How To Be Holy – Chapters 7 to 13 by Peter Kreeft 5

These seven chapters move into some deep waters with regards to holiness. Don’t be discouraged if you find the text a trifle hard to plow through at times. Often, a second or third reading of a challenging passage will allow you to better grasp the message.

While there is a plethora of material in these chapters, I found two quotes from C.S. Lewis and one thought from Saint Thérèse to be of interest. First, Kreeft quotes Lewis’ work The Great Divorce, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done’.” That quote puts before us the two paths of life we can take! One is life and the other is death. Through the gift of free will, the choice is up to us. In choosing to do God’s will, we will share in his divine life. If in the end, we have ignored all the graces and guidance God has placed in our lives, choosing instead to turn away from him, it will not be God who separates himself from us, but him granting our desire that “our will be done”. Hell is always our choice rather than God’s punishment.

The second quote from The Weight of Glory by Lewis reads, “Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour (sic) is the holiest object presented to your senses.” Wow! That image definitely demands that we consider how we interact with our brothers and sisters. Do we view others as the second most holy thing we encounter?

Finally, St. Thérèse offers to us that we simply need to do little things with great love. Kreeft expounds on this insight by saying, “Spectacular heroism, even martyrdom, is easy; the daily grind is hard.” When we begin as novices down the path to a holy life, we may feel that being holy requires us to be an “in the news” kind of holy person. That true holiness is something that is noticed, reported and documented. However, St. Thérèse reminds us that most of us are not called to be martyrs or missionaries, but we all need to do the daily things in life with love. After we die, there may not be a street named after us or a book written about us, but what will shine brighter than human recognition, is that we did the little things in life with great love.
– Deacon Ralph

This segment of chapters ends with a perfect thought to ponder:  “The more divine you are, the more human you can be”.  This only makes sense if we understand that God created us with a free will.  It is that free will which makes us truly human – it is our ability to choose.  Keep in mind that freedom does not mean the ability to do whatever you want.  In fact, freedom means the ability to choose the good.  To choose well.  To choose God.

We must take Kreeft’s advice to live in the present moment and understand each moment as a sacrament.  I like using the analogy of a pitching machine (or one that tosses out tennis balls if you prefer).  Imagine that machine tossing a ball your way every waking moment, every day of your life.  Those balls are the choices that are presented to us as we progress through life.  Each moment involves some choice – about what to do, when to pray, or how to respond to a given situation.  In those choices we find the ‘stuff’ of growing in holiness.  We always have the option to choose well or not.  To choose God … or not.

Kreeft reminds us that the daily grind is hard, as opposed to momentary heroism.  To always choose well is a challenge and requires the active engagement of our will.  We must WILL the good and choose correctly if we want to grow in virtue, in happiness, in holiness.  If we are waiting to be swept off our feet by an emotional tidal wave of love that carries us to the pearly gates, we might be waiting forever.  Instead, we must pull ourselves up by the bootstraps and put in the work to choose correctly even when it is difficult, ugly, and painful.  We are in training for heaven and it’s a marathon.  None of us would consider running such a race without preparation and growth in holiness IS a marathon that lasts a lifetime.
– Mary

Take a moment and ask yourself:

  • Do I make a conscious effort to choose well always?  This applies to choices such as what I read, what I watch (television, movies), the friends I spend time with, the conversations that I have, the attitude with which I approach my work and duties, how I spend money, and the prioritization of prayer in my life.
  • What areas do you struggle with the most and can you will yourself toward improvement?
  • In Chapter 13, Kreeft says, “God works most effectively in our lives when He seems most absent.” Have you ever felt God was absent? Did you find in looking back on that experience God was active in your life even when you did not feel him?
  • De Caussade speaks of “the sacrament of the present moment”, that in order to live in reality, we must see and find God everywhere. (Chapter 10)  Kreeft says, “practicing the presence of God”, is the single most effective aid to becoming holy that he knows. What does that mean for you? Describe what would look like in your life and how it can help in your journey to become a saint.

Please feel free to comment on the above questions or anything that moved you in Chapters 7 through 13.

Share your thoughts!

5 thoughts on “How To Be Holy – Chapters 7 to 13

  • Steven Gaghan

    Kreeft’s statement at the end of Chapter 10 is one of the best arguments for Purgatory or our time of purification before we get to heaven. “…if you really think that you can endure and enjoy the full light and fire of God a second after you die, being essentially the same kind of being you are now, without any additional divine operations on your soul, then you dangerously underestimate either your sinful nature or God’s holiness or the gap between them.”
    Purgatory is one of those beliefs in the Catholic Church that I’ve struggled with as convert to the faith. I converted over 14 years ago, but it’sonly been over the last few months that I am beginning to understand why we need it.
    Does the knowledge that I’m going to spend time being purified “scare” me into loving more and willing to do good though? It doesn’t. That decision is a daily struggle for and consequently, I fall everyday. At the same time, I believe – no, I know that overall I am doing better at willing to make that good choice each day. The only way I am getting better is through my love and devotion to our God and our Holy Mother and their abounding love for me.

    • Deacon Ralph Post author

      Kreeft’s insights are very helpful in understanding the need and logic behind purgatory! He is right on in his assessment. How holy, how perfect do you have to be to share in Divine Life? Completely holy and100% perfect . Very few of us will arrive at the Pearly Gates in that state so, praise God, there is a purgatory!

    • Mary French

      “…I fall everyday. At the same time, I believe – no, I know that overall I am doing better at willing to make that good choice each day”.
      That truly is how we know we are on the right path, no matter how difficult or agonizingly slow it seems. Willing the correct choices. Willing until they become effortless habits – virtues – that in the end will help us get to where we were destined to be.

  • Debbie Kerch

    I sometimes find Peter Kreeft’s writing a little deep, but I’m usually able to take one thought away from each chapter. What really has been standing out to me is his reference to achieving Holiness and doing the will of God. I sometimes find it hard to decern what God’s will is for me because I think there should be a bigger picture. However if I use Saint Theresa the Little Flower as an example, I realize that by doing charitable works that present themselves and the mundane everyday things to the best of my ability with great love, is God’s will for me. I tend to make things more complicated than they have to be and I always think that God’s will should be difficult. But again if God’s will is following his Commandments and if God’s will is love, then his will in my life should be easy. These are the things I tend to forget when I over-think and complicate things.

    • Mary French

      We sound like kindred spirits, Debbie. I overthink and complicate as well. The past year or two I have been trying to focus on the same very thing as you mentioned — doing God’s will. And although I feel that I struggle to discern that will, if I am honest with myself and take the time to just be open to what is needed in each moment and to follow the little promptings I feel throughout the day, I realize that it’s not so difficult at all. Sometimes we simply need to make the effort (to will) that our brains quiet so that we can hear what is being told to us in so many obvious ways. Easier said than done. But with time … hopefully perfected!