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.

Making the Prayer of Jesus Your Own

throughwithShane Kapler has a newly published book titled Through With, & In Him: The Prayer Life of Jesus And How to Make It Our OwnIt’s a long but quite accurate title.

Shane adeptly explores Jesus’ life of prayer, situated in the Jewish culture of His day, and offers insightful reflections on how our Lord’s prayer can be ours.

I was amazed at how much of Jewish worship and day-to-day life Shane revealed. At times I felt like I was reading a historical novel of the near East two thousand years ago. It’s fascinating to learn about the context of Jesus’ life of faith. Shane shows how the Church’s prayers, devotions, and liturgy all have their roots in the life of Christ and thus in the rituals and observances of the Old Covenant.

Each chapter is filled with theological insights into the great mysteries of our Christian Faith–for example the Incarnation and life of the Holy Trinity–along with the Israelites’ practices and prayers and how they are connected to those of the Church. Finally, Shane gives practical ways that the Church offers us to deepen our prayer life today: from Eucharistic Adoration to the Divine Mercy Chaplet, from the brown scapular to the Our Father to the sacred Heart of Jesus.

The book is accessible to any Catholic, and I would recommend it to every Catholic. It offers countless insights for growing in your faith and in your own prayer. Shane’s writing style is friendly and winsome; you feel like he is a companion journeying with you as you read.

I am only too happy to encourage you to buy this great book!