult to practise when one has to mix in the company of other people. If a person were to try, to carry them out in such circumstances, he would certainly fall into practical difficulties, and perhaps clash with others.
Similarly, very strict or total fasting, is something more suitable for those who live a solitary life, than for those who have to make greater physical efforts, or those who are young and still growing.
Generally speaking, in your spiritual practices you are supposed to be under the guidance of a wise and experienced father, not following your own whims, because those who have no guide, fall like the leaves of the trees.
Your guide will protect you from going to extremes, and from getting too fanatical, or being excessive, and from making sudden leaps which don’t have a secure basis.
So do not be sad, then, if you cannot do now what the saints used to do. Perhaps you will later on, but you will only get there one step at a time, by gradual development.
We also notice how every saint had his own particular virtue which he possessed, but are you wanting to possess all the virtues of all the saints put together – something which would be very rare indeed?! Keep a sense of proportion!