|Coat of Arms|
October 13, 2010
Holiness is achieved one day at a time
Every life matters. Every life lived well, no matter how anonymous, has an impact for all eternity. Heaven is filled with “ordinary” people who became saints by living their daily responsibilities with extraordinary love and extraordinary devotion to Jesus Christ. Their example led others to God. And we can do the same.
This year marks the 45th anniversary of two of the great documents of the Second Vatican Council: the Decree on the Apostolate of Laypeople, (“Apostolicam Actuositatem”) and the Decree on the Renewal of Religious Life (“Perfectae Caritatis”).
The Council Fathers reminded us that, “in the Church there is a diversity of ministry but unity of mission.” In recognizing the vital role of laypersons throughout history in advancing the mission of Jesus Christ, they urged laypeople to help “the Gospel spirit to permeate and improve the temporal order (through) a life led in the midst of the world and of secular affairs.” They called on the laity to evangelize everyday public life “through the vigor of their Christian spirit (acting as) a leaven in the world” (AA,2).
Lay leadership in the Church takes many forms, from service in Catholic health care, publishing, catechesis and parish schools, to finance and pastoral councils, to teaching in seminaries and centers of higher learning, to direct work as missionaries in foreign countries, to hundreds of volunteer efforts to help the poor and suffering.
But the single most important thing laypeople can do in sanctifying the world is witness Jesus Christ in their daily relationships. Nothing is more powerful than raising a child, supporting a spouse, mentoring a friend and living our public lives with Christian integrity—and helping others understand why we choose to live the way we do. Holiness isn’t some magic formula available only to the obviously pious. It’s the simple, daily decision to live differently from the habits of the world; to place the needs of others before ourselves. We can all be holy. That’s our vocation. That’s why God created us. We only need to turn our good intentions into good actions—one day at a time.
The Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (“Cross for the Church and Pontiff”) and the Benemerenti Medal (“To a Well Deserving Person”) are two of the highest honors the Holy Father can confer on any person. These awards are a wonderful recognition, directly from the pope, of sustained and outstanding service to the Catholic faith. All of the lay recipients announced this week have touched scores of lives for the better, often without knowing it. They didn’t seek this honor, but their witness earned it. And equally important, in honoring them, the Holy Father honors the many other women and men just like them who live the Gospel each day with the same devoted spirit.
Vatican II also reminded us that the Church draws special strength from the sacrifice of women and men religious who “join themselves to Christ by (the) gift of their whole life.” By their devotion to the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, religious make the entire Church “more vigorous and fruitful in (her) apostolate” (PC,1). Sister Mary Catherine Widger, S.L, appropriately honored this year, has embodied the Gospel witness in an extraordinary way over the course of her religious vocation.
Finally, Vatican II also began the revival of the permanent diaconate as a vital element of Church life. The three diaconal couples also honored by the Holy Father—the Downeys, Garcias and Smiths—quietly and invisibly, year in and year out, have proved how important the permanent diaconal ministry is for the mission of the Church. They have earned the awards announced this week; we owe them our gratitude and prayers.
Please join me at the 6:30 p.m. Mass on Nov. 7 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception to congratulate the men and women honored by the Holy Father this week. And may their example be an invitation to each of us to love Jesus Christ and his Church with greater zeal.
Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. is the Archbishop of Denver. To read more from Archbishop Chaput, click here.
Thursday, Oct. 14: Presbyteral Council Meeting (10 a.m.), followed by Priests’ Personnel Board meeting, JPII Center;
Archbishop Gomez Awards Dinner, Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel (5:30 p.m.)
Friday, Oct. 15: “Faith in the Public Square,” A Prophetic Conference, Victoria, B.C. (7 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 17: White Mass, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (12:30 p.m.);
Mass, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (6:30 p.m.)
Tuesday, Oct. 19: Redemptoris Mater Installation of Lectors and Acolytes, Redemptoris Mater Chapel (5:30 p.m.)