On a recent trek through the woods behind the Monastery I was deliberate with my steps. I wanted to enjoy every bit of the beauty around me. Going step by step allowed me to take in all the wonders of autumn. Slowing down and being attentive to my surroundings also gave me the opportunity to reflect upon something I had just read in On the Call to Holiness (Gaudete et Exsultate, EG), Pope Francis’ 2018 apostolic exhortation.
Step by step, according to Pope Francis, is the way we grow in holiness. He says that we grow in holiness through “small gestures” (GE, 16). Life presents challenges; great and small, that give opportunities for conversion. Growing in holiness is found in daily behaviors like being patient at a red light, forgiving a wrong, or passing on that last piece of cake so another may enjoy a treat. Holiness can be practiced by holding our tongue during a gossip session and helping to turn the tide of conversation, choosing wisely the television we watch and the books we read, or committing to more prayer time.
We are all called to live lives of holiness. What a beautiful calling! But at times it seems daunting and we can be scared to try. Pope Francis tells us that we do not need to be afraid of holiness. Being holy will not take away our energy, vitality, or joy. On the contrary, he says that holiness will lead us to become what God had intended when we were created so that we may be our deepest self, recognizing our great dignity (GE, 32). God’s grace, according to Pope Frances, will lead us and guide us and help us to find, step by step, “more perfect ways of doing what we are already doing” (GE, 17).