Seven Steps to Holiness

Seven Steps to Holiness

In days gone by, many thought of holiness as something only for priests and nuns. While it is certainly true that our clergy and religious are called to be holy and should make it a central pursuit of their lives, it is the same for every Catholic, whether bishop, priest, deacon, religious, or lay person! The Catechism of the Catholic Church says of holiness: “The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me’ … Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.”(459)

The Catechism goes on to say, “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.’”(2013)

It continues, “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.” (2013)

We can measure our spiritual progress by our “ever more intimate union with Christ” (2014) and “the way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle.” (2015) And finally, “The children of our holy mother the Church rightly hope for the grace of final perseverance and recompense of God their Father for the good works accomplished with his grace in communion with Jesus.” (2016)

As the Catechism indicates, when we speak of holiness, first off we must reject the idea that it is only for some. We all are called to holiness! Scripture also tells us:

Leviticus 20:26, “You shall be holy to me; for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.”  

Leviticus 11:44, “For I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:16, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

But you might ask: how do I become holy? A simple, yet wise answer is this: Do what you’re doing, but do it God’s way. Don’t seek the exotic, just do the ordinary things of daily life in the service of God, in the name of God, in union with God. Ordinary things. It is not a matter of doing good, but of being good.

Many of us live in material prosperity in the United States as compared to much of the rest of the world (take a mission trip with me to the desperately poor neighborhood of Tondo in Manila and you’ll see what I mean!) While it’s a good thing to thank God for the material blessings He sends and to use it for His good, we cannot let these things draw us away from challenging ourselves and instead drift into a lukewarmness in the service of God. 

Hence, a component of our spirituality must be mortification, making our bodies our servants rather than our masters, so that we can advance in holiness. That is why the Church talks about little things like abstinences and fasts, while offering our day to God. We must be willing to do things that might make us uncomfortable or feel unhappy about ourselves.

ST. DOMINIC SAVIO

The saints are our models of holiness. Each one has something to teach us. Take St. Dominic Savio (1842-57). He lived in Italy, and was the student of another great saint, John Bosco. Dominic came from a poor family with 10 children, in which the Catholic faith was of preeminent importance. From a young age, Dominic was close to Jesus and Mary, and hated sin.

At age 5, when he walked by the parish church, he’d kneel down outside and pray. His first Communion resolutions included: go to Confession and Communion as often as the priests would allow, keep holy the feast days, make Jesus and Mary his best friends, and live his famous motto, “death rather than sin.” When he was tempted to sin, he saw the temptation as a test, one which made us stronger when we rejected it. He practiced severe penances, such as sleeping on boards with a thin blanket, and putting gravel in his bed (this was too much for John Bosco, he ordered the boy, “throw it out!”)

In sum, he saw his path to holiness as doing well the duties of his state of life, and following the rules in the community in which he lived. He quickly attained sanctity. He died at age 14, and in 1954, was canonized by Pope Pius XII.

SEVEN STEPS

Here are seven steps you can take to achieve holiness:

First, we must desire holiness. We are called to be holy. We are called to be saints. Mother Teresa told us we must desire to be holy and expect that we will receive it. What is more important to you than becoming holy? Nothing should be!

Second, we must surrender our lives to Jesus. We can’t get there if we have one foot in the world and one foot with Jesus. As I indicated, if we are lukewarm, Jesus will “spit” us out of his mouth as seen in Revelation 3. When we seek God with all our hearts, hunger and thirst for Him, we will receive the grace for holiness.

Third, we must repent of our weakness and sins on an ongoing basis. We must seek God’s mercy and be merciful to others. Have we forgiven ourselves for our sins? Have we forgiven others for the hurt they have caused us? Let’s get in the habit of examining our conscience at the end of each day and go to frequent Reconciliation. 

Fourth, we must ask for faith, faith that moves mountains and leads us to deeper holiness. Through faith we experience miracles and the mercy of God. Faith, through the love of Jesus, heals us.

Fifth, we must learn how to pray fervently. Most of us pray by asking God for things. It is critical we learn how to pray from our hearts, beginning with praising God for who He is. Prayer and praise lead us to be thankful for what God has done for us. It often involves praying in the Spirit.

When we are one with God, “Abide in me and I will abide in you,” we have the power, love and grace of our Father in heaven. We are connected with God through prayer, praise and the sacraments; we are doing His will. When we do the will of God, we live in holiness.

This also leads us to the Blessed Mother and the rosary. Praying through Mary is the best way to become a saint. She guides us to the will of her son Jesus.  

Sixth, we must love fervently. Ask God to teach you how to love. It is the most important act you can perform. It starts with God teaching you how to open your heart to receive the love God has for you.

To love in holiness and with the love of the Father, we must learn how to show mercy to others—a huge stumbling block for many. They try to come up with excuse after excuse on why they can’t forgive.

My brothers and sisters, we have no choice if we want to be holy. Lack of mercy will prevent our “being set apart” or holy. Is holding on to anger, hurts, ill feelings worth it? The answer is no, especially considering what God has told us: we will be forgiven in the same measure we forgive others. That when we judge, we place that same judgment on ourselves.

Learn to love unconditionally by asking for it, repenting when you are not loving, and asking for the grace to receive how to love with the love of Jesus. Do not be prideful in your ability to love, since all love is of God and comes from God.

And seventh, to be holy means you are living a sacramental life. It requires leading a life in which you hunger and thirst for the Mass and Eucharist. To what extent is your day based upon receiving the Eucharist or routinely going to Reconciliation?

When God has called us to be holy, he has called us to Himself. He wants to give us every spiritual gift and blessing in the heavens.

God is close to us at all times and especially when we face adversities and trials. No matter what we are going through, God’s love, grace and forgiveness is greater than any problem we could possibly have.

We have a choice. We can focus on our problems, challenges and trials or let Jesus take over our lives.

I pray that each of you be blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, that you have the grace and courage not to compromise your desire for holiness.

You were designed for greatness, which is holiness. You were created to be an instrument of God’s love, joy and peace.

May God our Father bless each of you and your loved ones with His abundant love, through the intercession of the Blessed Mother, the power of the Holy Spirit, in the name of Jesus, amen!

All praise, glory and honor to Him now and forever, amen!

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Written by
Deacon Steve Greco