The purpose of our life is to get to heaven. Our catechism teaches us very clearly: “We are created to know God, love God, and serve God in this life so as to be happy with Him forever in heaven.” St. Ignatius reinforces this idea in his consideration in the Spiritual Exercises that is called Principle and Foundation, in which he says: “Man is created to praise God, reverence God, serve God and by means of that to save his soul”—very much the same as the catechetical definition.
In concrete, this really means that all of us—none excluded—are called to become saints! Jesus says this unequivocally in the Sermon on the Mount in the Beatitudes with these words: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness; they will be satisfied.” (Mt 5:6) A little later in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus uses even more forceful words, actually an imperious command, or if you like, an imperative: “Be holy as your heavenly Father is holy!” (Mt. 5:48) This is not whimsical or simply wishful thinking, but rather this is an imperious command given to us by the Savior Himself.
Therefore, this being the case, all of us must make a concerted effort to make it to heaven (and this means that we must strive to become saints), then God, of course, will give us the necessary means that we must use so as to arrive at our eternal destiny which is heaven. Worldliness and distractions can very easily pull us off the straight and narrow course that leads to heaven and misdirect us on the wrong road, which is wide, spacious, appealing, seductive, tantalizing, and pernicious, and eventually leads us into the eternal suffering of hell. This we want to avoid at all costs!!!
Below you will find ten what we call signposts that we honestly believe can be of eternal value for all of us to arrive at the end and ultimate purpose of our eternal destiny and that is Heaven!
“What air is to the lungs, so is prayer to the soul.”All of us should make a concerted effort to both pray more and pray better. Advice on this: read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part Four on Christian Prayer; read a good book on prayer; find a set time for prayer and and a quiet place. Finally, seek out a good spiritual director—like St. Teresa of Avila did—who can help you to grow in your prayer life.
Your growth in holiness will be in direct proportion to growth in your prayer life—this is expressed by the Doctor of Prayer, St. Teresa of Avila.
Jesus said very clearly: “Unless you do penance you will not enter the Kingdom of God.” (Lk. 13:5) Jesus also said: “Some devils can be expelled only through prayer and fasting.” (Mt. 17:21) Advice on this: Every day decide to offer some form of sacrifice as an act of love to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who suffered so much for the salvation of our immortal souls!
3. Holy Communion
Of course the most efficacious means for all of us to grow in holiness and to attain eternal salvation in heaven is faith-filled, fervent, and frequent reception of Jesus in Holy Communion. The words of Jesus are concise and clear when He preached in the synagogue of Capernaum, in what is called the “The discourse on the bread of life.” Jesus said: “I am the bread of life; whoever eats my body and drinks my blood will have eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.”(Jn. 6: 22-71) Anybody with clear thinking and a sincere heart can understand these words. These words are a matter of life and death. We must eat His Body and drink His Blood in the context of Holy Mass and Holy Communion if we truly want to attain eternal life!
Another most efficacious means to make it safe to heaven is by the practice of frequent confession. Jesus gave us this Sacrament Easter Sunday night in the Upper Room with the Apostles when He breathed on them and said these words: “Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you forgive will be forgiven; whose sins you bind will be held bound.” (Jn. 20: 22-23)
The normal means by which our sins are forgiven after Baptism is by the reception of the Sacrament of Confession, also called Reconciliation, or the Sacrament of God’s Mercy, with the priest who represents Jesus the Healer,or if you like, the Divine Physician. Frequent Confession serves as curative medicine as well as preventive medicine.
5. Spiritual Reading
Athletes feed and exercise their bodies so that they can be in top-notch shape. Followers of Christ must become His spiritual athletes. An extraordinarily great help is for us to get into the habit of doing some good spiritual reading on a daily basis, for at least fifteen minutes, and if possible for half an hour.
You might ask, Well then, what should I read? A great question, but hard to answer! The reason for the difficulty in answering is that there is so much good reading to choose from. The response: talk this over with your spiritual director and with their help you will find the best literature for you to read so that you can cultivate your mind spiritually! An interesting side-bar. You will notice that when you are absorbed in some captivating spiritual reading—something that is really spiritually nourishing—then you are inspired to pray better. This is called the spiritual domino effect!
6. Be Merciful
In the Diary of Divine Mercy In My Soul, Jesus speaking to Saint Faustina invites us to do at least one act of mercy every day. Our merciful Savior offers three suggestions: 1) Pray for someone; this is mercy; 2) Words—speak kindly to someone; 3) Deeds—finally, we should express the mercy in our hearts by external actions.
7. Corporal Works of Mercy
Read Mt. 25:31-46. In this powerful passage, right before St. Matthew enters into the Passion, suffering and death of Jesus, the corporal works of mercy are presented to us for our practice. In fact, we will be judged on our love for God by the way we treat people who are created in the image and likeness of God. Feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, visiting the prisoner and the sick, as well as burying the dead—all of these are what we call The Corporal Works of Mercy.
Read and meditate upon this Gospel passage and choose one or several of these corporal works that really appeal to you and then carry them out without delay, in imitation of Our Lady who went in haste to help her cousin Elizabeth in her need.
8. Inspirations of the Holy Spirit
If you are baptized and striving to live in the state of grace and practice recollection—meaning maintaining a certain amount of silence in your exterior life and interior life, then you will be open to hearing often the gentle but insistent voice of the Holy Spirit. These are called heavenly inspirations.However, these can present a real challenge and it is this: even though we may hear these inspirations, we might decide to put them off until later or simply dismiss them as unimportant or irrelevant. If we do that, we sadden the Holy Spirit within us, in the words of St. Paul. (Eph. 4:30) Remember the words of the Psalms: “If today you hear the voice of the Lord harden not your hearts, as in the day of Meribah and Massa in the desert.” (Psalm 95/Heb. 3:15) The desire of our hearts should be the prayer of the young Samuel: “Speak, O Lord, for your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:10)
9. Encourage Others
Another very important practice for those who really want to become saints and make it to heaven is the practice of trying to encourage people. Of course, we should first start with our family because charity begins at home! How? A smile, a kind word, an act of service, a compliment, a thumb’s up or even a high five. When you see anybody who is discouraged say a kind word, tell them a joke, offer your Holy Communion for them, tell them that you are praying for them and will continue to pray for them. St. Barnabas, in the Acts of the Apostles, can be our example; he is known as the son of encouragement. These are the saints—those who go about encouraging and lifting up the disheartened and the downcast! Read the life of St. Philip Neri!
10. Our Lady: Queen of Angels and the Saints!
Our essay would be incomplete if we did not invite Our Lady, Mary most holy, the Queen of the Angels and Saints, the Queen of the Universe, into our conversation. St. Bernard, who had a tender as well as passionate devotion to Mary, said: “With respect to Mary we can never say enough.” Nonetheless we will give some ways that we can grow daily in our love and devotion to Mary:
- READ good literature on Mary; you cannot love her if you do not know her. We would suggest two Marian classics: The Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Liguori, andTrue Devotion to Mary, by St. Louis de Montfort.
- PICTURES/STATUES. Have some attractive image of Mary with you. This is a constant and holy reminder of the Holy Mother of God. The Founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary Congregation, Ven. Bruno Lanteri, coined this short phrase in Latin: Maria cogita, Maria invoca—meaning, think about Mary and invoke Mary. Having good images of Mary around us, we both think about Mary and are easily inspired to invoke her.
- ANGELUS PRAYER. Get into the habit of praying the Angelusdaily, preferably at 12 noon, and if possible at 6:00 p.m.
- THE HOLY ROSARY. Never allow a day to pass without praying the prayer that Our Lady loves most—the most Holy Rosary!
- OCTOBER IS THE MONTH OF THE ROSARY! Try in a most special way to be even more faithful to praying the Rosary and promoting the recitation of the Rosary during the month of October.
- This is the day dedicated to Mary; pay special homage and honor to her this day every week.
- MAY IS FOR MARY. Promote Marian crownings and processions in the month of May. Why? May is the month of Mary!
- IMITATE MARY. Not only should we pray to Mary and promote devotion to Mary, but we should try to imitate her virtues. St. Louis de Montfort in his classic True Devotion to Maryhighlights ten virtues of Mary.
- IN DISTRESS, CALL ON MARY. We all go through tough times in life. In these bleak, dark, and even hopeless times we should turn to Mary, talk to Mary, and entrust our cares to Mary. Remember the words of the Hail Holy Queen: “Hail Holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness, and our hope…” Let us entrust our worries, cares, and sufferings to Mary; she will never abandon us!
- DIE IN THE ARMS OF MARY. When all is said and done in life, the only thing that really matters is for us to make it safely home to Jesus and Mary. The most important moment in our life is the very moment that we die. This will determine for all eternity our eternal destiny—either heaven or hell. Let us entrust our dying moments into the arms of Mary with these words:Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Friends in the Lord and Mary, if these ten signposts are followed faithfully on the highway of our lives, then without a shadow of a doubt, we will make it safely and securely to our eternal destiny, and that is heaven. Let us honestly and with good will strive to put into practice these signposts that point us to the true desire of our hearts—Heaven!