What is holiness and how do we respond to its call?
On many occasions the late Pope John Paul II reminded the church of the universal call to holiness. “Everyone in the Church,” he wrote, “precisely because they are members, receive and thereby share in the common vocation to holiness.” The Second Vatican Council put it this way: “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love.” This holiness, the council said, grows out of giving glory to God, serving others and “doing the will of God in everything.”
But what is holiness, and how do we respond to the call? Can we do the will of God in everything?
St. Benedict, the founder of monasticism in Europe, wrote that the keeper of the pots, pans and “all utensils and goods of the monastery” should regard them as “sacred vessels of the altar.” The holiness of pots and pans points to the holiness of everyday life. The things we do in everyday life lead us to holiness if we do them with an awareness of the presence of God.
Thérèse of Lisieux, Mother Teresa, and Dorothy Day are three modern Catholic women whose lives show us how the path to holiness is a little way. “We can do no great things—only small things with great love,” Mother Teresa said.
These words very well describe the way to closeness to God that Thérèse, Mother Teresa and Dorothy followed and offer to us. In littleness we can find beauty and the love of God. Little things, even the least, hold the power of big things, for in them God reveals his presence.
We can respond to this presence with devotion to and love for the ordinary activities and encounters of everyday life. Rather than letting our days fly by, mechanically performing our daily tasks in order to get them over and done with, we can see little drops of grace in all the things we do. We can see in them new opportunities to respond to the ocean of God’s love flooding the world.
Seeing God in every moment leads us as well to total reliance on God in every moment. This little way to faith and trust can help us accept ourselves for who we are, redefine how we see success and failure and cope with suffering and the sacrifices of daily life.
Love of God and others in the small things of life: This is the little way that Thérèse, Mother Teresa and Dorothy give us. As Mother Teresa put it, “I think…that we must live life beautifully, we have Jesus with us and he loves us. If we could only remember that God loves us, and we have an opportunity to love others as he loves us, not in big things, but in small things with great love.”