When saints are lauded, we often envision a person who has lived an inspiring life. Take for example the lives of St. Paul and St. Peter. Each was blessed with enormous drive when converting throngs of people to Christianity.
At the base of their zeal was a burning desire to share Christ’s love. That zeal enabled them to endure the laborious work that preaching the Gospel entailed and the trials from those who despised it.
In the awe saints exude, it is easy to overlook their flaws and the regrets they endured. On one hand, St. Peter embodied the goodness of Christ’s life and is commissioned to be Peter, the rock of the church. And yet he denies Christ when Christ needed him most.
The words “regret” and “weep” are related. No doubt Peter wept bitter tears over his betrayal.
St. Paul also had much to regret. He partook in the martyrdom of St. Stephen and was a voracious persecutor of Christians. Even after St. Paul’s conversion and the role St. Barnabus played in helping him to be accepted by the Christian community, St. Paul had a bitter fallout with St. Barnabus because he did not want John Mark to be their companion when they returned to the cities in which they proclaimed the word of the Lord.
No doubt St. Paul must have regretted his actions in hindsight. As saints possessed regrets, so do we. The regret may be having a grudge that ruptured a friendship, a resentment that grew rather than decreased, performing a despicable, haunting act or allowing envy to poison our mind.
Regrets also possess a positive side, they humble us, teaching us that we are not the strong person we desire to be. They are reminders of how easy it is to commit undesirable acts that cause us to weep.
Through regrets God teaches us how vulnerable we are in succumbing to our weaknesses. God teaches us that we need outside help to stay strong. The saints were able to move on from their regrets. Their real and awe-inspiring lesson is a part of the help that God’s grace gives us to move on and pursue a holy life.
Copyright © 2021 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops