The Virtues and Personalities of the Saints


Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)


In one of the stories from the desert fathers, we learn a bit about the virtues of the saints, that cloud of witnesses of goodness and holiness:

Somebody said to Abba John on the Persian: ‘We have toiled so hard for the Kingdom of Heaven, but are we going to inherit it?’ The elder said: ‘As for me, I believe [that I] shall inherit Jerusalem that is on high, inscribed in the heavens, for he is faithful who promised [Hebrews 10:23]. Why should I not believe? I have become

hospitable like Abraham,


gentle like Moses,

holy like Aaron,

patient like job,

humble like David,

a hermit like John,


a mourner like Jeremiah,

a teacher like Paul,

faithful like Peter,

wise like Solomon.


As did the thief, I believe that he who granted me these things will also, of his own goodness, accord me the Kingdom’ (cf. Luke 23:43).   (GIVE ME A WORD, p 159)


Abba John’s description of himself also gives us an idea as to the many gifts, talents and virtues of the saints. We don’t honor them because they were all alike. They each were unique personalities with varied gifts or talents and who lived out their salvation in differing ways and circumstances. This is helpful to each of us as we realize that we each have to become saints in our own lifetimes and within the unique circumstances of our lives.  Imitating the saints doesn’t mean we have to be a clone of one of them and do exactly what they did.  Being a saint means living a life of holiness in the times and circumstances in which God has put us. Our sanctity is not found in the past, in a Golden Age of Christianity, or even in the Scriptures. Rather, it is in the here and now of our daily lives.

Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

For he says, “At the acceptable time I have listened to you, and helped you on the day of salvation.” Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)