‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.’ 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. Josemaría Escrivá, Friends of God
Extraordinary Holiness in the Ordinary
St. Josemaría Escrivá is the saint of everyday holiness. Indeed, St. John Paul II called him “the saint of ordinary life” for his message that holiness and sainthood are attainable by all the faithful. St. Josemaría taught that such everyday holiness could allow countless people to meet God right where they were.
This call to holiness is attainable! We sometimes balk at this. Sure, we know it’s the teachings of our faith, but it can seem the mother of all longshots. Even a few years ago, I would likely wince at the notion of universal holiness. I’d think, Well, sure, if that’s true, then why is the world falling apart? War, corruption, death, etc.—if holiness is so easy, then why is the world so bad?
Of course, as St. Josemaría has taught me, holiness is never easy. It’s a high goal, to be sure, but it’s also something we can obtain. It’s going to be a lifetime of effort. It’s definitely going to hurt and require sacrifice. But the path to holiness can do more than lead us to everlasting joy: it can change the world.
As St. Josemaría preaches,
In order to bring peace, genuine peace, to souls; in order to transform the earth and to seek God Our Lord in the world and through the things of the world, personal sanctity is indispensable.
Our world could use a lot of that genuine peace. While we may not be able to solve many (or any) of the world’s problems, we can bring a joyful holiness into our own lives and the lives of our neighbors.
Here are some lessons on holiness from St. Josemaría Escrivá that I’ve found helpful and transforming in my own life. I hope they encourage you to read this holy priest’s work, but I also hope you’ll take these lessons to heart and go out to change and shape the world.
1. Holiness Starts in Prayer
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
2. Sanctity is For Everyone
Sanctity is not for a privileged few. The Lord calls all of us. He expects love from all of us—from everyone, wherever they are; from everyone, whatever their state in life, their profession or job. For the daily life we live, apparently so ordinary, can be a path to sanctity: it is not necessary to abandon one’s place in the world in order to search for God…because all the paths of the earth can be the occasion for an encounter with Christ.
3. Duty to Sainthood
Each day be conscious of your duty to be a saint. — A saint! And that doesn’t mean doing strange things. It means a daily struggle in the interior life and in heroically fulfilling your duty right through to the end.
4. Holiness is Hidden in the Ordinary
God is calling you to serve Him in and from the ordinary, material and secular activities of human life. He waits for us every day, in the laboratory, in the operating theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all the immense panorama of work. Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it.
When faith is really alive in the soul, one discovers instead that to follow Christ one does not have to step aside from the ordinary pattern of everyday life, and also that the great holiness which God expects of us is to be found here and now in the little things of each day.
5. Our Whole Day Can Be Worship
Keep struggling, so that the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar really becomes the centre and root of your interior life, and so your whole day will turn into an act of worship — an extension of the Mass you have attended and a preparation for the next. Your whole day will then be an act of worship that overflows in aspirations, visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the offering up of your professional work and your family life…
6. Everyday Life is Our Mission
Everyday life is the true setting for your lives as Christians. Your ordinary contact with God takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. There you have your daily encounter with Christ. It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind.
7. We Are Made Saints in Our Struggles
Persevere along your way no matter what happens; persevere, cheerfully and optimistically, because the Lord is bent on sweeping aside all obstacles. Hear me well: I am quite certain that if you struggle, you will be a saint!