Do you sometimes find it hard to try to be holy outside of Mass or other Catholic events and gatherings? Do you think that holiness is only for the super saintly and not for you?
Mother Angelica has you covered! Here are some fantastic tips from her writings, collected into the book Mother Angelica’s Guide to Practical Holiness.
1. Holiness is for everyone!
“Holiness of life is not the privilege of a chosen few – it is the obligation, the call and the will of God for every Christian. We cannot put up stumbling blocks of well-defined excuses to reason our way out of the reality that ‘our sanctification is the Will of God’. We were created by God for the express purpose of radiating His Son, Jesus, in our own particular and unique way. We give Him glory by freely choosing to be what His Wisdom designed us to be,” writes Mother Angelica.
What a beautiful reminder that we are good and enough in ourselves because God created us so!
2. The saints were imperfect while they lived on earth
The saints were all sinners who turned their lives towards God and lived for His glory in their own unique ways. This means that any of us can be and are called to be saints.
Mother Angelica points out the similarities we find in all the lives of the saints. “Love for God and neighbor, determination to imitate Jesus; an immediate rising after a fall, a complete breakaway from grievous sin, growth in virtue and prayer, and the accomplishment of God’s Will,” she writes.
When broken down like this, holiness doesn’t seem so insurmountable or faraway, but something we can grasp at and even reach with the help of His grace. And the saints give us such hope that anyone can turn from a life of sin and unite their will with God’s.
3. “If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy”
It certainly is hard loving our neighbors at all times and learning to love each other as God loves each of us individually! But just as God comes to us in Love, so, too, must we go to each other in love.
“When we realize we cannot change our neighbor except through love and example, we seek new ways of prayer – new secrets of the spiritual life that will enable us to overcome. This is the work of supernatural self-knowledge. When, in the midst of some failure to respond to demands of the present moment, we receive a light that makes us see ourselves, see God’s pruning hand, see future good in present turmoil, then we are experiencing supernatural self-knowledge. . .It brings acknowledgment of our weakness, repentance, compassion for self and neighbor, determination to do better and a deeper love for God whose grace gives us light to see truth without flinching. . .Our neighbor may cause a demand on our virtue, but we ourselves are the cause of our response to that demand,” writes Mother Angelica.
4. Desire God’s will to be done on earth as it is in Heaven
“The angels must look upon us with astonishment as we question and rebel against God’s Will in our lives,” writes Mother Angelica. “What we are really saying to God in our rebellion is that we know better than He does the things that are for our happiness in this life and necessary for our salvation.”
The angels know that God knows all and that they know less; how much less do we know? Of course, there’s a difference between not understanding and questioning God’s Will. Mother Angelica uses the examples of Zechariah and Mary to illustrate this: “Zechariah questioned God’s power and wisdom. Mary, however, only wondered how God would fulfill the message He had given her. She asked for direction. There was no question in her heart, only how she could fulfill His wishes.”
5. Practice detachment
Mother Angelica posits that it is not necessarily in owning things that we become attached but in what they impose. She mentions things such as a fear of loss, greed for more, and short-term satisfaction. “I wonder if the best way to become detached is to have an overwhelming attachment to God,” she writes.
She goes on to say that detachment is negative, so we must replace these things with something better. “Where, my soul, is the balance between compassion and detachment, providing for today and not being anxious for tomorrow, having things and not possessing them, deeply caring and being unselfish? The balance is a deep and strong love for God. All lesser loves fade away in the presence of a great Love – and here is the balance and the answer to detachment: Supernatural Love.”
6. Recognize the positive effects of self-denial
Mother Angelica writes that there is a long list of positive effects of denying ourselves and reaching outward to God and neighbor. Our love is increased, patience grows, and temperance becomes stronger. We’ll be able to observe that justice is sweetened in our lives, gentleness gives way to self-control, humility is preserved, and prudence becomes easy. Fortitude is strengthened and our joy increases.
Aren’t these wonderful things to grow in and attain! “The more I strengthen my will with self-denial, the greater is my self-control. Peace of soul is preserved, and the reflection of Jesus grows brighter and brighter,” writes Mother Angelica.
7. Remember that spiritual dryness isn’t a bad thing!
“It often happens that after I have chosen to follow the Lord I suddenly feel a strange emptiness and a distaste for anything spiritual. . .if I am sincerely trying to do His Will and love my neighbor, then I know this dryness is for my good. The Lord is purifying my soul of all selfishness so I may love Him for Himself alone,” Mother Angelica writes.
It is said the Saint Teresa of Calcutta went through spiritual dryness for most of her missionary life. Saint John of the Cross wrote an epic poem on this phenomenon called “The Dark Night of the Soul”. Saint Teresa of Avila wrote about this in her book Interior Castle.
In all instances, those afflicted knew that God was still present and that He never left them. They recognized that this was a deeper detachment from the world and way to learn to love God only.
Don’t be discouraged if you experience this – be encouraged! You are learning to love God for Who He is rather than who you want Him to be and you are drawing ever closer to Him.
8. Live the Beatitudes
“When we accept God on His terms, we do His Will – when we accept ourselves as we are, we realize our weaknesses and our total dependence upon His grace. This dependence makes us realize God’s Will is superior to our own and this reality permits us to see our neighbor in a new light. We accept him as he is. When our neighbor is angry, then we are called by God to be gentle at that moment, for our neighbor is in need of seeing gentleness – we are self-effacing,” Mother Angelica explains.
Accept God as He is, accept ourselves as we are, accept our neighbor as he is– these simple steps will help us love as God loves and bring ourselves and others closer to Him.
For more on these topics and a host of other ones, get a copy of Mother Angelica’s Guide to Practical Holiness. Start living a life united with God in even the mundane things today!