Guest Columnists

What Does it Mean To Be Holy?

By Father John Catoir

Accepting God’s will is the goal of a healthy spiritual life. Acceptance of God’s permissive will is an advanced stage of personal holiness.
Holiness is not the reward of a lifetime of loving service; we give a lifetime of loving service because we are holy.
Holiness is not what happens to us if we are kind and forgiving; we are kind and forgiving because we are holy.
Acceptance of the difficulties of life is the key ingredient of true holiness.
Those who have attained an advanced degree of holiness have done so primarily because of their basic disposition to do God’s will. This implies a willingness to accept all of the bad things that God allows to happen in their life.
Even though we do not fully understand it at the time, God can draw good from evil.
Let’s face it, bad things happen to good people. There is an abundance of misery and injustice in the world. As such, acceptance doesn’t mean that we should become doormats or absolute pacifists. It’s normal to complain and fight back at times.
If we are disposed to do God’s will in all circumstances, however, then we learn to accept what God allows to happen in our lives, even if we detest it (Mt 6:10: “Your kingdom come, your will be done’).
Your soul becomes ready for further growth when it reacts with faith, not emotions.
Paul said that we are to be grateful “in all circumstances” (1 Thes 5:18). While no one can really do that, we can be disposed to at least try.
There will be doubt and confusion all the way along. Even the saints lived in emotional turmoil as they tried to lift up their spirits. We gain heaven one day at a time, even though we may never be clear about what’s happening to us.
Father Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk who wrote his autobiographical “Seven Storey Mountain,” was no stranger to controversy and suffering. He also wrote a very helpful book on solitude, revealing his interior struggle. Here is an excerpt:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.
“But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it.
“Therefore I will trust you always though I may seem lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone” (Thoughts in Solitude).
This humble prayer expresses what most of us feel at times in our life. We are always trying to rise above confusion and doubt, attaining cheerful acquiescence. It sounds impossible, but with God’s grace all things are possible.
God wants to give us a share in His happiness. Trust His love and carry on in all circumstances.
Never be discouraged. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and start all over again.
In this way, you can die in the peaceful knowledge that even though you were confused at times, you tried to do your best.
God smiles down upon you.
Father Catoir writes a syndicated column for Catholic News Service.