This comes from the preface to the book Stars Appearing: Lives of Sixty-Eight Saints of the Anglican Calendar, written by Sibil Harton, and published in 1953. I have preserved Ms. Harton’s original pronouns.
What is a saint? Nothing is gained by watering him down to the level of that rather popular definition, an ordinary person who does ordinary things extraordinarily well. the saint is ordinary only so far as he is common, that is, compounded of flesh and blood, body and spirit, subjected to the same laws of birth, growth, decay and death as are all of us: but he is a saint just so much as he is extraordinary, living life on an extraordinary level.
Heroes are usually extraordinary, above the average in certain physical and mental qualities and accomplishments, but they are not thereby saints; and saints, on the other hand, may have pronounced limitations of body of intelligence. That extraordinariness which differentiates the saint is his derivation of abiding holiness not from his own natural resources but in supra-normal ways from God. His is a heroism of grace. All his whole being functions not for his own satisfaction and fulfillment, but, first and last, to forward the work of God.
It is because he sees God that he words for Him, and that order is vital.
The saint is distinguished from the multitude by the intensity and familiarity with which he lives that otherworldly spiritual life which is yet interlocked with this natural one, thus earning the right to be called extraordinary quite apart from any birthright of noble qualities or outstanding powers. He is a fulfilled person, one who has achieved the fulfillment of all his potentialities, spiritually if not naturally: he has become a whole man entirely through the wholeness of Christ.
His essential preparation for sainthood is the self-denial which Our Lord reveals as the basic law of Christian discipleship, which is accomplished by the saint to such a superb and amazing degree that God is given full, unimpeded entry into his soul; he can therefore truly live in and by Christ, always and not sometimes, in the secret ways of the heart as well as in public spaces.
On our way through life we are all sometimes disappointed by particular persons who are so holy, so good in various ways, who yet stop short, when we feel they need not, of outstanding sanctity. They are held up by this or that innate self-hood which hinders perfection, which prevents them from becoming truly fulfilled.
The saints one and all, by long or short road, won their fulfillment through their self-emptying; there lies the simple secret.