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.
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.