I had a topic ready for this article. I did a little research, I pulled together some thoughts I’d shared with the Lay Dominican group during formation, and I wrote down three pages of notes to organize and edit down to a nice piece on …
Well, that doesn’t matter now. What happened to me was that I was reading Ralph Martin’s The Fulfillment of All Desire and a message jumped out at me that I’d already heard in Matt Fradd’s Pints with Aquinas podcast the day before. And I had to toss out (or put aside) my idea for this one.
First, let me back up a little.
I quit my job at the end of September, found out a month and a half later that my husband’s position was being eliminated, and then settled on going back to work at the restaurant when he found a new position (which he loves!!) that has what we hope is a temporary pay cut. So I’m back to waiting tables, and my faith life has been a huge struggle lately.
I’m struggling to do the bare minimum as a Lay Dominican, and I’m feeling like I’m crossing this spiritual desert most of the time. All the while, I have been feeling like I just ought to be doing so much more. Not just the minimum as a Dominican, but more than that! I feel like I ought to be praying more novenas, setting more time aside for study and prayer, going about doing more Holy Stuff.
Mind you, I am guilty of wasting time on my days off. But that’s not even the whole thing. I just feel like I’m not doing enough. And that has been nagging me a bit lately.
Then, on an episode of Pints with Aquinas (“Overcoming Scrupulosity“), Matt Fradd and his guests were discussing the idea that becoming holy has something to do with our pious actions. And while pious actions assist us in drawing near to God, they are not necessarily a sign of holiness. (The discussion starts at about 27:18.) The money quote for me was this (given by Fr. :
We think holiness equals intensity. So the more intense, the more hardcore I am, the more holy I am. … I’ve had some guys I work with that have left seminary, and it’s really hard to think ‘I’ve left seminary. I’m not doing a Holy Hour any more because I have a job, I’m not praying the Office, I’m praying less, which means I’m less holy, and I’m less intense, and I love God less.’
They go on to say that this is not what holiness looks like. You have to look at your state in life and see what your spiritual life is supposed to look like. More prayer isn’t necessarily better, and this kind of thinking can lead to scrupulosity.
I was pondering that on and off, and last night I went to Adoration to pray and to write notes on my article. After praying Evening Prayers and making those notes, I picked up Ralph Martin’s book, which has been sitting on a shelf for … ahem … a while. I realized that I had forgotten everything I’d read so far, but I had been highlighting some main points. I decided to go back and skim over those points (reading more when I needed to) and get ready to delve into the book further. Suddenly, a paragraph that I’d highlighted jumped out at me. Martin is discussing what “holiness” really means, and he quotes Ephesians 1:4, then says this:
To be holy is not primarily a matter of how many Rosaries we say or how much Christian activity we’re engaged in; it’s a matter of having our heart transformed into a heart of love. It’s a matter of fulfilling the great commandments which sum up the whole law and the prophets: to love God and our neighbor, wholeheartedly. Or as Teresa of Avila puts it, holiness is a matter of bringing our wills into union with God’s will. (p.2)
I often tell my family and friends that God has a two-by-four with my name on it, and He frequently has to smack me upside the head with it. I’m kind of dense a lot of the time, and I’m bad at really paying attention to what God wants me to do more often than I’d really like to admit. And this struggle I’ve been having with my path to holiness, and whether or not I’m actually moving forward on it, has been filled with these ideas that I’m just not doing enough holy stuff. I don’t make it to Mass often enough. I don’t pray as often as I’d like. I’m distracted sometimes when I am praying.
But I really do desire to do better. I want to get close to God, to do His will. I want to improve and move down the path of holiness towards Him. And when I look back at my life and how I think and act, I really can see a difference between me today and me a year or two ago.
I’m not saying I shouldn’t improve, because everyone can always improve their spiritual life. But what I am saying is that maybe I’m still going in the right direction, even if I’m tripping and stumbling on the rocks along the pathways.
Copyright 2019 Christine Johnson