How To Be Holy – Chapters 14 to 21 by Peter Kreeft 1

Kreeft is a little deceptive in the title of Chapter 14, Holiness Is Easy! However, he quickly clarifies that this does not mean it happens without effort and sacrifice, but rather, it is easy in that the path is not complex. He says, “you don’t have to know many things or do many things or accomplish many things or master techniques.” This is all true, but the one thing that you do need to do can be summarized in one word, abandonment. This is the Fiat of Mary, thy will be done. It is what Saint Paul describes as dying to self. Abandonment is what we find in the example of Christ who says, “thy will be done” of whom Philippians 2:7 says, “he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave.” It is the threefold act that Kreeft gives in Chapter 16, saying yes to God with your intellect, will and desires…that is, your faith, love and hope. Ultimately, “self-abandonment is only the business of loving” (Kreeft citing De Caussade in Chapter 18).

What gets in the way of this total self-giving is what Kreeft calls “Original Selfishness”. We are all born with this condition and it is a battle between our heart’s desire to give all and our own inclination to claim and live life as our own.

Chapters 20 and 21 focus on a key concept of De Caussade, the Sacrament of the Present Moment. Sacraments are encounters with God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. De Caussade says we spend too much time dwelling on what happened in the past and worrying about the future and we miss the only point in time that truly matters, the “present moment”. Every present moment is an opportunity to receive grace and mercy and to encounter God. We should experience every moment (even as you read this blog!) as a sacrament because God is at work in it.

“The present moment holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love. The more a soul loves, the more it longs, the more it hopes, the more it finds. The will of God is manifest in each moment, an immense ocean which the heart only fathoms in so far as it overflows with faith, trust, and love.” Abandonment to Divine Providence

– Deacon Ralph

How to sum up the chapters for this week? It’s a challenge for me because there is so much within these pages that I’d love to discuss. Limiting myself to the highlights leads me to these few thoughts:

  1.  Kreeft says that the only reason we aren’t holy is because we don’t want to be – that holiness is easy! This may be a hard truth for us to swallow but it is entirely accurate. Remember that ‘free will’ that we all possess, and that each moment is a choice where we reveal our priorities and attachments – the simplicity lies in always choosing God. The difficulty comes when we choose the easier options or the ones that fulfill immediate gratification and our earthly desires. It’s easier to choose ‘me’ – to be selfish.
  2.  The models we are given in these chapters are excellent. We have dogs (and I am a dog lover) who show us consistent, complete unconditional love with no strings attached. We see what complete faith looks like in our beloved pups. Total trust! But we aren’t animals, so we must look to Mary, the perfect model of faith who instructs us to do whatever Jesus tells us. She speaks from experience. We know we can trust in her example. Kreeft tells us that every time we say ‘yes’ to God, we are pregnant with holiness. Quite a startling image, but it is a visual that gets the point across!
  3. Holiness and love are one and the same. Love of God. If we love God above all else, we will choose God above all else. We WILL be holy. But we are cautioned that we can’t love what we don’t know. Faith formation is a lifelong quest – we must seek to learn more our entire lives! We must remember that if our love should not be divided – that we cannot serve more than one master. We must choose wisely. Again, that free will thing!
  4.  Finally, live in the present moment. The past is past – let it go. The future isn’t here, so selfish worry only wastes our time. Trust in God. Truly and totally TRUST in God. This is how we live in the present moment and increase in holiness. “Don’t just read about it”! Oh if only we could be holy via osmosis!

 – Mary

Questions –

  • Do your choices and priorities reveal your obstacles to growing in holiness and do you feel prepared to address them?
  • Did these chapters inspire you to pursue more knowledge about our faith and a better formed conscience? If so, do you have suggestions for how you might do so?
  • How difficult is it to live in the present moment? Are we consumed by the baggage of the past and the uncertainty of the future?
  • Kreeft says the key to holiness is abandonment. What does that mean to me and how I live my life?

Please share your thoughts on these questions or any other comments you have after reading these chapters!

Share your thoughts!

One thought on “How To Be Holy – Chapters 14 to 21

  • Mary French

    How difficult is it to live in the present moment? Are we consumed by the baggage of the past and the uncertainty of the future?
    This is one of my greatest challenges. I let everything sidetrack, derail, distract, and re-route me until I (at least in my own opinion) have become so consumed with worry or overthinking that God has slipped down the priority list a few pegs. I hate to admit it but it’s true. It seems like a never ending cycle; which is why I am so grateful for the Church seasons – particularly Lent. It’s my ‘reset’ button – an opportunity to reevaluate and really focus on what needs adjusted or fixed. I truly appreciate that this season will come around each and every year in order to get me back in line! I look forward to it with happy anticipation as well as determination!