If holiness seems like a lofty goal to you, you’re not alone. A lot of us have thought that way, including me, especially at times in my life when I was struggling with a particular cross or bad habit. Holiness? Who, me? Nah. That’s just for saints. Does that sound like anything you’ve said to yourself? Maybe you’re saying it to yourself right now.
If you think that holiness is just for saints, you’re right – at least in part. Holiness is indeed for saints, including you because you’re a saint in the making.
Usually, when we think of the saints, we think of those who have been officially canonized by the Church like St. Teresa of Avila, St. Padre Pio, and St. John Paul II. But, you and I are saints in the sense that we belong to the Communion of Saints. In the New Testament, “saints” refers, not to canonized saints, but rather all the People of God. St. Paul begins his First Letter to the Philippians with, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops[b]and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Phil 1:1-2) All souls in heaven, canonized or not, are saints.
And how did they get to heaven? By diligently doing their best to follow Christ.
Therein lies the first of my 3 Simple Ways to Start Being Holy NOW:
As a member of the Communion of Saints, you’re called to holiness regardless of your situation or state of life. Look at this passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (CCC, 2013)
Holiness is our calling and is part of whatever vocation God has given us. It’s not a restriction, burden, or label. Instead, holiness is the way of freedom in the love of Christ, the means by which we’ll enter Eternity. We are called to bigger and better things that what this world holds, and we must always be aware of that.
What’s more, we have access to an abundance of grace that will give us strength and sustain us on our path to holiness. We need only ask Jesus for his grace to become holy and he will grant it. In the same regard, the sacraments are invaluable to us. Remember the Baltimore Catechism definition? A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace. Frequent reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist will exponentially bolster our striving toward holiness.
Many confuse holiness with perfection. They are not the same! Most, if not all, of the saints (excluding our dear Blessed Mother Mary), had imperfections that sometimes even made them difficult to live or work with! In fact, both St. Jerome and St. Vincent de Paul were known for their bad tempers. At Antioch, St. Peter and St. Paul had a disagreement over the question of whether Jews should eat with non-Jews. Yet, all of them were holy. So you see, being holy and being perfect is not the same thing.
But, Jesus instructed us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” didn’t he? (see Mt 5:48) Yes, he did. However, scholars interpret this to mean that our Lord is asking us to seek to do God’s will in all things. In the documents of Vatican II, it’s stated:
In order to reach this perfection the faithful should use the strength dealt out to them by Christ’s gift, so that […] doing the will of the Father in everything, they may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor. Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints. (LG 40, #2)
In a nutshell, rather than desiring to be perfect according to the common definition, we should desire to do God’s will in all things.
Perseverance is, for me, the toughest part of trying to be holy. It seems I can only be good at it for so long and then I wear down and things start to crumble. Holiness, like any good habit, requires prayer, practice, and patience, the latter of which I have very little.
But, here’s the thing about persevering in becoming holy.Holiness isn’t an all-at-once kind of project. You don’t do this or that and suddenly achieve holiness. Holiness is something you work at in small ways day-in-and-day-out. It’s a progression that takes place over the entire span of your lifetimes. The progress you make is less important than the fact that you keep at it without giving up. St. Teresa of Calcutta is quoted as saying, “God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.” That’s exactly it.
We can slough off, stumble, fall, even fail miserably and still be on our way to holiness. As long as we get up again, we’re still in good shape.
And that’s what holiness is all about. Holiness is having the awareness of our dignity and calling as children of God, the desire to do his will in all things, and the perseverance to keeping going no matter what.