A true Catholic Christian spiritual journey is a noble adventure. As pilgrims of faith, we climb the rugged mountain of holiness. What does this mean? Mysterious and obscure in the modern world, holiness begins with perceiving the whole reality of life within the reality of God’s love for us. This is more than a topic for theological speculation. It is a conviction to be lived. We live it through our individual uniqueness and our Catholic response to the various circumstances in our lives.
At first, the desire for holiness may be an unrecognized yearning, a searching for truth or a striving to be good. We experience a nameless hunger for something more than the world has to offer. The recognition of holiness is revealed when we discover that our only destiny is God, the way to God is Christ, and Christ is our ultimate holiness. Edith Stein said: “God is truth. All who seek truth seek God whether this is clear to them or not.”
The call to holiness can astound us. Who me? You must be kidding! Nevertheless, there is a longing for God, whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Carl Jung said, “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” This longing becomes more prominent when worldly pursuits disappoint, or when persons or things let us down. We wonder ‘is that all there is?’ If we truthfully answer this question, our longing for God takes us from the many detours promising instant happiness to the singular direction of eternal true joy. If we fail to find an attraction to God, it is not because God has failed to provide it. It is due to our short sightedness, a failure to look beyond immediate circumstances to God’s broader plan. It is easy to believe that security and happiness exist apart from God. But, in the long run, don’t we find that many of the things we chase after are either elusive or unsatisfying? Our saints and blesseds found the importance of God and lived this greatest discovery. They challenge us to do the same.
Holiness makes its first quiet dawn into a new day with the realization that there is something more to life than career, success, social status, physical pleasures, material comforts or other worldly gains. A new beginning, a different orientation to life, begins to shine. Something inexplicable nags at our sub conscious. It is deeper and more satisfying than what the world offers. Our curiosity is piqued. We begin to seek satisfaction in service, rather than in self-serving pursuits. One does not immediately recognize the truth that true happiness cannot be found apart from God, but the early light of dawn will begin to illuminate that fact. True authenticity is only found in God. God loves each individual more than anyone else possibly could. He desires what is best for us, and by far the best for us is to grow in holiness.
This new dawn reveals itself in many ways. The following story shows how nature revealed a remarkable scene that changed a person’s life:
There was a man who lived on the Great Blasker island off the coast of Kerry, Ireland, who worked from dawn to dusk every day of the week. He owned a small flock of sheep. He was short of help, and his family being young, he had no time to check his sheep except on Sundays. So, instead of going across to the mainland to attend Mass with the other islanders, he would take his stick and his dog and go up the hill to check on his sheep. It wasn’t that he had no faith . . . It was just that he was a stubborn man who always did what suited himself.
His wife often tried to get him to change his ways. She told him that he was not setting a good example for his children. Why couldn’t he check on his sheep after returning from Mass, as his neighbors did? But he ignored her.
One Sunday, when all the islanders had gone to Dunquin to Mass, he went up the hill as usual. Since the wind was from the south, he went to the north side of the island, expecting to find the sheep there. But there wasn’t a sheep to be found. Puzzled, he then went to the south side, and to his surprise found the sheep there. He was amazed to see them gathered into one spot, a marvelous beam of light shining down on them through a break in the clouds.
This simple scene made a deep impression on him. The result was that the following Sunday, he was the first to arrive on the pier to get the boat to Dunquin for Mass. And he never again missed Mass on a Sunday. (Flor McCarthy SDB, Without a Vision the People Perish, Spirituality, July August 2006)
Adapted from my book Everyday Holiness: A Guide to Living Here and Getting to Eternity