Father John Catoir

There are countless ways of living in holiness.

Holiness is God living in you and your response to that divine presence. The degree to which we are able to turn our lives over to God will differ from person to person. Some are better at it than others. Pure prayer is one way of giving yourself to God as best you can.

An outstanding example of holiness is found in the life of St. Therese, the “Little Flower of Lisieux.” On her deathbed, she said that everything she ever did was to make God happy. In other words, she tried to do what pleased the Lord and one way to do this was to focus on the positive.

Pope Benedict XVI praised this approach to holiness. He wrote, “The saint is the person who is so fascinated by the beauty of God and by his perfect truth as to be progressively transformed by it. Because of this beauty and truth, he is ready to renounce everything.”

Holiness is a gift, but it is also a striving to give yourself to God in such a way that his good pleasure and happiness becomes your sole joy and good. When Jesus said he came so “that your joy might be full,” he was telling us that it makes him happy when we find our joy in him.

Many Catholics emphasize the idea of not offending God to avoid the pains of hell, which, of course, is a good thing. However, it falls short of the higher good, namely that of striving to please God and to make him happy.

When you emphasize the idea of pleasing God, then all the sacrifices you make in life will serve to improve your relationship with God. You will no longer be afraid of him, and your sense of union with God will be more intimate.

Think about it: Your union with God depends more on God’s love for you than on your love for God. You are powerless to make yourself more holy. The only thing you can give God that is truly yours to give is your trust.

We all depend on the grace of God to carry out our noble desires, desires that he put there in the first place. In Nehemiah 8:10, we find the secret of true dependence: “Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord is your strength.”

Holiness is not something that comes from doing what is good. We do what is good because we are holy. Holiness is not something that comes from giving a lifetime of service to others; we give a lifetime of service because we are holy.

The great foundation of the spiritual life is to give yourself to God. Giving is in the will, not in the feelings. The will has only one function, to say yes or no.