All Saints — A Call to Holiness for All

"All Saints" by Fra Angelico

“All Saints” by Fra Angelico

At age 16, I thought that aspiring to holiness was out of the question.  If you really wanted to be holy, I thought, you had to be a priest, nun, or brother.  And you had to spend your days doing “religious stuff” like praying, preaching, teaching catechism, or serving the poor.  But I had developed an interest in the opposite sex and was headed toward a career in music.  So I was disqualified.  The best I could hope for was to avoid breaking the 10 commandments, get to confession when I failed, not miss Mass on Sunday and toss a few bucks in the collection each week.  That way, I could at least make  it to heaven after a hopefully brief stay in Purgatory.  But true sanctity, that was out of my reach.

If holiness were about marital status or what you do for a living, I would have been right.  But the Second Vatican Council made very clear that my assumptions were wrong.  Holiness is not about what you do but with how much love you do it.  Holiness is really the perfection of faith, hope, and sharing in God’s very nature, which is love (I John 4:8).  We are talking about a special kind of love here, the love that gives freely of itself to another, that even lays down its own priorities, interests, and very life, for another.

So is holiness difficult to attain?  No.  It is impossible.  At least on our own steam.  But that’s the thrill of it all.  God invites us into an intimate relationship with Him through Jesus.  He takes up residence within us and makes it possible to love with His love. Grace is the love of God that comes into our hearts as a free, undeserved gift and enables us to be like God.

So that means spending all our time in chapel?  No it means doing daily, ordinary things with extraordinary love.  The Virgin Mary, our greatest example of holiness, was a housewife and a mother.  Jesus and his foster father, St. Joseph, apparently spend most of their lives doing manual labor.  But when Mary did the wash, she did it for love.  When Joseph made a table, he did it for love.  When hardship and danger threatened, they met it with faith, hope, and love.

So holiness is for every baptized person, regardless of personality type, career, age, race, or marital status.  In baptism, we are all reborn with the spiritual muscles necessary to get us across the finish line.  Yet these muscles must be nourished and exercised if they are ever to develop and carry us the full distance.  God provides the necessary nourishment in the Word of God and the Eucharist.  And he sends us ample opportunities to exercise.

But there’s the rub — many of us don’t want to exert ourselves.  It can be uncomfortable.  We stretch a bit to finish school, to excel at sports, to win the heart of the love of our lives.  But when it comes to the things of the Spirit, we often settle with being couch potatoes.

Leon Bloy, a French Catholic writer, once said “the only tragedy in life is not to become a saint.”  Holiness is about realizing our deepest, greatest potential, becoming who we were truly destined to be.  What a shame it would be to miss it.


Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118. This was originally published in Catholic News Service’s syndicated column, Faith Alive as a reflection on the Solemnity of All Saints on November 1.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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2 Comments

  1. Ora et Labora. Work and prayer. Motto of Benedictines.For This shows just that in your article. Yet Abbeys and Monasteries are still still needed in today’s society for they pray for “all” in the world .

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