"In a world full of people only some want to fly. Isn't that crazy?" -Seal
I've been involved in youth ministry since the mid 1990's, and for the past seven years I have directed a group in my own community. One of the goals of youth ministry is to inspire teenagers to seek holiness, and connect with their faith community. While Catholic teens revere the saints, most do not connect the lives of these good people with their own. Most do not think that holiness is an obtainable goal.
They ask me, "What is holiness, exactly? Don't people have to perform miracles to become saints in the Catholic Church?" These are good questions, the same ideas that I have struggled with myself.
Holiness is not a state of being that can be nailed down. What I mean is, a person doesn't just get holy, and then get a scout badge, or a medal. Holiness is a process that is never completed by the end of life, even by the saints. It is a journey, constant movement toward goodness and God. Holiness is the hardest goal to achieve, and none of us, official saints or not, know if we've really become holy until we are no longer living.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that "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."(2013)
Basically, Christians who sincerely seek to know Jesus and make a daily effort to live out His teachings by putting them into practice are seeking holiness. We are asked by the church to seek perfection, with the realistic knowledge that such a journey requires spiritual battle. Personally, I lose plenty of battles. Holiness is more in the effort than in the outcome, since only God is completely perfect.
Be Holy, A Catholic's Guide to the Spiritual Life by Father Thomas G. Morrow is an excellent source for those looking to get a better understanding of what it means to live a holy life. It turns out that the path to holiness is echoing with exclamations of:
"I have to do WHAT?!"
That's right, God does not give us what we ask for, but rather, what we need. To pray like a saint is to ask that God's will be done instead of our own. Praying this way requires complete trust which is an unexplainable grace (gift from God). The path to holiness calls one to humility and gratefulness even in the face of hardship and suffering.
"We should be immensely thankful to God at every moment of every day." (41)
I know a woman who lost her husband and her mom in the same year. She is facing financial struggles now and the emotional stress of caring for children who are dealing with the loss of a parent. Things seem to be falling apart around her, and yet, she sees the blessings. She acknowledges the friends and strangers who have helped her with gratefulness. She sees their efforts to help her as a reflection of God's presence in her life. Now, believe me, this lady is not perfect, however, she is clearly reaching for holiness, choosing a hopeful outlook over despair most of the time whether she feels hopeful or not.
Father Morrow's book outlines the steps people can take to move toward holiness. He talks about why Christians should be motivated to seek holiness, insisting that not doing so is simply "going through the motions" of one's faith. He gives advice on prayer and stresses the importance of attending Mass. There is a chapter on forgiveness and love of neighbor which is very insightful.
Overall I liked Fr. Morrow's book and would recommend it to anyone interested in spiritual growth. The chapters are easy to follow, with practical advice mixed with references to scripture. Fr. Morrow makes a convincing case for why people should seek holiness, and points to how one can go about listening to this calling.