Ways of Holiness In response


Ways of Holiness

In response to this post at Disputations Mr. O'Rama replied:

I found this very interesting. It is reasonable and persuasive. Yet should we not mark Christ's words that Martha had chosen the better way? Does not the religious life, with its constant prayer, its constant access to the sacraments, to trained spiritual directors, et all not make a difference? But God is not bound by those things. Certainly our experience screams that the religious life confers not so much advantage as we might romantically think - Thomas Merton paints a picture in his journals of his fellow monks as, well, not quite completed Christians. No surprise there.

This seems to imply that Martha's way is not available to those in Secular life, and yet. . . Martha and Mary both were not cloistered Monastics. Jesus was not speaking to a group of people who lived outside the stream of life. It seems to me that one way is not more holy than another--to seek the God's will in everything is the source of grace and holiness. If God does not call one to the cloister or monastery, one must be open to what God is calling one to. St. Catherine of Siena was very holy, and yet she was not cloistered, even though she belonged to an Order. Louis and Zelie Martin were very holy people by all accounts. St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton, and countless others demonstrated the holiness possible in everyday pursuits.

I think I'm disturbed by this kind of reflection, not because there isn't an element of truth to it--a call to the religious life is the highest kind of call--but because many people use these reflections or things similar to it to deny their own responsibility in the cultivation of holiness. I often hear from my confreres, "I can't do that because I'm not a religious. I can't follow this way or that way because I am not in a convent or monastery." And for some things, that is true. But being outside of a religious order or establishment is not an excuse for failing in holiness. After all, if we choose it, most of us have reasonably constant access to the sacraments, and all of us are called to pray constantly, to raise our daily work as an offering of prayer. Many of us don't take advantage of these things, but then, many in monasteries and religious life may not do so either--we cannot know.

I understand the sense of Mr. O'Rama's comment and agree that religious life is the higher calling. However, I disagree that it gives some leg-up on holiness. Holiness is the struggle with the assistance of God's grace to conquer the self and that same self is with you--in a convent or monastery, or in a married life. The struggle is on different terms in different vocations, but nevertheless we all "work out our salvation in fear and trembling."

Holiness is not only possible, but it is required of all God's people. We are all called to be saints, whether we are canonized or not--"Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect." Perfection, I reiterate, is uniformity with God's will--living out a union with God. And we are told that this is possible in God's time and in God's way for all people. If our row seems harder to hoe, it is because we have never had to try to work the field elsewhere. There are profound troubles, problems, and obstacles to holiness wherever we live out our vocations.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 11, 2003 8:58 AM.

Parsing the Counsels of St. John of the Cross was the previous entry in this blog.

An Urgent Need for Prayers is the next entry in this blog.

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