In Touch with the Holy

D. Catherine meets St John Paul II
D. Catherine meets St John Paul II


















Holiness is not something strange or above and beyond the reach of us. In fact, it is all around us, for the simple reason that God is everywhere. There is no part of the Universe where God is not. That is a comforting fact when we are faced with a lonely or discouraging experience. It is also a challenging fact when we are tempted to selfishness or moral cowardice or anything else that is less than perfect. You notice I call it a fact, not a thought. That is because most of us are apt to be a little choosey about what we deign to call ‘holy’. We like our holy places to conform to our own ideas of what they should be; we like our saints to be what we would secretly like to be ourselves. I have not the slightest hesitation in admitting that I never found St John Paul II personally sympathetic, but he is a saint, and one who challenges me much more than I find comfortable. I thank God for saints such as he.


5 thoughts on “In Touch with the Holy”

  1. Quite revealing Sr. I suspect that you may have felt differently had you the opportunity of knowing him more fully. I imagine your meeting has been something that has remained foremost in your memories, perhaps something special when you really think about it.

    Even as an Anglican, I would have counted it very special to have had the opportunity of meeting His Holiness.

    He is now in the presence of our Lord and Saviour, and is part of that great cloud of witnesses.

    Sr, we don’t communicate often, but please know that I continue to faithfully pray “every” day for you, Br Duncan, and the whole community at the monastery.

    Love and peace to you all,

    Michael J

    • I think I may not have made my meaning clear.Sanctity transcends personal preferences and probably challenges us most when we do not feel drawn to a saint’s particular way of being holy. It is not necessary to feel any personal empathy to recognize and revere the holiness God has bestowed. I have no difficulty acknowledging that St John Paul II was a saint. Indeed, as a Catholic, it would be deficient in me to deny what the Church has solemnly proclaimed. That doesn’t mean I have to find him an attractive saint in the way that I find St Bernard attractive, for example. Do you see what I am getting at, or am I still talking in riddles?
      Thank you for your prayers, Michael.

  2. Thank you for these challenging words. It’s much more comfortable to continue to think of holiness as being way beyond us and nothing to do with our ‘ordinary’ lives.

  3. I had the privilege to accompany a group of children visiting a Carmelite convent last week. The notion of holiness cropped up afterwards in conversation with the group who met the sisters. Was the convent a holy place? Was it the place or the people who live there? (The place and people left a lasting impression).
    I was left wondering how can the life of an enclosed order be compared with mine? We share so much but the scale is so different. They are doing “full-time” what I (often reluctantly) manage to do in snippets of my day. Afterwards I realised how much I had missed the point entirely. Scale is not the issue – there is holiness everywhere not just in convents or beautiful church buildings. It is not confined to rare and special people. It is weak to leave it to the sisters because of their vocation, like some elite squad who tackle an impossible job the rest of us can not even attempt. I will have to look again at what I think holiness means and where I might find it around me.

    • Absolutely. Those of us privileged to live the monastic life are aware that sometimes it is the ‘accidents’ of our lives — the buildings, the habit, the particular daily round — that are taken for holiness whereas in fact it is the reflection of God that constitutes true holiness. The buildings, the habit, the daily round, they are all meant to help us become holy; but they are not themselves what we seek.

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