Be you therefore perfect,
as also your Heavenly Father is perfect.
3 Powerful Ways to Grow in Holiness
The late Catholic nun Mother Angelica once said, “Holiness of life is not the privilege of a chosen few [rather] it is the obligation, the call, and the will of God for every Christian.” If you’ve ever read the lives of our earliest Christian brothers and sisters who became saints, it quickly becomes evident that living a life of holiness is not easy. It takes grace from God (through prayer) and a wholly desire to do so — especially in today’s culture. But it is possible, and it is what God desires of us.
Every Christian is indeed called to grow in holiness, to be “perfect” as our Heavenly Father is perfect (Matt. 5:48). Growing in holiness and Christ-like virtue is a discipline that requires a total abandonment of self and self-will; and while challenging, we can rest in knowing that God never calls us to do something that is impossible. He will give us every grace to do every good and sanctifying thing if we truly desire it.
According to Saint Theresa of Lisieux, “the little flower” and doctor of the Church, we can grow in holiness in our own little way; little by little, day by day.
For this article, we’ll start small. Little steps we can make every day that in the long run, will have a big impact. As you read through the 3 Simple Ways to Grow in Holiness, take some time to really think about how you can implement these disciplines in your life. When we grow in holiness, God blesses our lives in ways we cannot imagine. Our obedience to Him always pays dividends. The biggest dividend of all is that when we grow in holiness, we draw more near to our Lord — and this is where miracles abound.
First, Pray Daily
According to St. Josemaria Escriva, if you don’t know how to pray, “put yourself in the presence of God and as soon as you have said, ‘Lord, I don’t know how to pray!’ You can be sure you have already begun.” It is really that simple when we begin. Praying is an act of worship whereby we quite simply talk to God as our Father and best friend. Any good and healthy relationship depends on communication and involves daily dialogue — both speaking and listening. Yes, we must also listen. Prayer is a two-way conversation and God has much to say to us.
If you are unsure what to say to God, you can begin your prayer simply in silence and wait for God to speak; or you can use a tried-and-true prayer of the Church such as a litany, Rosary, or favorite prayer from Scripture. Many people opt to pray the 150 Psalms (which is powerful!). Whatever it is for you, the key is to just begin and to make it a permanent part of your daily routine. By the way, if you don’t think you have time to pray that means you have to pray even longer.
Second, Learn from Scripture and Saintly Writings
Another way to increase in holiness is to read. Read the Bible every day even if only a passage or two, and meditate for a bit on what you read. Think about what God was trying to say to you in that passage. The Bible is the living, breathing Word of God that will speak, correct, and enlighten you in a different way every time you read it. In other words, reading Holy Scripture is an endless way to grow in virtue, wisdom and, yes, holiness.
In addition to reading the Bible, reading books about our Church history (Tradition) as well as lives of the Saints, regular people like you and me who became filled with extraordinary powers because of their holiness, is also an incredibly helpful discipline in assisting growth towards perfection. This kind of study is particularly effective because these people, more notably canonized Saints, began as normal people like you and I but who made the incredibly courageous decision to, amongst other things, surrender their lives to God. These decisions, as you will learn, led them down the path of miraculous sainthood.
Through obedience and humility, the Saints reaching supernatural levels of holiness on earth and thus their lives are now told throughout all history. These holy men and women, courageous warriors of our Lord, were given to us from above so that we could learn about them, emulate their discipline, and walk in their footsteps. They remind us that Yes, it is possible!
Third, Make Small Sacrifices
The third discipline to incorporate into your daily routine while seeking perfection (holiness) is sacrifice. True love involves giving yourself for another. It involves sacrifice and reduction of selfish tendencies. Authentic change and orienting your life towards holiness will not happen overnight. In fact, it will take time and likely a lot of patience. Be prepared to continue growing in holiness your whole life, little by little, day by day.
Because of the long-term commitment, let’s start with small and manageable sacrifices. It may start with you making a decision to, for example, refrain from having a sarcastic comment (to someone who deserves it!), showing up 10 minutes early to Church to pray, fasting a meal or a snack throughout the week, offering to do something for someone else that you normally wouldn’t do, tithing a little extra each month, or making an effort to be more diligent with your time at work or as a parent. Maybe a little less TV and more reading the lives of the Saints! Whatever it is, the key is to just begin. Start small and begin implementing little sacrifices for God here and there. You will be surprised how fast your life begins to change by changing just a few daily habits from self-indulgence to self-sacrifice for God.
Once you have a daily routine of sacrifice and begin to feel more spiritually strong, begin to implement and/or focus on larger sacrifices. That is when life becomes really interesting — or should I say, blessed!
Starting, or perhaps restarting, your spiritual journey and goals need not feel stressful or challenging. We know that Jesus’ yoke is light and not burdensome. As stated herein, you simply having the heart to want to grow in holiness and begin to seek God more is huge. So start small and grow from there. God will lead you. One thing is certain, developing a daily habit of prayer, frequent Biblical and spiritual reading, and looking for the good of the other (and for more of God!) through small sacrifices will help you increase in virtue and thus quite literally transform your life. Don’t delay; begin today!
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy, and My burden light” –Matthew 11:28-30.