Once we have done anything, the consequences, like birds released from our hands, are outside our control. A word once spoken now has its own life, separate from the speaker, and the accomplishments of that word stem entirely from the world into which it is spoken. That’s why a gentle act of mercy can result in death and destruction; while an act of cruel murder can save a civilization. And that’s why the effects of one’s actions have no bearing on true sainthood, and why we cannot read backwards from the effects of one’s actions to the quality of one’s life.
Only God knows the heart.
The Catholic saint must be proven to have performed a miracle, that is, to have done something, after which something inexplicable happened. But since everything that happens once an action is released into the world is a function of the world, for something truly inexplicable by the world’s reckoning to have occurred it must have been accomplished by God, who is beyond the world’s reckoning. Why then would we credit the supposed saint?
The things we do and say, in fact, are like material we offer to God, who may either allow the world its way with them, or who may put them to some special purpose. But that is God’s decision, not our own.
Whether one’s reputation for being a saintly character spreads out into the world – how far, and to what effect – is also beyond one’s control. From the general tenor of Christ’s teachings, I expect God has no interest in it, and probably regards it, if at all, as a source of temptation.
The true saints of God, I am quite certain, are people we’ve never heard of.