Holiness in Everyday Life - Mass in honour of the Feast of St Josemaria Escriva

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Holiness in Everyday Life - Mass in honour of the Feast of St Josemaria Escriva

In his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, “Rejoice and be glad”, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, calls all the faithful in the Church to embrace the call to holiness.
He very clearly wants to invite those who would consider themselves “ordinary Catholics” to see that holiness is not beyond them. So he says, “We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.” (#14)

Holiness, the pope argues, is discovered and realised within the ordinary circumstances of life.

This still is probably a bit of a revelation for many in the Church, because we do tend to not think of ourselves as being holy - not being destined to be saints. The other day in the Gospel reading from St Matthew, though, the Lord said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”. (Mt 5:38) This is, in fact, the standard that the Lord has set for us.

In our liturgy and our Catholic tradition we celebrate those who have lived heroic holiness and are now canonised as  saints. They were truly remarkable people. While we look to them and are inspired by them, they can often present holiness as being just a bar too high for us.

However, holiness is the call to all who follow Christ. We are all called to be saints: the Pope reminds us of this in his Apostolic Exhortation. Here he simply echoes the theme of the universal call to holiness which is promoted in the documents of the Second Vatican Council.

The pope particularly wants to encourage people who live marriage and family life to see that the path to holiness is to be found within their particular vocation. He says, “Are you married? Be holy by loving and caring for your husband or wife, as Christ does for the Church.” (#14)

He also addresses those who are engaged in daily work in the world, “Do you work for a living? Be holy by labouring with integrity and skill in the service of your brothers and sisters.” (ibid)

This theme of finding holiness in ordinary daily life, of course, is something which is not unfamiliar to those who are engaged with Opus Dei. Indeed, it is a particular contribution to the spiritual patrimony of the Church by the work and teaching of St Josemaria Escriva, and then particularly expressed through the work of Opus Dei.
In his exhortation the pope uses a very captivating phrase. It is one that is really worth quietly considering, because he speaks about “saints next door”. (#6) This phrase can alert us to something which we actually do know – that there are many saintly people around us. In our family, in our parish, among our friends. Indeed, how often have we thought or perhaps said something like, “Wow, what a saint!” when we do witness the example of someone who is close to us. So our everyday language reveals a truth – that there are truly holy people whom we know, saints next door.

Thus, the pope encourages people not to be afraid of becoming holy. Allow me to offer one more quotation from the exhortation. The pope says later in the exhortation: “Do not be afraid to set your sights higher, to allow yourself to be loved and liberated by God. Do not be afraid to let yourself be guided by the Holy Spirit. Holiness does not make you less human, since it is an encounter between your weakness and the power of God’s grace.” He then quotes the words of the French writer, León Bloy, who said, “The only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.” (#34)
St Josemaria pioneered this spirituality and Opus Dei continues to assist its members in seeking holiness in whatever situation of life they are in. Thus in a homily St Josemaria said, “He calls each and every one to holiness; he asks each and every one to love him: young and old, single and married, healthy and sick, learned and unlearned, no matter where they work, or where they are.”

St Josemaria then adds the comment on what is really a key ingredient to growing in holiness. He says, “There is only one way to become more familiar with God, to increase our trust in him. We must come to know him through prayer; we must speak to him and show him, through a heart to heart conversation, that we love him.”

In his work among lay people, St Josemaria encouraged growth in Christian virtue. However, he knew only too well that the starting point for growth in virtue is growth in one’s relationship with God. And there is no surer way of fostering this growth than to grow in personal prayer.

The prayer he proposed was prayer integrated into daily life. The prayer was to be simple, but frequent.

He taught, “The path that leads to holiness is the path of prayer; and prayer ought to take root and grow in the soul little by little, like the tiny seed which later develops into a tree with many branches.” This is sound advice. The last thing a busy father or mother needs to hear is a call to prayer more akin to that of a religious, for example setting aside a lengthy period for meditation. This just is not possible for a busy married man or woman, much as they may desire it.

Prayer begins by being simple. Prayerfulness, as he points out, grows slowly. When we do seek to bring prayer into our lives, whatever may be our circumstances, it will inevitably foster a spirit of prayer such that we find ourselves moved to prayer quite readily. Very soon prayer has become part of us.

Prayer, even the most simple aspiration, fosters our union with God and can easily be incorporated into our daily round of activities. It brings God into the ordinary situations that mark our lives. This daily, frequent reaching out to God will inevitably nurture our love of God. This will move us further on the path to holiness.

So tonight as we honour St Josemaria Escriva, let us be renewed in our own hearts and have a genuine desire to be a saint. Such holiness, though, is particular to us within the circumstances of our lives, and it will be found in and through daily life. It is nurtured as we engage in our responsibilities and bring them into communion with God.

Nothing we do should be seen as separate from God. We do not live somehow secular lives and then turn to God in spiritual moments. No, everything is meant to be co-opted as we walk the path of holiness.

Very simply, holiness is not meant to be foreign territory for the ordinary Christian. It is in fact to become the flavour to all that they do.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Thursday, June 21, 2018

To listen to an audio recording of Archbishop Julian's homily, click here.