Spirituality for Today – April 2013 – Volume 17, Issue 9

A Presumption of Holiness

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

Morning light approaches, alarm clocks buzz, and among the awakening throng are the Church's clergy. Many speak a fervent prayer that this day will not host some new scandal, some new offence to that presumption of holiness assigned to their number by fellow clergy and the laity alike. After all, isn't their sacrament called "Holy" Orders? There are a multitude of challenges in living the life of a priest, as well as that of a deacon or of a religious, in a manner expected by those whom they serve and from God who has entrusted that service to them. One can look into the ethics and moral life of the members of any institution and find a certain percentage of seriously flawed individuals. Nevertheless, when it is revealed in a member of the Church, he is hued in singular shame. Uttering the claim of being "only human" does little to lessen the impact on the greater community. The members of the Church, the people of God, those who are called to be Christ-like are expected authentically to live up to a higher standard.

A photo of a clergyman's collar

Let the professors of Christianity recommend their religion by deeds of benevolence – by Christian meekness – by lives of temperance and holiness.

Richard Mentor Johnson
Ninth Vice-President of the United States

Like it or not, the Christian bears the great responsibility of being a true witness of the Gospel. Rather than running from this expectation, the followers of Christ need to realize it by the manner in which they conduct their daily lives. God provides the believer with a "spiritual tool box" filled with those instruments that aid in accomplishing this mission: grace, prayer, wisdom, self-awareness, compassion, forgiveness, and courage – just to name a few. Reflecting fervently on each gift opens a vision into a new person, a person with potentialities never recognized. In addition, an appreciation of one's vulnerabilities to sin and the insight required to disperse the fog of denial is found there within.

A man who governs his passions is master of his world. We must either command them or be enslaved by them. It is better to be a hammer than an anvil.

Saint Dominic

Failures in this lifelong quest toward holiness has caused severe damage to the Church throughout its past and into its present. Yet, as fire destroys, it also purifies. The flames that devastate a great part of a city also destroy the pestilence infecting it. A scandal can dishearten good men and women of the Church, but it also can strengthen their resolve to live for Christ more visibly and more faithfully. In truth, it is in this renewed effort to invigorate faith both in the quality of worship and morality that plants the seed of societal change. Pope Benedict XVI has called for an evaluation of the "moral tenor" of our culture and bids us raise it. Decades of society slowly institutionalizing moral chaos must come to an end. There is much good in being tolerant and non-judgmental, but there is much in the individual and in society that must not be tolerated and must be censored from one's self and from the public arena. From the moment of Christ's commission to his apostles until this day, the work of Christian love giving hope and guidance to the prevailing culture must be made more and more visible. In all times and places, the people of the world may presume that all claiming the name Christian are persons striving to be holy.