Can We Achieve Holiness by a Plan?

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The answer is yes and no. Or perhaps, "Not merely." We achieve holiness by God's wil and grace alone. Without these necessary elements we can plan until doomsday and we won't be any closer to holiness. God wills that we be holy and for that reason alone the goal is within reach.

However we must also will it and that will must take some expression through the grace of God. We must will what God wills for us. We must follow in obedience His plan for us. How do we know what that is?

It isn't so mysterious as many of us like to think. One of the reason we tend to focus on the mystery of it is that we don't really want to achieve it. However, the "plan for holiness" was revealed in Jesus Christ and in His body, the Church. It is really quite simple--atttendance at and participation in the Eucharistic sacrifice and the feast of the Word, frequent recourse to the sacrament of Confession/Reconciliation, attendance to the holy round of prayer known as the Liturgy of the Hours, and the practice of the presence of God in Himself and in His people. The first three elements of this plan strengthen us for the last element. In a sense this last element is the living out of the promise of the first three.

As people in the world we are not permitted the luxury of living as though we occupied a cloister. Our faith must have real physical expression. It must reach out to the world through our actions. It must bring grace where grace was unknown. The only way this can be possible is through taming the unruly self to through the training that comes with obedience to the Mass, Confession, and constant prayer. Our actions outside of prayer are merely our own and subject to all the human failings of anything else we may choose to do. However, our actions rounded with prayer become whole and real. They become an expression of God in godless places.

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from Steven: Can We Achieve Holiness by a Plan? brought to us by TSO: Matthew Kelley's Seven Pillars An oldie but goodie: The Seven Habits of Holy Apostolic People Without a plan of life you will never have order. --St... Read More

This was inspired from a radio commercial... One man took a blank sheet of paper and wrote out a plan for his whole life. He signed it and offered it up for Jesus to bless. Another man took a blank... Read More


I think you might be overstating the normative role of the Liturgy of the Hours in personal sanctification. At least, I hope you are, because only a tiny fraction of the Catholics who have ever lived have prayed the Divine Office, and even today only a small fraction pray it.

Can we make "regular prayer" a top-level facet of the plan for holiness, with the LotH as a preferred form? After all, people in the world do not always have the luxury of living as though they occupied a cloister.

That's an interesting question. I think it is possible to plan a path to holiness but it is difficult to carry out that plan. Difficult because it takes a lot of courage and grace to stay on that plan, and because as we make the journey we learn things along the way that might change our course for the better.

And what 'works' for one person may not 'work' for another. That is the pastoral planning angle, and the pastoral planning difficulty on this. So to a degree, the plan depends on/reflects the person.

Dear Steve,

Yes, it does; however, there are normative requirements for any such plan. The fact that one is not able to stay on the plan does not so much indicate a flaw in the plan, perhaps, as a flaw in the person, which through perseverence through grace might well be remedied. Because a given line isn't working doesn't mean the line is faulty--particularly when the line extends through two-thousand years of history.

So, one should get an excellent confessor/spiritual director to assist in the construction of any such plan, and it should be reviewed from time to time, both for the efficacy of the plan and the dedication of the person performing it.

Plans will always differ--God has different work in mind for each one of us and the work He has in mind for us changes from day to day. But the only way to keep in touch with what God wants is to seek channels of Grace and communication with Him.



Dear Tom,

I don't think I was suggesting a "normative role," but rather a plan that would assist the user to holiness. I think that if more of that the populace had had access and been praying holiness might be more common in our history. Is it the way that it has happened in the past? Probably not. Is it the way that it can happen in the future? Most certainly.

Is the Liturgy of the Hours necessary for salvation? I would answer, no. Is it necessary for sanctification, I would also answer "No." All that is necessary is God's grace. Is it supremely helpful in pursuit of holiness--undoubtedly. Should it be normative? I think so.

We do no harm by encouraging everyone to partake of this great treasure. Taught to us from the cross itself, it is one more fruit of the passion carried through the ages.





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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on February 16, 2004 7:43 AM.

Prayer Requests 2/16/04 was the previous entry in this blog.

"Through Him, With Him and In Him" According to St. Teresa Benedicta is the next entry in this blog.

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