How Do I Grow in Holiness This Lent?

Have you hit a wall in growing in holiness? For a long time I feel that I have.

Until a few weeks ago, I didn’t know how to overcome this, but then I discovered an old practice that all the saints partook in to help them grow close to God.

A Reader Hits a Spiritual Wall

I’ll share it with you below, but first this question from a reader, who emailed me a year ago echoing my own struggle:

I’m a Catholic convert, going on about 10 years now. I think what has been a continual struggle for me as I grow deeper in the faith is the question “how do I grow in virtue?

I come from a Calvinistic background. We focused a little bit on “discipleship,” but there was no concept of holiness, growing in holiness, disciplining the flesh. When one believes in the “once saved, always saved” mentality, growing in virtue or doing good deeds are not necessities, but secondary in importance. (At least in my experience.)

Anyway, as a Catholic, I do lots of spiritual reading, participate in the sacraments, especially Confession, as much as I can. This helps, and I know this is a lifelong process. But, I have yet to really find out the best steps or a systematic way to grow in holiness, or the virtues, as a serious Catholic.

I know a life of penance and fasting regularly certainly helps also, whether it’s Lent, Fridays, Advent, special fasts or intentions or penances. For those of us who are (hopefully) not in serious sin, but trying to do our best, I just don’t know how to go to the next level. I don’t know how to get beyond the same level in the spiritual life of not being in mortal sin, but not being a model of virtue either. I just feel at a loss, even when I ask priests. I have never gotten a practical answer.

Amen! I could have asked this same question. And for a year, I didn’t have an answer for this reader.

Then I watched this video:

Meditation? Hmm, I’ve heard of it, read about it, have no clue how to do it.

Meditation: What Is It?

Quite simply, meditation is a form of prayer where you focus your mind for a period of time on some attribute of God, Christ, His Church, etc.

For instance, you could spend 10 minutes meditating in silence on God’s goodness, or His omnipotence, or His omniscience, or Christ’s life on earth, His Passion, the marks of the Church, and so on.

It will be hard at first. You may only make it through five minutes. You may have to go into a completely quiet room or church to block out distractions. Your mind may jump around everywhere to worries, tasks you need to do, or fears, but you simply train it back to your topic of meditation.

This is not Eastern Mysticism, Buddhist meditation, centering prayer, or anything like that. It is an ancient Catholic practice of prayer.

Meditation: A Key to Growing in Holiness

Why meditate? Fr. Ripperger answers that question above: one cannot become as holy as God wills without meditation. The saints all meditated (and ascended to higher levels of prayer). One cannot conquer venial sin without meditation, a claim I had never heard before!

Meditation is the gateway to deeper forms of prayer, but you can’t bypass it. Years ago I read books by St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila–two saints considered geniuses on prayer–but it was too deep for me. I couldn’t understand, practically, how to meditate and begin to penetrate into the inner levels of the Interior Castle.

In Fr. Ripperger’s talk he lays out very practical, simple ways to meditate. Sit or kneel in silence for as long as you are able meditating on some truth of the Catholic Faith. Your goal should be 15 minutes of meditation. For me that means about 7 minutes in the morning and 8 in the evening, but I’m working up to more.

Why Haven’t We Been Told About Meditation?

I have asked priests; the reader who emailed me had asked a priest. None could answer the simple question of how to grow in holiness. None recommended meditation.

Why? Were they hiding this secret?

No, I think that most priests don’t know about meditation. Like so many traditional practices, it has been largely forgotten.

It was only through my wife finding this video on YouTube and sharing it with me did I find a straightforward explanation of meditation and why it is valuable.

What I love about this new-to-me practice is that it is not mysterious or secret or even very difficult: you kneel, you quietly pray and meditate on a truth of God. 

This is basic meditation. You will grow closer to God through it.

Are you looking for a way to grow in holiness this Lent? Commit to meditating for 15 minutes per day, either in the morning, at night, or splitting it up into two sessions.

Sainthood here we come.

From Humdrum to Holy: Walking with Jesus to Mount Zion

Man’s supernatural end

The Catholic Church teaches that: “By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love in the fullness of time, God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange” (CCC 221).

Through Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, our participation in this eternal exchange is possible. Man has been created by love and for love.

Here on earth our lives as Christians consist in the image of Jesus being reproduced in us by means of the love of God that has been shed abroad in our hearts which empowers us to love God and neighbor and in so doing fulfill the law of Christ.

Enter Fr. Ed Broom, O.M.V.

A priest for more than 30 years dedicated to giving the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, Fr. Broom knows well what it takes to live out the Christian faith by following in the footsteps of Jesus.

In his recent book titled From Humdrum to Holy, Fr. Broom has put together a comprehensive yet eminently practical plan of action to grow in holiness and therefore closer to Jesus.

At 24 chapters and a little over 120 pages, it is comprehensive in its scope of topics and short enough to be read in one sitting.

One of the book’s most powerful points is its first chapter which focuses on the question of our existence: “why are we here in this world?“.

Fr. Broom’s answer is St. Ignatius’: “Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.

This constitutes a strong foundation that keeps everything in the book firmly grounded in the reality of our daily lives and the choices we make.

Chapters 4 and 17 build on that foundation by reminding us of the importance of self-knowledge and the possibility of falling into mortal sin and dying in that state. Far from being fear-mongering, such exhortations help us not forget that our choices have eternal consequences and that this life is an arena of combat in which a lot is at stake.

Take heart and step into the fray

The remaining chapters present us with a rich treasure trove of steps and actions we can take to start living holy lives and walk more closely with our Lord.

Everything from morning prayer to daily Scripture reading, spiritual reading, learning about the Faith, daily examination of conscience, prayers of dedication to the Blessed Virgin Mary, invocation of angels and saints, more frequent reception of the sacraments with adequate preparation and many others are presented so they can be immediately applied in your life.

In sum, Fr. Broom has provided us with a fine resource we can constantly go back to for encouragement and sound advice on how we can better live the fundamental vocation of all Christians; the universal call to holiness. It is my hope and prayer that this book will strengthen your resolve and furnish you with the tools and means to do the will of our Father in heaven.