By Shannan McQuade
There seems to be a certain joy and authenticity that engulfs many young people in the Church today. This joy is one that flows freely from them and is given freely as a witness to those whom they encounter. Most impressively, it is offered in times of hardship. That joy and authenticity are contagious and attractive to others who witness and encounter those who possess it.
But where does it come from and how is it obtained?
This is the fruit of holiness and living your life for and with Christ. Holiness is a quality that is very attractive to young people in the Church and to which they are drawn.
What is holiness?
First, it’s beneficial to understand what is meant by the idea of holiness. Father Kristopher Cowles, pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, defines holiness as “living an authentic life of joy in which Christ is the center.” He believes that for young people, the attraction of holiness is to the authenticity that comes along with possessing holiness.
There is a deep attraction to the realness of their joy, which is expressed in their holiness. In this expression of joy that comes through the experience of life journeyed with Christ, there is a level of vulnerability in their authenticity.
“They’re attractive because they are completely and totally themselves,” Father Cowles said.
When someone can let down their walls and show another who they truly are, and when that person possesses this profound joy, it’s almost magnetic in the way that others are drawn to them.
What’s the attraction?
What about being holy is attractive to not only friendship, but also a spouse?
The authenticity that is brought out through the joy of Christian living is one that is a foundation of lifelong friendships. The foundation of a Christ-centered vulnerability leads to a deeper friendship, one that sparks a contagious joy. This joy, when witnessed by others, can lead to the forming of new friendships.
This is the attraction that is most often seen and experienced by young people. They see people their own age who love Christ and have an abundant joy, and they want what they have.
When it comes to the spousal relationship, Father Cowles says, “Seeing holiness in another calls out the greatness in ourselves to better ourselves.”
When we experience life with another who has a deep holiness about them, we become aware of the ways in which we can become holier ourselves. We see the ways in which we are being called to deepen our relationship with Christ and better ourselves. The goal of marriage is to get the other to heaven, and there should be a sh
ared confidence in challenging each other to holiness.
But, Father Cowles reminds us that it is important that we “don’t get too serious about it.” It’s easy to become frustrated by our failures, so it’s important that in a spousal relationship, spouses can “accept the person for who they are and where they are at, and love them to the next level,” Father Cowles suggests. The spousal relationship is a journey toward heaven together, and that means challenging one another to deeper holiness.
How do we become holy?
I think it is important to look at what qualities someone who is holy has before diving into what we can do to become holy ourselves. Those who are already living holy lives choose to live in virtue every single day. It is something that comes naturally to them.
Father Cowles says that holy people “live in a sense of loving and caring for those around them because of the love they have already received.” The very love that penetrates the soul and is the source of their joy is the very love with which they love those around them.
The first suggestion Father Cowles makes to us when we desire to grow in holiness is that we spend time with people who are holy because “when we can see how holy people act, it becomes easier to become like them.”
You may have heard that we become like the five people we spend most of our time with, so if we surround ourselves with holy people, we are going to be encouraged and challenged to become like them.
Father Cowles offered some other practical steps that we can take to become holier. His most important tip was to pray more. He emphasized the importance of “spending more time in communion with the source of holiness.” The more time someone spends in relationship with Christ, the more they will become like him.
Father Cowles also suggested that we take the time to examine ourselves and see which particular virtues we desire to grow in, and then work towards growth in that particular area. Through communion with the source of holiness itself, we can see the ways in which we are not like God and have a starting point for growth. His abundant love is freely given to us, and we in turn, are called to freely give that same love to others.
“We focus on praying, almsgiving and fasting in secret that we think we need to be holy in secret,” Father Cowles offers as his final advice to growing in holiness. “Authentic holiness means living authentically who you are every single day.”
Holy people allow the joy of Christian living to flow from themselves every day. Virtue is something that is easy and part of their very being. Therefore, they choose to live in virtue every single day.
The attractiveness of holiness in others is rooted in the desire to obtain the contagious joy that flows from a holy person. When we are vulnerable and allow for the love we’ve been freely given to freely flow from us to those we encounter, we come in contact with holiness. And, when we surround ourselves with holiness, we have no other option but to be called into deeper communion with the very source of holiness: Christ himself.