We think holiness equals intensity. So the more intense, the more hardcore I am, the more holy I am. … I've had some guys I work with that have left seminary, and it's really hard to think 'I've left seminary. I'm not doing a Holy Hour any more because I have a job, I'm not praying the Office, I'm praying less, which means I'm less holy, and I'm less intense, and I love God less.'They go on to say that this is not what holiness looks like. You have to look at your state in life and see what your spiritual life is supposed to look like. More prayer isn't necessarily better, and this kind of thinking can lead to scrupulosity. I was pondering that on and off, and last night I went to Adoration to pray and to write notes on my article. After praying Evening Prayers and making those notes, I picked up Ralph Martin's book, which has been sitting on a shelf for … ahem … a while. I realized that I had forgotten everything I'd read so far, but I had been highlighting some main points. I decided to go back and skim over those points (reading more when I needed to) and get ready to delve into the book further. Suddenly, a paragraph that I'd highlighted jumped out at me. Martin is discussing what "holiness" really means, and he quotes Ephesians 1:4, then says this:
To be holy is not primarily a matter of how many Rosaries we say or how much Christian activity we're engaged in; it's a matter of having our heart transformed into a heart of love. It's a matter of fulfilling the great commandments which sum up the whole law and the prophets: to love God and our neighbor, wholeheartedly. Or as Teresa of Avila puts it, holiness is a matter of bringing our wills into union with God's will. (p.2)I often tell my family and friends that God has a two-by-four with my name on it, and He frequently has to smack me upside the head with it. I'm kind of dense a lot of the time, and I'm bad at really paying attention to what God wants me to do more often than I'd really like to admit. And this struggle I've been having with my path to holiness, and whether or not I'm actually moving forward on it, has been filled with these ideas that I'm just not doing enough holy stuff. I don't make it to Mass often enough. I don't pray as often as I'd like. I'm distracted sometimes when I am praying. But I really do desire to do better. I want to get close to God, to do His will. I want to improve and move down the path of holiness towards Him. And when I look back at my life and how I think and act, I really can see a difference between me today and me a year or two ago. I'm not saying I shouldn't improve, because everyone can always improve their spiritual life. But what I am saying is that maybe I'm still going in the right direction, even if I'm tripping and stumbling on the rocks along the pathways.
Copyright 2019 Christine Johnson
About the Author
Christine Johnson has been married to Nathan since 1993 and is the mother of two homeschool graduates. She and Nathan live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Southwest Virginia, where she tries to fit in as a transplanted Yank. She blogs at Domestic Vocation about her life as a wife, mother, and Lay Dominican.