The first time I was invited to speak at a Catholic event was for local youth retreat called Credo, for which I was asked to give a talk on our universal call to holiness. At the time I was a traffic reporter in Cincinnati, and I wasn’t much exposed to the documents of the Church – nor was I very well-versed in practical ways to increase my own holiness. To prepare for this talk, the first item on my agenda was to read a section of Vatican II called (funnily-enough) “The Universal Call to Holiness.” It says this:
“Therefore, all the faithful of Christ are invited to strive for the holiness and perfection of their own proper state. Indeed, they have an obligation to strive.”
An obligation? Of course! We are all called to be saints. But how do we do that? There are the obvious paths to grow in holiness, like attending Mass as often as possible, frequently receiving the sacraments (particularly confession), reading your Bible, praying more, etc. These are all very important in our quest for sainthood, of course, but I would also like to share with you what I consider to be some often overlooked practical ways to increase personal holiness.
1. MAKE HOLY FRIENDS!!!
I cannot stress this one enough. I can, and will, write an entire post on this one of these days, but suffice it to say that while the bandwagon syndrome generally gets a bad reputation for leading people into foolish ways, it can also work in a positive way and pressure you to strive for deeper and more authentic holiness. Look for friends who will not only encourage you, but challenge you to be a holier person, and follow their examples. Every suggestion listed below is something I do because Catholic friends first introduced me to it and challenged me to stick to it.
2. Go to Adoration.
You know how some people have contagious personalities – you can’t help but be happy (or depressed) around them? Same thing here, except with the Blessed Sacrament. How could you not soak in true holiness when you make a point to be in the presence of our Eucharistic Lord? Honestly, I’m never able to think so clearly as when I’m in Adoration. And that’s not to mention the great miracles that can and do take place in your life when you’re committed and devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. See one example here. [http://blog.archny.org/?p=1363]
3. Pray this prayer. Daily.
The Universal Prayer by Pope Clement XI
Lord, I believe in you: increase my faith. I trust in you: strengthen my trust. I love you: let me love you more and more. I am sorry for my sins: deepen my sorrow.
I worship you as my first beginning, I long for you as my last end, I praise you as my constant helper, and call on you as my loving protector.
Guide me by your wisdom, correct me with your justice, comfort me with your mercy, protect me with your power.
I offer you, Lord, my thoughts: to be fixed on you; my words: to have you for their theme; my actions: to reflect my love for you; my sufferings: to be endured for your greater glory.
I want to do what you ask of me: in the way you ask, for as long as you ask, because you ask it.
Lord, enlighten my understanding, strengthen my will, purify my heart, and make me holy.
Help me to repent of my past sins and to resist temptation in the future. Help me to rise above my human weaknesses and to grow stronger as a Christian.
Let me love you, my Lord and my God, and see myself as I really am: a pilgrim in this world, a Christian called to respect and love all whose lives I touch, those in authority over me or those under my authority, my friends and my enemies.
Help me conquer anger with gentleness, greed by generosity, apathy by fervor. Help me to forget myself and reach out towards others.
Make me prudent in planning, courageous in taking risks. Make me patient in suffering, unassuming in prosperity.
Keep me, Lord, attentive at prayer, temperate in food and drink, diligent in my work, firm in my good intentions.
Let my conscience be clear, my conduct without fault, my speech blameless, my life well-ordered.
Put me on guard against my human weaknesses. Let me cherish your love for me, keep your law, and come at last to your salvation.
Teach me to realize that this world is passing, that my true future is the happiness of heaven, that life on earth is short, and the life to come eternal.
Help me to prepare for death with a proper fear of judgment, but a greater trust in your goodness. Lead me safely through death to the endless joy of heaven. Amen.
4. Study the saints.
This can take many forms. There’s obviously the excellent option to read entire books on or by the saints, but I have taken recently to searching for quotes from saints, writing them down and keeping them with me. Incidentally, the two most-recent quotes I’ve found are about achieving greater holiness:
“Do not just be a channel for grace, but a reservoir, an overflowing reservoir. No sooner has a channel received grace than it pours it out. A reservoir waits to be filled up and then offers grace to those who come to draw from its superabundance.” –St. Bernadette (I copied this one down from the back of a high school student’s t-shirt as I sat behind him in church one evening.)
“I have always wanted to be a saint. Alas! I have always noticed that when I compared myself to the saints, there is between them and me the same difference that exists between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and the obscure grain of sand trampled underfoot by passers-by. Instead of becoming discouraged, I said to myself: God cannot inspire unrealistic desires. I can, then, in spite of my littleness, aspire to holiness.” –St. Therese of Lisieux
5. Consume Catholic media.
I myself am partial to Catholic radio (and in particular the Son Rise Morning Show), but any Catholic media consumption you can do is going to increase your knowledge of the Faith. There is a vast blogosphere out there – I am subscribed to more than 100 blogs on my Google Reader – and not everyone covers the same issues or topics, but each post you read will stretch you a little more. The same goes for Catholic books. Also, if you don’t do anything else, read Catholic news. I’m not just saying this because I’m a Catholic news anchor: There is so much misinformation and ignorance about the Catholic Church in the mainstream press, and there’s no way you can get a true view of the Church if secular media is your only source. Once you start paying attention to Catholic news, you’ll find that there is a lot more happening than you think. I know I did!
These aren’t exactly innovative ideas, but I have found that they do work if I apply them in my life. Thankfully, I think I have become a holier person than I was on the day I stood before the kids at Credo to talk about our call to holiness. That’s the beauty (and mystery) of it all: It doesn’t take complex solutions to grow closer to God.
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