The Scriptures tell us repeatedly of the holiness of God, and of how we are called to be holy like Him. In the days of the very early Church, Saint Peter recalls the lines from Leviticus which enjoin us to be holy.
Throughout the centuries, the Church has held up before us living examples of holiness – Saints. At the Second Vatican Council, the Dogmatic Constitution On The Church (‘Lumen Gentium’) told us that “all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity”. In other words, to be holy.
And in every recitation of the Creed, we reiterate our belief in ‘the Communion of Saints’ – part of which means that we ask and rely on the help of these holy men and women who have gone before us.
As a child, I loved reading the lives of the Saints – in fact, I still do. Each had a different story to tell, each faced particular challenges which they had to overcome, each seemed to bring out a different spirituality, a different aspect of what it meant to be a reflection of the very goodness of God. Sometimes I felt that certain Saints seemed to have been born almost perfect and remained that way until death; the reality, of course, is somewhat different. Others, it seemed to me, struggled constantly and in reading their lives, I almost willed them on to achieving real sanctity. These Saints were all capitalised, of course – there are a great many other, or everyday, saints; we will never know their names in this life but that reality of the Communion of Saints assures us of their heavenly patronage throughout life and at death.
So, if we really are called to holiness, if that call truly is universal – then what do we do about it?
I suppose the starting point has to be some kind of realisation that this is so. Closely followed by another realisation – that we do not ‘earn’ or ‘achieve’ holiness. Rather, it is a gift of God – but one we can be sure He desires to give us. So what next? Well, we need to ask for it or at least be willing to accept it. After that, it all comes down to the grace of God, building upon our fallen human natures – and our constant co-operation with that divine grace. And that means heroically, day after day after day until the very last moment of our lives.
The picture above is of the three seers of Fatima – Blessed Jacinta Marto and her brother, Blessed Francisco, and their cousin, Sister Lucia of the Immaculate Heart. All three were truly holy and the two younger seers are now well on the road to canonisation, God willing. Each had a different spirituality, a differing aspect which reflected the breadth of holiness. There were many similarities between the three of them – but many differences, also. The point is that there is no single ‘type’ of holiness, just as there is no single type of person – we are all very different and grace builds upon the nature of each of us, if only we allow it to do so and co-operate with that action. These three were holy not because they saw the Blessed Virgin, not because of heavenly revelations but rather, because they conformed themselves constantly to the will of God in their own lives.
And if three children can do so, then what is to stop us?
Perhaps that call to holiness really is universal, after all.