To Be a Saint, the Greatest Saint Possible 
Franciscan Formation – Inspirations (Part 14) 

We are called to holiness, a holiness realized in our total dedication to the Lord “who performs wonders,” in our joyful, fraternal daily life and in our missionary commitment in which we always try to reach all human peripheries[1].

There’s a story about holiness that comes to mind. A certain diocese was organizing a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There was a farmer who lived in a small village within the diocese. He was so committed to his local parish that his pastor nominated him to go on the pilgrimage. The farmer, however, did not really want to go. He worried that, during his absence, his farm animals would go hungry and the crops in his fields would wither. In the end, however, he let himself be persuaded, because his neighbors offered to look after his farm. A week passed and the farmer returned from the pilgrimage. After Mass on Sunday, everyone gathered around him to hear his story. “You went to the Holy Land! How wonderful! We would love to go there, too! Tell us—how was it?” asked the neighbors and the pastor. The farmer replied: “What do you mean “holy”? That land was all sixth order terrain!”
“Sixth order” is a term for terrain that is very difficult to cultivate, land that by nature yields a poor harvest[2]. Indeed, when one looks with the eye of a tourist or an aesthete at the region where Jesus lived, taught, died and rose, one may be less than captivated. There are many other places to visit that are more beautiful and above all, more fertile. So it is with our vocation and holiness. Jesus chooses to work with what is completely ordinary and poor; our own lives are sometimes like sixth order terrain, land that is unreceptive, difficult and barren. However, when God begins to act upon it, once we invite Him into our lives, the Great Master will work it so that it produces the right harvest.
St. Francis of Assisi looked upon his life this way. He saw himself as barren land, and considered himself the greatest sinner. Brother Masseo asked: “Why does the whole world come after you?” Francis replied that the Lord had chosen him because he was the most miserable creature on the earth. Thus, the greatness and magnificence of the Creator could be clearly manifested. The smallness of man cannot hinder God in performing great things[3]. In spiritual life, the harvest does not come from the properties of the earth, which is man. The fruits of human life and action are a gift from the Lord who desires to work through man. It is God who is holy. We approach Him and give ourselves to Him. He plants the seed of love in us and fills it with energy to grow. The important thing, therefore, is to think of holiness not so much as a state, but as a path of growth in which love is added on top of everything else that we have received from God. It is a path of growth that makes us ever more loving. The seed of holiness that God sows in us bears fruit through wise choices, and holy thoughts, words and actions[4]. In other words, holiness means reflecting the presence and action of the Holy Trinity in our lives [5].
St. Maximilian calls our attention to another aspect of the topic of holiness. He set himself a goal: to be a saint, the greatest saint possible[6]. We can be sure that he also invites each of us to do the same. According to St. Maximilian, to be a saint one must simply want to be one. The greatest possible saint is one who adds something good, who leaves something divine in the work of sanctifying the world, the work which the Church continues to carry out. St. Maximilian believed that holiness has no limits; it consists in belonging more and more to Christ and in acting more and more for the glory of God. It is the task of every religious to become holier, or more precisely, to sanctify oneself. Moreover, it is important that religious should help sanctify others, as well. Living for the glory of God, means leading as many people as possible to holiness. St. Maximilian knew that being a saint meant carrying out this task, even after death. He was enthusiastic about holiness. He saw holy people around him. For him, they were models of conduct and true companions on his journey. He entrusted his activities to those who had returned to the house of the Father. He often asked for help in evangelization from those he was convinced were saints, even if they had not yet been canonized by the Church[7].
I think it helps to understand our formation as a journey of personal and communal growth toward holiness. Sometimes we have trouble seeing that perspective because it is obscured by our own sins and vices. Moreover, when we are too focused on our own sins, we are likely to fixate on the sins of others as well. Too often we interpret manifestations of holiness in others as defects. It’s hard to see the holy people around us.

So the questions arise: Do I want to be holy? Do I see holy friars in my community? Do I see holy people around me?

General Delegate for Formation

[1] Friar Marco TASCA, Letter of Promulgation (Prot. n. 865/18), in: Friars Minor Conventual, Constitutions, Rome, 2019.
[2] Cf. Klasa bonitacyjna,, April 10, 2023.
[3] Cf. The Little Flowers of Saint Francis X FF 1838.
[4] Cf. Zdzisław Józef KIJAS, OFM Conv., Życie jako dojrzewanie do świętości. Maksymilian Maria Kolbe, Cracow 2019, p. 29-31.
[5] Cf. Walerian SŁOMKA, Świętość, in: Leksykon duchowości katolickiej, edited by Marek CHMIELEWSKI, Lublin-Cracow 2002, p. 866-868.
[6] Cf. St. Maximilian KOLBE, Regulamin życia, in: Pisma św. Maksymiliana M. Kolbego, II, Niepokalanów 2018, p. 34.
[7] Cf. Piotr BIELENIN, OFM Conv., Oczami św. Maksymiliana (6). Świętość,, April 6, 2023.