Something I have noticed over the years is that the holiest people in our tradition are those who are most aware of their sinfulness. Whether it is Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, or Mother Teresa, the saints are those who are convinced of their inadequacy.
When Isaiah encounters the Lord he says, “I am a man of unclean lips!” When Peter is in the presence of the Messiah he says, “Lord, leave me, for I am a sinful man.” G.K. Chesterton once said, “A saint is someone who knows he’s a sinner.”
The holy person has no illusions about himself. It is an extraordinary and surprising phenomenon that the saints seem to be those who are most conscious of their sinfulness.
At times we are tempted to think that this is a form of attention-getting, a sort of false humility. But then we realize that it is proximity to the light that reveals the smudges and imperfections that otherwise go undetected. A windshield that appears perfectly clean and transparent in the early morning can become opaque when the sun shines directly on it. Standing close to the luminosity of God, the holy person is more intensely exposed, his beauty and his ugliness more thoroughly unveiled.
There’s no way up but down; no real holiness without awareness. At least part of being a saint is knowing you’re a sinner.
“The holy person has no illusions about himself.”
by Fr. Robert Barron