A few days ago I received a letter from a fellow bishop that struck a chord with me because it emphasized the need for holiness in our lives and the hunger that people have for it. The letter was dedicated to introducing the Pro Sanctity Movement, which came to life in Rome, “The Eternal City,” in 1947, while Europe was recovering from the destruction of World War II.
Servant of God Bishop Guglielmo Giaquinta founded the movement with the conviction that the laity are called to holiness, just as much as the clergy. Even more importantly, he emphasized that holiness is not a goal attainable by only an elite few but it is meant for everyone.
Our world is longing for holiness. Just think of how people who lay their lives down for others are sought after and loved by nearly everyone.
Even the tendency to name people “heroes” for simple acts like bringing coffee to a work meeting or donating to a charitable cause shows the profound longing our society has for good to triumph, for holiness to permeate our world.
Bishop Giaquinta was prophetic, because two decades later the Second Vatican Council underscored this simple message in the dogmatic constitution, “Lumen Gentium” (No. 39). “Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the apostle: ‘For this is the will of God, your sanctification.’”
Early on in his ministry as a parish priest, Father Giaquinta discovered that his parishioners had a strong desire for a fuller experience of the faith. In particular, a group of six women professed vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and formed the Apostolic Oblates. In time, the movement has grown to include groups for priests, unmarried men and women, and married people.
Bishop Giaquinta explained the path to holiness quite simply: we must respond to God’s gift of maximum love with the maximum love we are able to give.
“Why, then, did Christ, instead of choosing the minimum to redeem us, choose the maximum?” the bishop asked. “He did it to make us aware of the seriousness of sin, but most of all because he wanted to show us the immensity of love.….” Jesus desired us to receive his love so that we might live in his love and in his truth.
God’s infinite love must be responded to by each and every believer to the best of their ability in their state of life, and this is what leads to holiness. Intimacy with Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit helps us to grow in their love and become holy as God is holy (1 Pet 1: 13-16).
As one looks at our world, filled with the consequences of sin, it has the need for holy women and men in every walk of life, in every vocation.
Bishop Giaquinta also emphasized that the call to holiness does not stop at the individual level. One of his famous sayings captures this well: “Build a civilization of love, where we become all saints, all brothers and sisters.” This follows the call of Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
This means that each of us has a responsibility to give maximum love to others, foster their growth in maximum love and, finally, help transform the structures of society so that they promote holiness.
Our world, Bishop Giaquinta says in his book “Revolt of the Samaritans,” “is in need of ‘Good Samaritans,’ modeled on the Gospel parable, who are not afraid to cross social, political and cultural lines to bring the message of love to the world.”
How true that is today. I urge everyone who reads this, especially those of you in the Archdiocese of Denver, to strive to become saints! Our nation, our world and our time needs saints who respond to God’s love with maximum love in everything they do.