Tools of Holiness
1. Let's look at some of the tools that the Church has given us for keeping holy on a daily basis:
a. Sacraments: While all the Sacraments keep us holy, Eucharist and Confession help us to do so on a daily basis. It's important not just to go to Mass on Sundays, but to take advantage of Mass during the week when we have the opportunity. Confession is essential to holiness because it helps get rid of the effects of sin, and should be done on a monthly basis.
b. Bible: The Bible is God's love letter to us and is essential for Catholics. We should be reading, meditating and memorizing Scripture. The Bible often seems intimidating, so a simple way to start getting into it is to read the daily mass readings. Oftentimes they are in the parish bulletin. Spending time every day in Scripture is key to growing in holiness. The Bible is meant to be meditated upon, and the Church has practiced that meditation for as long as there has been Scripture. This meditation is called the ‘Lectio Divino’, or Divine Reading.
c. Personal Prayer: Our daily lives can stay holy if we take time throughout the day to be with God. The prayer life of the Church is huge there are many ways to pray on our own:
i. The Rosary: This is a reflection on the lives of Jesus and Mary, using vocal prayers (Creed, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be), thinking about the events of Jesus' and Mary's life in our mind (the Mysteries) and physically using the beads of the Rosary. The Mysteries are rooted in the Bible;
ii. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy: Also using the beads of the Rosary, this prayer helps us contemplate God's great love for us, even though we are sinners;
iii. Novenas: A novena is any nine-day prayer we do for a specific intention. Generally, novenas invoke the prayers of a saint in heaven, and many pamphlets exist to help guide us through a novena. Novenas originated in the Bible, symbolic of the nine days the Apostles spent in prayer between the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost;
iv. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction: Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is personal and communal prayer before the consecrated communion host, which is the Body of Christ. Benediction refers to the blessing given by the priest with the Blessed Sacrament.
v. Icons: An icon is a holy image that we believe is literally a gaze into heaven, a gaze into the life of Christ. Icons are predominant in the Eastern part of the Church (both Catholic and Orthodox). They are a specific style of artwork, and spending time looking at them is literally the prayer of the eyes. (By the way, incense is considered the prayer of smell. Notice how our prayer life takes into consideration all of our senses.)
vi. Stations of the Cross: This is the reflection on the last hours of Christ's life, as He went from being judged, to dying and being placed in the tomb. There are fourteen stations, and our parishes generally have the Stations around the church building/property.
vii. Litanies: A litany is not just the rambling on of a person with a bad attitude. A litany is a prayer of repetition that is meant for us to reflect on the different titles of Jesus, Mary, the Saints, etc.
viii. Memorized Prayers: The Church has hundreds of prayers that help us mark the day, be it in the morning, the evening, before and after meals, to Jesus, to Mary, to the Saints, etc. Often times we look at them as meaningless because they are memorized, but when we go through struggles, they are often the first thing to which our minds turn. Look at the 'Jesus Prayer' for a great example.
ix. Liturgy of the Hours: The Church also marks the entire day by praying the Psalms of David. This form of prayer is required by priests to be prayed daily, but it can be prayed by anyone. It is often done in public, especially in religious communities, but it can also be prayed privately. The Liturgy of the Hours takes all 150 Psalms and divides them up over a four-week cycle of prayer: In four weeks, you've prayed all the psalms
d. Spiritual and Theological Reading: In addition to spending time in personal prayer, another way to keep holy is to renew our minds in reading. This is a great way to learn about the lives of the Saints and the teachings of the Church, which are a reflection of Jesus.
e. Good Works and Avoiding the near Occasion of Sin: Being holy is not just about prayer, it's also about doing what is right and staying away from tempting situations that we know will draw us to sin.