Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking, “What more can we do in order to make my parish a holier place?” A certain amount of that is good. It is a good thing to have another Mass or a class or more holy hours or confessions. But you can only add so much activity and then it just becomes more activity. And as the saying goes we just become busy people being busy – not necessarily growing in holiness. At some point a different approach is needed.
The most important thing that can happen is that the individual strive for personal sanctity. Instead of running around trying to make other people holy, the focus has to be becoming holier oneself. If a husband wants his wife to be holier, he must become so. If a mother wants her children to become holier, she should become so. If a pastor wants his people to become holier, he must become so. You can only give what you’ve got.
Here is the trick however – you cannot become holier FOR another person. That is to put on the appearance of holiness is not enough; to pray the rosary to be seen, to walk around with a solemn face, to speak condescendingly to others who do not appear to be as holy. Holiness in this regard is only a veneer and it is easily seen through. Rather such conviction must come from within and be a natural flowering of the faith, joy, and holiness taking root deep in one’s heart.
Starting clubs, prayer groups, initiatives, making posters, offering more and more and more stuff is a good start but too often a substitute for the hard work of holiness and a quick (and not as long lasting) fix. (Not that they are bad in and of themselves!) The individual choosing holiness is the way the Church has always renewed itself. It takes A LOT longer for this “leaven to raise the dough” but when it does it is more deeply seated and longer lasting.