Above my desk where my MacBook, printer, and lamp share their home, hangs a large framed print of one of my favorite saints, Ignatius of Loyola. He’s dressed in a red chasuble and stole, the traditional vestments for the celebration of Mass. His eyes gaze heavenward; there is a glow on his face and an aura of light around his head. His right arm is bent upward; his hand, fingers and palm also pointing upward, is open in a gesture of praise. His left hand rests on the top of an open book and on the left page are written the words “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam”: For the greater glory of God. It is the image of a saint, an image of holiness.
As much as I love this painting of St. Ignatius and how it can inspire me to stay focused on the Lord, looking at it can also make me forget that he was imperfect. Of course, that may be what the artist’s intention was: images of saints are supposed to reveal their holiness, not their imperfections. However, does being holy mean that we are perfect, that we never sin?
Listen to the words of Pope Benedict XVI:
“Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness… Consequently, it is not the fact that we have never erred but our capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness which makes us saints. And we can all learn this way of holiness” (See Pope Benedict’s catechesis on the Apostles p. 157).
I don’t know about you, but these are some of the most encouraging words that I have ever read about what it means to be holy. Holiness doesn’t mean that we’re perfect. Holiness doesn’t mean that we don’t sin. Holiness means possessing the habit of beginning again and again in our walk with the Lord, the habit of daily conversion. And what happens is that this habit of beginning again, this habit of asking for and receiving God’s forgiveness every day, eventually becomes stronger than our sinful habits. As we begin again and again, the capacity of our hearts to receive God’s forgiveness and to live in friendship with Him expands. We begin to desire God more than we desire sin.
Yes, this is very encouraging indeed. For, as the Pope says, we can all learn this way of holiness. We can all learn to persevere and walk in an intimate friendship with God.
Read the rest here.