Monday, February 17, 2003

There is nothing more attractive than holiness

We had a vocation night at my parish this past Saturday, complete with presentations and panel discussions. One of the questions asked by the kids was "Do you ever get to have any fun?" Fr. Maximos Davies, a monk at this monastery who wrote about celibacy in First Things and whom I blog about here, gave this answer: fun is not something you strive for, it is something that happens on the way to something else. In other words, strive for holiness, and fun will happen. Fr. Maximos is a wise man, and not just because he agrees with me. Many people today think that pleasure is the goal of life. But pleasure is not an end in itself--one can't just seek pleasure. Rather, one gets pleasure as a result of performing some action. Pleasure always comes with something else. For example: consider the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If you offered Warren Sapp a pill that would give him the pleasure he felt at winning the Super Bowl, do you think he would take the pill rather than the victory? We don't seek the pleasure of victory, but victory.

This point was elaborated upon later in the evening by Matthew Kelly, who kept repeating the message "There is nothing more attractive than holiness." Living a life of prayer and fasting is not something gloomy, despite the regrettable tendency in Western religious art to portray saints in fixed attitudes of gloom. It is a joyful life. Consider the joy of the prodigal son when he has returned to his father in repentance, as Fr. Maximos pointed out. What do they do? They throw a party! Further consider the saints throughout history: Benedict, Dominic, Francis, Phillip Neri, Clare, and even Jesus himself. Do people follow around gloomy people? No. But people followed these saints. People followed Jesus so much that he had to go into hiding to get time alone.

There is nothing more attractive than holiness. The great saints are holy, and shine like bonfires, attracting people to their warmth. Matthew Kelly tells his audiences that we must be holy. It is the only answer to the problems of the world, and to scandals in the Church. If we are holy, people will see it, and will want what we have. We would have a line for baptisms every Easter, and would have to build new churches rather than tear down old ones. If we were holy, if we simply lived up to our baptism, the Catholic Church would shine like the sun, and all would come to her joyfully.

P.S.Fr. Maximos is a man of rare wisdom, and I recommend that if you live in California, you should make a pilgrimage to his monastery in the Mojave Desert. Also, if you have a chance to go see Matthew Kelly, I suggest you do so. He is a young man who has spent ten years (since he was 19) traveling the world to preach the Gospel. He is very good. Especially bring your teenage children. Last Saturday, our church was packed with teenagers eagerly listening to a guy talk about the Catholic Church! Nothing is more attractive than holiness.

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