The lovely Miss Anonymous Opinion asks:
But how is it that women can be saints, but not priests?
First, let me restate that I don’t completely understand the reasons God chose to reserve priesthood to men; after reading the Bible I came to understand that He did.
Simply, being recognized as a saint comes from being recognized as living a holy and heroic life. To be declared a saint requires 2 miracles being attributed to you after your death to show that you are with God and He answers your prayers.
For example, Saint Maria Goretti, who I’ve written about before, was canonized a saint based of her devotion to maintaining her purity. She accepted death at the hands of a would-be rapist rather than allow her purity to be violated. As she lay dying, she said of her murderer: “Yes, I forgive him and want him to be in Paradise with me some day.” After her death, she would appear to him, express her forgiveness and obtain his conversion to the faith to extent that he attended her canonization ceremony. Another miracle attributed to her:
[The then two-year-old Stefania Zuccari] had been seriously ill with heart trouble afflicting her from birth. Stefanie was taken by her parents to a solemn Triduum of Prayer held at the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, where the remains of St. Maria Goretti had been taken. When the little girl was lifted up to touch the urn containing the body of the martyr, she was instantly cured to the amazement of the doctors who examined her.
Holiness is not about being a priest or religious. It’s about finding God’s will for you and doing it well. Each of us has a role to play in God’s plan for the world. We will be most happy when we find that plan and act upon it. For some of us, it’s to be a parent. For others, it’s the priesthood or religious life. For some, it’s to remain single. (Saint Paul himself praises those who choose to remain single to focus themselves solely on God.) It’s not what we do that matters as much as how we do it. Saint Francis de Sales tells that holiness consists of doing the ordinary extraordinarily well. Our smallest acts can be be holy if we do them for, with and through God.
In the strictest sense, everyone in heaven is a saint. But there are those who God has chosen to hold out as examples (Saints) to us based off their holiness of their life. Based off the above, we can achieve “big-S” sainthood if we are shining examples of holiness. One example: Saint Monica was the mother of Saint Augustine. Her life achievement consisted in raising Saint Augustine to be one of the great theologians of history, despite his succumbing to heresy (Manichæism) and fathering a child outside marriage. Monica never gave up praying for her son’s conversion back to the Faith and he eventually did. (It’s why the patron saint of disappointing children, among other causes, to this day.)
So, the inadmissibility of women to priesthood in no way denied women entry to heaven or even to be considered among the greatest of saints. (After all, think of the honor due to Mary, the Mother of God.)
Similarly, entering the priesthood is no guarantee of holiness or entry to heaven. Saint John Chrysostom once said, ““The streets of hell are paved with the skulls of priests.” I’ve always figured the becoming a priest places a huge burden of responsibility on a man. He has to be very careful not to lead anyone astray or away from the truth faith. I was told a story once about a priest who had been very lax with his parishioners, telling them dissent from Church teaching was okay and not holding them to any real moral standard. He had a heart attack or something and had a vision of his soul going before God for judgment. The only that stopped him from going to Hell was Mary interceding for him asking for another chance for him. Becoming a priest most likely holds you on to a higher standard when you present yourself before God after your death, so it shouldn’t be viewed as a guaranteed ticket to holiness or heaven.
Hopefully, this answered your question.