It seems that present-day sanctity, such as it is represented in the modern fashion, may be compared to the sanctity of earlier years as being more disengaged from the body, more removed from a set pattern, and freer from certain conventions.
More disengaged from the body: Formerly one could scarcely conceive of sanctity without considerable afflictive mortifications; such was the general idea at least. Today, without neglecting corporal penances, the emphasis is put on interior renunciation. That is correct.
More removed from a set pattern: Saints in earlier ages fled into the desert, or adopted a kind of life absolutely beyond current habits; the idea of a religious life practiced under a worldly exterior and dress could never have been imagined. It may be true that the habit does not make the monk, but a monk without a definite habit attesting his separation from the world was never dreamed of. Today we distinguish between the essentials and the accessories.
Freer from certain conventions: It was understood that a saint had no faults, that he was holy from the cradle, no wrong could be found in him. The reading of edifying biographies of a certain period is discouraging; there is never any shadow in the picture; the human never shows through the control of the divine. Reality is less ethereal; the saints are human beings like us, the difference only being that they force themselves to correct their miseries courageously; we put less valor into our striving.
I will take from these three traits of modern sanctity whatever is good, I need not overload my body with penances, but I should treat it firmly. Within the limits of my Institute, and according to its spirit, I will try my best to sanctify myself. I will do my utmost without, however, making any show of it. I will certainly not consent to my faults but I will allow no tension in my efforts for virtue, and if I am to become a saint, that is to say, rich in the divine, I will try to become one in an attractive and very human manner.
Adapted from Meditations for Religious
by Father Raoul Plus, S.J. (© 1939, Frederick Pustet Co.)