Stereotyping holiness

Stereotyping holiness

The paths to holiness are many. In fact, they can be endless. And the basis for such assertion can be many too. First of all, it’s because everyone is called to holiness. That is what God wants us to be. He wants us to be his image and likeness, to be his children, sharers in his divine nature.

With his merciful omnipotence, he can achieve for us and with us what we cannot. He can complete and perfect what we cannot complete and perfect by our own selves. He is the main protagonist of our sanctification. Ours is simply to follow and cooperate with him the best we can in our different ways.  Holiness is not only for those who by temperament, behavior, earthly status and even looks would strike us to be cut out for holiness. It is not only for those who are clearly endowed with special charisms, vocation, and other spiritual and supernatural gifts.

It is also for those who appear to us as opposite to our human ideas of holiness—the irascible and temperamental ones, the mischievous types, the poor, the weak, the impious, the idiots and morons, the prostitutes, the thieves and other criminals, the ugly, etc.

Just take a quick look at some of the already canonized saints. They had a colorful past, but they converted. As they say, every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.  Remember Christ saying at one time to the self-righteous chief priests and the elders of the people: “Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” (Mt 21,31) The reason for that was because these public sinners repented while the self-righteous ones did not or delayed in repenting.

The call to holiness covers everyone. To be sure, it is not meant only for priests and religious. In fact, they can be bigger sinners than ordinary lay people. Holiness is meant for everyone, including those who as of now may be agnostics and atheists, and quite hostile to the idea of religion at that.

Holiness is for everyone because God made us for that purpose. Whatever condition we may have in this life, whether we consider it favorable or not to the ideal of sanctity, can be an occasion for holiness because we have been made to be “capax Dei,” capable of God. That’s because God has given us a nature that is not purely material but also spiritual, capable of being elevated to the supernatural order with our effort and God’s grace.

Pope Francis in one his writings said that the greatest tragedy we can have is to fail to become a saint. We may be successful in all our earthly affairs, but if we fail to become saint, we are a failure just the same.

Holiness is everyone because any condition we find ourselves in, whether humanly speaking is good or bad, can and should always be a material and occasion for sanctification. We are always given the chance with God’s ever powerful mercy to make a conversion and to grow in our sanctity.

We should avoid stereotyping holiness according to a specific kind of spirituality or vocation with their specific ways and modes of piety, for example. Indeed, the different spiritualities, charisms, vocations we have in the Church are clear ways for us to be holy, but not one of them can claim to be the exclusive way.

In our desire and effort to help others become holy as all of us should, we should be most respectful of how they are, always respecting their freedom and most discerning of how God wants them to be holy.  We can only make suggestions, reminders, encouragement and accompaniment, and perhaps some corrections, but we cannot impose our idea of holiness on anyone. No, holiness can never be stereotyped. God’s ways are far beyond our ways, no matter how divinely gifted we think we are.