The Simple Path to Holiness: the Careful Performance of our Daily Duties

Blessed Anna Maria Taigi

Today (June 9) is the feast of Blessed Anna Maria Taigi. She was one of the most remarkable lay mystics in the history of the Church. Despite being favoured with many extraordinary mystical gifts, and consulted by bishops, popes and even other saints, she kept her feet on the ground, and lived the life of a busy mother in Rome in the 1800′s. In fact, she was so focused on properly fulfilling her duties that she was known to ask God to stop favouring her with ecstacies and other spiritual gifts so that she would not be distracted from her work!

The chief road to sanctity for all of us is found through the careful performance of our daily duties. Perhaps some people are called to extraordinary things, but for most of us holiness will be entirely found within our ordinary life.

Does this mean that we are not called to be great saints, and can instead live a life of mediocrity? Not at all! Jesus tell us that we should strive to be perfect as the Heavenly Father is perfect. Far from a life of mediocrity, this is a life of great holiness. Anyone with a busy job or with a family or other commitments knows just how difficult it is to perform all of our duties as perfectly as possible.

*****

In his work, Meditations and Devotions, the holy Cardinal, St John Henry Newman, outlines a simple path to holiness:

“It is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be perfect, we have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well. A short road to perfection – short, not because easy, but because pertinent and intelligible. There are no short ways to perfection, but there are sure ones.

I think this is an instruction which may be of great practical use to persons like ourselves. It is easy to have vague ideas what perfection is, which serve well enough to talk about, when we do not intend to aim at it; but as soon as a person really desires and sets about seeking it himself, he is dissatisfied with anything but what is tangible and clear, and constitutes some sort of direction towards the practice of it.

We must bear in mind what is meant by perfection. It does not mean any extraordinary service, anything out of the way, or especially heroic- not all have the opportunity of heroic acts, of sufferings – but it means what the word perfection ordinarily means. By perfect we mean that which has no flaw in it, that which is complete, that which is consistent, that which is sound – we mean the opposite to imperfect. As we know well what imperfection in religious service means, we know by the contrast what is meant by perfection.

He, then, is perfect who does the work of the day perfectly, and we need not go beyond this to seek for perfection. You need not go out of the round of the day.

I insist on this because I think it will simplify our views, and fix our exertions on a definite aim.

If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first-

Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising;

give your first thoughts to God;

make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament;

say the Angelus devoutly;

eat and drink to God’s glory;

say the Rosary well;

be recollected; keep out bad thoughts;

make your evening meditation well;

examine yourself daily;

go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.”

*****

This is also called by St. Thérèse of Lisieux “the little way”, a loving commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives. She took her assignments in the convent of Lisieux as ways of manifesting her love for God and for others. She worked as a sacristan by taking care of the altar and the chapel; she served in the refectory and in the laundry room; she wrote plays for the entertainment of the community. Above all, she tried to show a love for all the nuns in the community. She played no favourites; she gave of herself even to the difficult members. Her life sounds so routine and ordinary, but it was steeped in a constant and courageous denial of self. It is called a little way precisely by being simple, direct, yet calling for amazing fortitude and commitment.

St Francis de Sales tells us:

A very small virtue may be of greater value in a soul where divine love fervently reigns, than martyrdom itself in a soul where love is languishing, feeble, and dull.

That is the secret: to inject all of our actions with love, doing each simple task to the best of our possibilities Therein lies the value of our actions. Thus, even simple household duties performed with love are of greater value than heroic deeds performed with lukewarmness.

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3 Responses to The Simple Path to Holiness: the Careful Performance of our Daily Duties

  1. Reblogged this on Zero Lift-Off and commented:
    Thank you Kathleen for another tremendously valuable article containing wonderful insights into God’s Grace and Mercy which paves the way to true Salvation and fulfillment! As I began to write here in response I felt more compelled to go on to a point that would appear more complete, so I actually spent more time than I really had or anticipated; having to wake early, but I know something from above helped me to push on to that proper point of departure to sleep!

    “There are no short ways to perfection, but there are sure ones.” This reminded me so much of what my dad would always tell me as a young lad with chores to do. Always be willing to tackle the task or job at hand and do your best, don’t be looking for short cuts or some way to get out of doing it and not live up to your responsibilities or obligations in life!

    Then this passage here jumps out to me as being so much like my dad’s way of looking at life in general and our proper duty or service to our Lord God who has given all of us this great opportunity, because even though we are in a fallen state we have all the equipment or accommodation to rise above all of the imperfection of this fallen nature and truly be children of God in perfect harmony with His Glory and Absolute Perfection in Heaven!

    “This is also called by St. Thérèse of Lisieux “the little way”, a loving commitment to the tasks and to the people we meet in our everyday lives. She took her assignments in the convent of Lisieux as ways of manifesting her love for God and for others.”

    Why else would God Himself come down to this level which compared to heaven must be utter chaos and so atrocious to God and all the heavenly angels! Yet He knows us and always sees that spark and potential that He planted in our hearts and souls; we weren’t meant to be tossed out with the trash or failures, so imperfect and lost, but to be living eternally in greatness; being so happy and joyous always!

    His plan is perfect and He our Lord God doesn’t intend on losing us so the opportunities to shine and show that inner glory within are always there for the taking while He is always there to assist our efforts to not fail but to succeed and if we have bumps in the road he will get us through that with our persistent faith and trust in Jesus Christ, always being there to come through for us; through thick and thin always being on our side if of course we will just be willing to approach each day with humility and our hearts open to Him, so we can take the most mundane tasks and apply ourselves to that task/job as my dad used to say, and live up to our obligations taking our responsibilities seriously with vigor, enthusiasm and even a joy; to know we are enlisted in the service of the one and only Great God Almighty our Creator and Father in heaven who loves each of us more than anyone else can or we comprehend, with eternal unconditional love! But we do need to be diligent to perform our tasks at hand thus showing our actual appreciation and respect for how much He has given to us and will when the time comes to fulfill His promise; we thus acknowledge by so doing thusly, that we are truly humbled and thankful for this gift of existing for God’s perfect plan of fulfillment and bliss. We also set a good example for others to be so inspired and help each other to rise above the fray or suffering turmoil.

    Let us not lose sight of Him first of all and then remain vigilant in seeking His glorious will for each of us as individuals that are all unique and precious to him, as long as we are listening to His voice in our hearts; trying our best to do the right thing being guided by our conscience to turn away from what we know is wrong and sinful.

    This whole idea brought something to my mind that I think is so relative as it highly speaks to our opportunity here in this life and in a harsh contrasting way but one line in this movie jumped out in my memory having seen this film as a boy with my Dad which had two among the many who I think to be all time greats in leading roles.

    “Franklin J. Schaffner (Patton) directs this true story of Henri Charriere (better known as “Papillon” or “the butterfly”), a prisoner so determined to escape the notorious Devil’s Island, he attempted it multiple times until he reached old age. Steve McQueen plays Charriere, and Dustin Hoffman is very good as the hero’s anxious, defenseless friend. Based on Charriere’s own memoir. The film is tough going (it is set, after all, on Devil’s Island) but not gratuitously violent. There are sequences that stay with one for a long time, such as Papillon’s brief stay at a leper colony and the long periods of starvation and solitary confinement he endures after each attempted flight. –Tom Keogh” quotes.net/movies/papillon

    The one line is this; “ Dega: A temptation resisted is a true judge of character.”

    Louis Dega says that about Papillon after he saves his life from a cut throat! Dega was quite moved, as he says nobody ever did that for me, it was a profound experience for him. And in the circumstance most would do the opposite is the bottom line.

    “From The Practice Of The Presence Of God The Best Rule Of a Holy Life”
    Much valuable insights to be sure in these writings.

    “Practicing the Presence of God” is a spiritual exercise that challenges us to remain focused on God during an “everyday task or chore.” Long associated with Brother Lawrence, a monk who wrote about his experiences with “Practicing the Presence,” it is a spiritual approach to life that asks us to break down barriers that distract us from God’s presence. In this article, we discuss some of the important ideas, Scripture, and thoughts from Brother Lawrence to help you better understand Practicing the Presence of God.” spirituallyhungry.com

    “Translator Robert J. Edmonson had a similar experience. “I had an image of Brother Lawrence as a jolly monk who took pleasure in cleaning pots and cooking,” Edmonson wrote. “I was struck by the depth of his love for God and his life lived in obedience, humility, and concern for others.”[4] This paradox reflects the challenge facing translators, which is best illustrated by comparing the translations of one of the more famous passages. First, from the original 1692 French edition of Maximes spirituelles:
    L’on seroit même surpris si l’on sçavoit ce que l’ame dit quelquefois à Dieu.[5]
    Robert Edmonson took a straightforward approach in his translation of this Maximes passage:
    We would be quite surprised if we knew what the soul sometimes says to God.[6]” Wikipedia.org

    The following PDF file when you have time should be to your pleasure and happiness I believe to read on in conjunction with the video presentation as to what this humble man in a monastery did for God; living up to his obligations and responsibilities.

    http://www.pathsoflove.com/pdf/Practice-of-the-Presence-of-God.pdf

    Brother Lawrence said and I quote: “That perfect resignation to God was a sure way to heaven, a way which we had always sufficient light for our conduct.”

    You know me by now, that I can be too long winded and indeed there is so much I would like to get into regarding the movie and character as well the subject of this fine article; but as I must retire soon it would be best to add this one other line, a famous quote from a good man who was saintly and an example that I wish so many people today would be trying to live up to in behavior and character; but sadly so many are off the rails!

    Martin Luther King, Jr. – “The ultimate measure of a man is… The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

    God bless you all and I hope I’ve put a bit of focus on even a modicum of inspiration in your own hearts. Amen.

    Brother in Christ Jesus,
    Lawrence Morra III

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kathleen says:

    Oh Lawrence, thank you so much for your wonderful comment that helps us dig in deeper into the simple but sure path to perfection. It is the same humble path Our Blessed Lord taught us to take when He said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” – (Matt.18:3). And also: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” – (Matt. 5:48). Naturally we know that absolute perfection is found only in God, and “in human nature’s only boast” **, the Blessed Virgin Mary, but nonetheless Our Lord urges us to follow this path. The little, hidden, forgotten-by-the-world, suffering souls who strive to do just that in their daily lives are the most beloved of the Lord.
    (** words of St J.H. Newman)

    Thank you for the reblog, for your great additional insights above, and for posting that most appropriate video, “Practicing the Presence of God”. I’ve only had time to listen to the first few minutes so far and already I’m eagerly looking forward to listening to the rest.

    Like

  3. Brother Burrito says:

    What a lovely article! Thank you Kathleen. Dewi Sant’s famous saying:
    “Do ye the little things in life” (“Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd”)
    attests to the same ideas.

    Like

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