I like to contemplate the holiness present

I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. — Pope Francis

Yes, this is it. Descriptions of the truest soul of holiness, charity. Charity, which is the love with which God loved us in Christ. Holiness is when our love synthesizes, harmonizes, mixes, fuses with God’s love, and then overflows our cup into unsung acts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Holiness is what St. Thérèse manifested when she said, “I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies.” Because ecstasy, from ek histanai, means “to stand out of yourself.” Get out of yourself, over yourself, and into God and your neighbor.

My wife loves to say that for her the premier sign of holiness in others is found in people who are “unaware of themselves.” Not meaning they don’t have self knowledge, but that when you are with them, things don’t turn back on them but on others. The exude, in a disarmingly natural way, other-centered love. The relationship of such unaware saints with God is wholly consumed with the welfare of others. Like St. Paul: “For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3). Or like the Lord Himself who, rapt in an ecstatic prayer with His Father in John 17, thinks only of us.


What a magnificent thing that God’s love, epitomized in the Last Judgment scene in Matthew 25:31-46, is not competitive. Rather, God delights most when we make our love for Him all about the people around us. Including our parents, spouse, children, friends, co-workers, enemies. Especially our enemies. God’s favorite way of being loved is through the enemy, the one we find most disagreeable, irritating, objectionable, repulsive. As God the Father said to St. Catherine of Siena:

I ask you to love me with same love with which I love you. But for me you cannot do this, for I love you without being loved. Whatever love you have for me you owe me, so you love me not gratuitously but out of duty, while I love you not out of duty but gratuitously. So you cannot give me the kind of love I ask of you.

This is why I have put you among your neighbors: so that you can do for them what you cannot do for me–that is, love them without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself. And whatever you do for them I will consider done for me.

So your love should be sincere. You should love your neighbors with the same love with which you love me. Do you know how you can tell when your spiritual love is not perfect? If you are distressed when it seems that those you love are not returning your love or not loving you as much as you think you love them. Or if you are distressed when it seems to you that you are being deprived of their company or comfort, or that they love someone else more than you.

May we take one step today toward this holiness, which the revolution of love.

4 comments on “I like to contemplate the holiness present

  1. Jennifer says:

    Tom, this is so beautiful and such a reset on my thinking as I look out at my to-do list for the week ahead. Thank you for that cool breeze of a reminder of how blessed I am to have a full plate; so many potential opportunities to participate in His love for others, and with others for love of Him!
    (Reading this post I just envision Him calling us to play in the garden, not sure why but I thought I’d put it out there.)

    Oh, how He loves us!

    Have a blessed day, all!

  2. DismasDancing says:

    My bride’s aunt has Alzheimer’s. Diagnosed about two years ago, the disease progresses slowly fast, evicting memory, even of two seconds ago, sapping dignity, inflicting debilitating physical pain accompanied by the most pathetic senses of loss–wherein deeper pain has yet to reach its ugly apogees. Battered by cruel senses of inadequacy and the ever-present, ever-horrible “I-wish-it-were-me” sense of guilt, my bride, bathed in deep, totally selfless, mind-numbing, bone-tiring love (devolved to primary caretaker moons ago), brings the pitiless fatigue, earned but unappreciated by those who should own it, home to the refuge of an understanding embrace, a smile, a “thank you” for those who don’t/won’t offer them. She sobs deeply. My throat constricts; her pain cuts to my soul. Shamelessly, I allow the chasms carved into my soul by her anguish to evoke an eruption of unplanned, unanticipated convulsive anger from deep within. Never aimed at the one for whom long ago I swore protection—voice raised, angry words hurled—at the guilty, certainly NOT at the innocent one who shivers in my grasp; but at those who should—but don’t—care. And then I read:

    “This is why I have put you among your neighbors: so that you can do for them what you cannot do for me–that is, love them without any concern for thanks and without looking for any profit for yourself. And whatever you do for them I will consider done for me.”

    “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” “Confiteor, Dei omnipotenti…mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa…!” “And a child shall lead the way…” In this case, a bride to whom I have clung for half a century. A bride who does what she does, not fearing that giving away the “crumbs” might leave her hungry. In this case, the Holy Spirit sends a friend to hurl the Divine Spear of healing salve: God’s words through one of His beloved saints, piercing a bitter heart and troubled soul that simply needed reminding—mine.

    Eternal thanks, my dear friend. You are, and have been, an awesome blessing. And to that I can only add, “Praise God from Whom ALL blessings flow!!!!”

    I love you, my dear friend in Christ.

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