Holiness – Why It Is Good, And How To Get It (the Easy Way)

Here is an inspiring message of the joy of living the Christian life from Fr Daniel Vitz who is  a priest from the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE). He writes:

We all have been called to something wonderful; the details are different, but the  ocation is the same—to be saints. This is tremendous, enormous. In fact, it is so enormous that we are entirely inadequate, there is no proportion between ourselves and our abilities and our calling. We like to think that, as faithful Catholics, we always look at things with the proper—a supernatural—point of view, but that isn’t true. After all, we are human, not superhuman, and our broken human nature is always being tempted in one way or another.

And so, faced with the reality of our tremendous calling, but with at least one foot still firmly planted in the world, we can have problems. Thinking about our vocation from a human perspective can lead us in two directions.

The first possibility is this: we can shrink our Christian witness to fit our natural abilities, or perhaps even below that, to just what seems convenient for our natural comfort level. Theoretically, of course, we know that is wrong, but it’s very easy to do. If we do that, we will be pusillanimous—small-souled—the opposite of being magnanimous. And if we are thinking naturally and don’t want to be pusillanimous, the only possibility is that we become unbearably arrogant, arrogant because we are trying to do a lot, but based on our inflated sense of self-worth—a self-worth based on our natural gifts or abilities. If that’s our outlook, sooner or later we will fall flat on our face, or have a nervous breakdown, and either way, we will have introduced the terrible vice of pride into the heart of our life, which is a disaster. Scripture speaks over and over about the wickedness, the poisonousness of pride. St. Faustina recounts that in one of her visions, Christ told her: “The greatest misery does not stop Me from uniting Myself to a soul, but where there is pride, I am not there.”

The second possibility, when we think about our life and our vocation to holiness from a human perspective, is to despair—despair of our ability in the face of such a great, such an heroic and even superhuman task! Perhaps a person could convince himself that this viewpoint is more virtuous than the first option because it requires at least an acknowledgment of one’s weakness, and so seems less prideful. And it may indeed be less prideful, but it is no more supernatural than that first possibility and can be just as damaging to our apostolate and our spiritual life. Despair can have no part in the life of a saint, and please God, that is what we all want to be.

In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul explains that our frequent sense of helplessness in spiritual things is no cause for panic, because “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.”

For some people, this reliance on God instead of oneself is easier than it is for others. This lesson was especially difficult to learn for Blessed Anne Garcia, whose name in religious life was Anne of St. Bartholomew.

She came from a poor shepherding family in sixteenth-century Spain and was orphaned when she was ten years old. She had almost no formal education, and while she was still young, she became a disciple of St. Teresa of Jesus—Teresa of Avila, foundress of the Discalced Carmelites and one of the most remarkable saints in the history of the Church.

Blessed Anne became one of St. Teresa’s closest collaborators and friends; St. Teresa actually died in her arms! But then Blessed Anne was sent to Belgium and France to start new Carmelite convents, and to be prioress in some of them. She would often complain to our Lord that she was too ignorant and shy to be given such important responsibilities. On one occasion she had just tried to convince him that he should choose someone else, someone more intelligent, better educated, and more outgoing to do the work she was being asked to do, because she had none of the necessary natural gifts. In fact, she
complained so much that finally Christ himself appeared to her and said, ‘It is with straw that I start my fires.’

Our Lord didn’t comfort her by telling her how great she was. He simply told the truth; acknowledging her weakness but making clear that he was the one who would do wonderful things in and through her if she would let him. She did let him, and that is why she is Blessed Anne.

Our calling is beautiful, wonderful, enormous—and we must always remember that they are entirely beyond us, naturally speaking. It is easier said than done, but we must always keep a supernatural perspective—sometimes we don’t say it out loud, but we actually think about things in a very natural way. Our life, our work is God’s work, and He will give us, He must give us the strength to do it—whatever it is that He wants of us, because He knows that we too are straw.

So let us never reduce everything to what we think is possible by our own strength, or fall pridefully into thinking that we can do everything we need to do on our own. And neither must we fall into despair over our own weakness as we survey what we must do. When we feel helpless to do all that Christ is asking of us or to bear our crosses, we need to remember that “the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness.” Let us pray then, to our Lady, Mother of the Church and our Mother, that we may be granted the grace to remember that we are part of a work that is much greater than ourselves and that the strength we have to do it is not our own, recalling always that it is with straw that our Lord starts his fires.

3 Comments

  1. When we recognize that we are weak without God, that is not despair. It is what we are supposed to know about ourselves. Our unconditional trust in God then opens us up to the Spirit of Christ that strengthens our weakness.

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      1. I believe that despair is when you view your weakness as insurmountable. When we view our weakness as a prerequisite for surrender to God, then it is a recognition of reality that motivates us towards acquiring peace and strength from God.

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