paving stonesWhat are your stumbling blocks to holiness?

I recently asked that question on social media and received a varied list of responses which I’ll address in future episodes of my podcast, Simply Holy, or future blog posts here on

Right now, I’d like to address,  not any of the answers, but rather the question itself: What are  your stumbling blocks to holiness? The emphasis is on your  stumbling blocks and not anyone else’s. What makes you stumble on your path to heaven? The thing (or things) that make one person stumble may not be an obstruction to another’s holiness.

For example, forgetfulness. Of course, forgetfulness can be caused by mental or biological factors such as poor health, sleep deprivation, side effects of medication, or dementia. In those cases, forgetfulness isn’t a stumbling block to holiness. Instead, it’s a symptom of a mental or physical condition. But forgetfulness also can be the result of neglect such as when someone consistently forgets to say their evening prayers. Neglecting our prayer life most certainly can be a stumbling block to holiness. Forgetfulness also can be caused by self-centeredness like when someone is so focused on himself or his own crosses, pains, or needs that the needs of others fall to the wayside. This “me, myself, and I” attitude shuts out others which is contrary to what our Lord taught us. “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,” St. Paul wrote to the Philippians. (see Phi 2:4-5) If you’re so into yourself that you forget about what others have asked of or need from you, then forgetfulness is a stumbling block to your holiness.

Let’s look at another example. For most people, setting goals is a good thing. Goal setting keeps us on track, helps us to assess our abilities and shortcomings, and gives us something to look forward to. But, what about the person for who the goal becomes an obsession? What about the person who tosses aside sleep, good nutrition, family, friendship, and faith in the pursuit of an achievement? No goal is worthy that caused you to neglect your health or vocation or to step on other people to achieve it. Worse is when the race to meet a goal draws your attention from God and his goodness and toward your selfish desires and perceived powers. If you’re depending more on yourself than on God, you’ve got a serious problem. On the other hand, someone who has a hard time staying on track or struggles with motivation would greatly benefit from setting and reaching toward goals as long as they’re godly ones.

True, there are some holiness stumbling blocks that are universal, such as prejudice, gossip, and dishonesty. Violating the Ten Commandments will never in any way increase our holiness. But there are some behaviors, thoughts, and actions that would cause one person to stumble but not another; they are unique to the individual. Discovering your own personal stumbling blocks requires a great deal of prayer, self-knowledge, and dependence on God’s grace. It requires a sincere, thorough, and daily examination of conscience as well as frequent reception of the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist. The sins you confess – especially those you must confess week after week – are clues to your stumbling blocks to holiness. Make a note of your recurring sins and bring them to our Lord during Eucharistic Adoration. Listen patiently to him and he’ll enlighten you to your areas of particular weakness. Pray in the manner of the Psalmist:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my thoughts.

See if there is any wicked way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps 139:23-24)

Then ask Jesus to show you how to avoid those stumbling blocks that are holding you back on your path to holiness. As before, listen patiently to what he has to say and you will hear him in the deepest recesses of your heart. In prayer, make concrete resolutions for avoiding or doing away with them and ask our Lord for the grace to get back up and try again whenever you start to stumble. Finally, ask our Mother Mary to intercede for you before her Son and to accompany you on your path. She’s your loving mother and wants you to become holy so that you can spend Eternity in heaven.




Image: Pixabay Free Photo; no attribution required


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