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Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB


Abbot Peter NovecoskyThe call to holiness

The Fourth Sunday of Easter is designated across the global church as a World Day of Prayer for Vocations. It is a special day of prayer for priestly, diaconal and religious vocations. This issue of the Prairie Messenger features stories highlighting these ministries in the church.
The question of vocations always reminds us that all Christians are called to different vocations. It is clear church teaching that all are called to serve God and their neighbour, regardless of their state of life.
We no longer feel the strong impact the Second Vatican Council made with its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) when it emphasized in Chapter 5 that all Christians are called to holiness of life. It proclaimed: “All in the church, whether they  belong to the hierarchy or are cared for by it, are called to holiness, according to the apostle’s saying: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification’ ” (No. 39).
The council, and spiritual writers, emphasize that holiness is built on solid human virtues, not on entitled practices of human effort. The council emphasized that holiness is expressed in love of neighbour and care for the earth. It teaches “by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society” (No. 40).
In his message to the church as we entered the third millennium, Pope John Paul II outlined seven pastoral initiatives for the church. His first priority was holiness of life. He wrote,  “First of all, I have no hesitation in saying that all pastoral initiatives must be set in relation to holiness” (Entering into the new millennium, 30).
Christian author Matthew Kelly, in his book A Call to Joy, notes that the idea of holiness is often misunderstood. “The world portrays a saint as someone who is a social misfit, as someone who never smiles and who does not know how to enjoy himself or herself,” he writes, People believe that holiness “is about running away and leaving the world. Some think that to be holy one must be constantly on one’s knees praying.”
These are all “unnatural and unattractive images” we have seen portraying the vocation to holiness.
This point is also brought out in a story about a woman who longed to find out what heaven is like. She prayed constantly, “God, grant me in this life a vision of paradise.” One night she had a dream. An angel came and led her to heaven. They walked down a street in paradise until they came to an ordinary looking house. The angel, pointing toward the house, said, “Go and look inside.”

The woman walked in the house and found a person preparing supper, another reading the newspaper, and children playing with their toys. Naturally, she was disappointed and returned to the angel on the street. “Is this all there is to heaven?” she asked.
The angel replied, “Those people you saw in that house are not in paradise, paradise is in them!”
This pretty well sums up what holiness is all about.