We've discussed What Holiness Is and What Holiness is NOT but what do YOU need to do to be holy?
First, to be holy you need to take advantage of the aids to grow in holiness God gave us. Make an effort to read the Gospels, a little every day. You can't learn how to imitate Christ if you don't know what he did or how he acted.
You need to partake in the Eucharist as often as you are able. If your church does not have a convenient Mass, find one that does. Maybe it is just a noon Eucharistic service, but that will do.
Next, try to go to Eucharistic Adoration, an hour a week if possible. You can start by stopping at a church for short visits. Do some research as to what parish has the times you need. What a lovely time it is to spend an hour with Christ. It is very refreshing and a great way to grow in holiness.
Mother Teresa's had her nuns pray in adoration one hour every day. While this is unrealistic for most people, you can make the effort once a week. If you have little children, try to get someone to watch them, or go after they are in bed. Try also to take your children to visit the Lord in the Eucharist. It can be difficult, but God understands. Even five minutes will help teach them to adore the Lord. Having the Eucharist exposed in a monstrance is the ideal situation, but many churches do not have this, so understand that any chapel or church with a tabernacle will be just fine. You can look up Mass and adoration times at MassTimes.Org
Go to Confession. Go at least once a month. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is nothing to be feared. It is a way to reconcile with God. Tell your worst sins first, and it won't be so bad. In order for you to grow in holiness you need to face your sins head-on and fight them. A good way to get ready for Confession is to reflect ahead of time with a good Examination of Conscience. Here is a great Examination of Conscience from Catholic Parents Online Once you get in the groove, bring your kids with you to encourage them to partake in this life giving sacrament.
You have to learn to Accept Your Cross. Accept the problems and the challenges of life. The difficult people. The health problems. The financial problems. Losing your job. The death of a loved one. And we have to do it with a loving, Christ-like attitude. When you accept your crosses you grow in faith, and God uses the times of trial in your life to bring you closer to him. He doesn't cause those trials, he just uses them to help you grow in holiness. When you step back and look at your crosses you will realize that they are not as big as you thought.
Recently, I watched a documentary of the moon landings on Discovery Channel. We love everything NASA at our house so I couldn't wait to see this one. The producers of the documentary interviewed many of the twelve men who walked on the moon, and you could tell - they were different. Many of them were changed by the experience, and they knew they were changed. Standing on the moon, seeing our great Earth, seeing space, they knew it was not an accident. The universe, the Earth, it was all planned. It had a creator. And a couple of them talked about HOW it changed them. That looking down on the Earth...petty problems, politics, squabbles...none of that mattered. It was petty stuff in comparison to the greatness and immenseness of the Earth. None of that mattered.
I think about this a lot. We are part of something big. Something great. Our problems, our daily stumbling blocks, are NOTHING in comparison to the immensity of God. HIS greatness. His plan. When we think of his cross...Can't I accept this little hardship if Christ was so willing to suffer for me? Can't I be more forgiving if Christ forgave his executioners even when dying.
Of course, one of the most important parts of gaining holiness is....Prayer
The main thing about prayer is to just pray. The biggest hurdle is simply sitting down. Pick a time and do it. Be consistent if possible. Start with 10 minutes and work your way up. In the morning, before everyone else gets up, take a book of spiritual reading or the Bible. Use the readings of the day perhaps. Read it slow and see what strikes you, that is the Holy Spirit leading you. Try to learn what he wants you to know today, and make a resolution for the day. I'll call that sick friend... or write that letter to my good friend that is having a hard time... or bring those soup cans to the St. Vincent de Paul... or go to Mass or Confession today. The Lord will lead you if you are sincere and open. He will teach you.
There are tons of great Catholic books about prayer and they are helpful, but it really comes down to doing it. Today you do it one way, tomorrow you might feel called to do it a different way, but in essence, find a private, quiet place and talk to the Lord. Just talk about your day, your problems, your concerns, praise Him, thank Him. He is your friend, talk to him as a friend. A Friend that loves you. And leave time to listen. That is very important.
You have to love Christ. You have to learn to know him. It is not enough to learn ABOUT him. I can read a biography of Pope Benedict but to really know him, I would have to meet him and spend time with him. Learn his likes and dislikes. The same with Christ. I can read about him in tons of books BUT to KNOW him I need to meet with him, spend time with him and THAT is prayer.
Then throughout the day, think of Christ. Turn off the TV. Turn off the Radio. Silence is important to hear God. This will clear your mind and allow you to focus. That can be uncomfortable... to be silent... but after awhile you realize what a gift silence is today when TV's are even in the check-out line at Wal-Mart.
Now that you have silence, offer what you are doing to him. Talk to him about the days events. Laugh with him. Talk to his mother, Mary. Maybe say a rosary. You will learn. And resolve to pray always. And don't worry if you don't feel anything. Feeling something is unimportant, it the time you give to Christ that is important.
Next, you have to Go Beyond Yourself. Remember - it is not about you. You have to give of yourself. You have to help your neighbor. God will bring you the opportunities. Remember that the Lord has a plan for your life...a mission that you need to fulfill. You may not ever know what it is, but you are part of his plan. You have to comfort the hurting, the lonely, the sad. You have to dust off the Beatitudes found in the Gospel of Matthew and do them. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, teach the ignorant, etc. By doing this you learn to forget yourself and think of others. It is this that will help you grow in leaps and bounds toward union with Christ.
You will know over time if you are growing in holiness by seeing if you are growing in love. Do you think less about yourself and more about others?
Holiness is a life long project. We will never be done. We will always be striving to reach the goal, because we can always be closer to Christ. Even the great saints continuously tried to be closer to Christ. The great 20th century saint, Padre Pio always asked people to pray for his soul because he was not sure he would make it to heaven! Every one who knew him thought... "he was WORRIED? If HE was worried, I'll never get in!"
We should never stop trying. Never stop trying to be close to Christ. Yes, we may stumble. Yes, we may really screw up and fall seriously. But we should never stop trying. Fall and get up again. Other people may have an easier time of it. They seem to just get it easily.
But think of how Christ looks at it... Imagine you are in a field, and far away across the field are two of your children. They are small children. You call them to come to you. One gets up and just sings happily, and in delight she runs to you. She may stumble a little, but runs right into your arms.... But your other child... He gets up to come to you but he trips and falls. He runs a little and then he falls again and hurts his knee, but gets up again and toddles along. He stumbles once again and falls deeply into the mud. His clothes are filthy. He has mud on his face and in his hair. Tears are coming down his face in frustration, but he continues to come to you. He does not give up. By this time you are crying. Weeping.
Finally, he arrives sobbing but happy and jumps into your open arms. You grasp him tight and kiss him and comfort him and love him. How much more do you appreciate his journey? You are happy your daughter came, but how much more do you celebrate your son's almost heroic journey. How hard he tried. How much he loves you. That is what it is like for Christ. DON'T GIVE UP! He will always help you. He looks at how much we struggle to get to him and no matter how much we fall, No matter how long it takes us to get to him, he will welcome us with even more love.
This series is adapted from a meditation that I gave in September 2008 for a Women's Morning of Reflection. Quotes from the book Spiritual Progress: Becoming the Christian You Want to Be
by Fr. Thomas Williams, LC are used with permission.
What is Holiness, Part I - What it's NOT
What is Holiness, Part II