Thursday, June 27, 2013

The universal call (an antidote)

After writing my post yesterday, I felt good at getting out some thoughts that had been eating at me...but I also felt not-so-good for airing criticism without offering a positive antidote. It's always easier to tear down rather than build up, to say what's wrong about a situation instead of saying what could be done better.

And Catholic Mutt's comment in particular got me thinking. She wrote: "I think there's a lot more we need to do for all those that do not fit into the appropriate boxes." (For example, the unmarried, whether they be single or divorced; my "pet issue" of couples struggling with infertility; or basically anyone who seems overlooked in the parish family-focused setting.)

So here's the positive antidote to my complaining yesterday, and I think also the solution to those folks who don't "fit" into parish life.

*drum roll please* =)

The universal call to holiness!!!!

It's so simple, right? Like right under our noses this whole time.

There's a whole chapter in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium about the universal call to holiness. It's chapter 5. I encourage you to read it!

Money quote: "Thus it is evident to everyone that all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity" (no. 40, my emphasis).

Then it goes through a list of various people in the Church (ordained, lay, single, married, those who are suffering) and explains how they can live out this universal call.

The thing I love the most about it is that it is a universal call.

Universal: for everyone.

There is no one who is exempt from the call to holiness.

There is no circumstance in life that can remove you from this path toward heaven, toward sanctity.

But the call to holiness looks different for every person, which is pretty easy to grasp when you think about it. You just have to look around at your particular circumstances and ask, "How can I love God by loving the people He's put in my life and the circumstances He's given me? How can I become a better person through the "raw material" of my life's situation?"

It's that easy. (Or that hard!!)

So for me, as a married childless woman, living out my call to holiness looks different than a mother with many children. Just as it looks different than a single person, or a bedridden person, or a refugee, or a homeless person, or [fill in the blank].

I think the universal call to holiness is the perfect antidote to what I was complaining about yesterday. My gripe (in large part motivated by an disordered love of self and want of attention, I'm sure, but somewhat motivated by the desire for truth) was that sometimes it seems like there is only one way to holiness: having a large family. (Even writing that, I am sure that my particular woundedness right now makes me myopic here. In other words, I have no doubt I am keenly, overly sensitive to adulation of big families, given my unwanted childlessness.)

The point is, everyone can and in fact is called to life a holy life!

For me, my path toward holiness comes from accepting what I did not want: childlessness, and from loving my husband as best as I can.

For a single person, perhaps his/her path toward holiness comes from living chastely and offering up desires for marriage, and then more concretely, loving people: siblings, parents, co-workers, friends, and doing a great job in whatever profession they have.

For abandoned spouses (aka divorcees who didn't want the divorce), maybe the path to holiness is still loving the spouse who abandoned you and being faithful to your marriage bond (this is my MIL, and trust me it is a path of holiness!)

For a mother of many, maybe the path to holiness is striving to be free of impatience and giving of herself constantly to her children's needs.

Even the disabled, the infirm, the very young and very old can walk the path of holiness by loving God, offering up their sufferings, and loving everyone around them.

I think the problem comes when we forget that sometimes how people live out their call to holiness is very hidden. Sometimes it's not: the mother of many comes to mind here, as does the martyrs or those who are being actively persecuted. But so often those movements of the soul toward acceptance, love, forgiveness, and hope are entirely hidden from everyone but God. (And that is hard for my pride to accept.)

All that is to say: there is a "box" for everyone to fit in the Church, regardless of their circumstances! It's called the "I am called to holiness" box. It's universal. No exceptions.

(Just writing this makes me feel so joyful and excited, because it gives me something to do and strive for instead of sit around and whine about what I don't have.)

So I for one would LOVE to hear more homilies on the universal call to holiness! Because it's so unifying - it's something we all share, and all can journey together.



  1. I just love LOVE *LOVE!* your last part: "there is a 'box' for everyone to fit in...the "I am called to holiness" box...UNIVERSAL...NO EXCEPTIONS." I have always used the phrase "in the box" to describe what I have fought against my entire life, a box that felt imposed on me and a box that I couldn't stuff myself into no matter how hard I tried so I just gave up and trashed the box altogether! Until now. Now I realize my identity is not CONTRARY to that "box", it's a different species altogether - Christ - and I am free from the former box. I don't need to carry around anymore the box that I felt I didn't fit in. I have my own! And you said it just great, in that there is a "box" for everyone no matter who they are or what their lot in life. Christ! He is not a box to bind us, but rather a safe place for us to enter in and allow him to cover us, transform us, sanctify us. And then we go forth in holiness. Thank you for your positive antidote!! And sorry for this soap "box" here...its just been SO much on my heart recently, and I really REALLY love how you put a wonderful spin on the box metaphor. :) Thanks.

  2. That's right: the Christian vocation comes from our baptism. NOT from marriage, parenthood, a call to religious life, or any other particular calling.

    I also love the point you made that there is some mystery to discerning what kind of life God is calling us to. It's a tricky business to discern God's will....there are simply no one-size-fits-all answers.

  3. This is a fantastic post and I agree that it's very exciting! My favorite line that you wrote is "My path to holiness comes from accepting what I did not want." I think that's huge! It has happened that I have sat in the pews before and been upset over feeling forgotten and wishing that someone would see and do something to help fix it. But I am not left out and forgotten, in that very moment I could potentially have some of the greatest growth in holiness. Thanks for sharing not only an answer, but an awesome one!

  4. Love this follow up post! Yes, we are all called to holiness and yes I would love to hear more homilies on that! There is a line in the newer version of "Cheaper by the Dozen" movie where the younger awkward son says he doesn't fit in anywhere and the mom grabs him and hugs him saying "look you fit right here" Sorry for referencing a movie about a large family but Christ and the Church say that to us. We fit perfectly in the Church and with Christ!

  5. Have you read anything by St. Josemaria Escriva? I think you would love his writings - he is often called the saint of the ordinary. I think you'd like in particular his homily - Passionately Loving the World. You can read it here:

    1. Oh, and this is a great article written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI when St. Josemaria was canonized - he speaks about the universal call to holiness that you mention.

      YES!! We're all called to be saints!! :)

  6. Love this!!! And yes, so so true. We are ALL called to Holiness - no matter what. And, "achieving" what we want (marriage, parenthood, religious life, whatever) does not guarantee holiness, it is something we must work towards, because if the devil hates anything it's holy people!