Holiness and the Religious Life

by Father Jesus Galindo

Everyone in the Church is called to a life of holiness, and it is no different for a religious person. After all, becoming a religious does not alter human nature. God’s (and men’s) enemies are the same for all, religious and lay, namely, the devil, the world, and the flesh.

Often, people tend to idealize the religious life and think of them as being extraordinarily holy. That may be because we are seen performing or taking part in sacred functions, where an aura of holiness prevails, and we become identified with the sacred. But if the lay people mingle with the religious while the latter engage in more “mundane” endeavor (say, partying, playing sports, and the like) they might be less prone to idealizing them.

In a sense, the religious and the laity need to cooperate to help each other become holy. I think it is important to be interacting, whether at group meetings or in private conversations; doing things together, and yes, even eating together.

By and large, religious and priests are seen as “teachers,” due perhaps to the long years of study. Lay people expect to get enlightened answers from them. There was a time, hopefully, gone forever, when the priest was the factotum in the parish while the laity was left to “obey, pray and pay.”

Vatican II made it clear that we are all partners in the Church, sharing, through baptism, the same dignity, and the same mission. This important statement poses a significant challenge to us religious and priests who may still tend to consider the lay people as “assistants” rather than as partners. It likewise challenges the lay people to discover, to treasure, and to assert their role in the Church.

While we priests and religious do help the laity to grow in holiness by our ministry, we, in turn, receive inspiration and encouragement from the lay people’s dedication, perseverance in the midst of struggles, boundless generosity (with time and treasure), as well as their high regard and expectation from us.

With that, I hope that I can continue serving the Lord and his people in whatever way I can. As religious, our imperfections must not be obstacles that prevent us from pursuing the path of holiness. Rather they must be challenges which spur us to double our efforts to love God in cooperation with everyone in the Church.

As published in the November 06 issue of the Parish Bulletin.