Husband & Wife Articles


 

Household Holiness

God calls us in our daily family life

By Bill Keimig

My oldest son loves to do battle. Usually with light sabers. He and I often tear around the house and stop in spots to lock blades (the plastic collapsible kind). He likes battle. So does his dad. And it’s part of my vocation to train my sons and daughters for the battle of their lives – spiritual combat – the fight to become holy with God’s grace.

The Keming Family 

Today is All Saints Day – that great holy day when the vast cloud of heavenly witnesses is celebrated. Yet it is not as important to celebrate those who are already in heaven as it for us to realize that  we should emulate them and end up in the same place. In fact, the Church’s overwhelming message of this day is that saints come from every era, every social background, every educational level, every vocation, every occupation, and every age – very young, very old, and even middle-aged like me!

The great Communion of Saints offered by Mother Church is not for placing a few special people on marble pedestals. Instead, our feast today shouts to us that a life of holiness is not a pipe dream – it’s possible for me. How about that? Me, an ordinary dad! Yet why not, since the two greatest saints were first called to be a mom and a dad, St. Mary and St. Joseph?

Grasping this was important for me. I was not raised breathing Catholic air. My family went to Sunday Mass, but never to Confession (I have no memory of my first Confession). I was not confirmed until after my marriage. I never didn’t believe in God, but my prayers and faith were not interior. I understood that I was expected to be good, and felt guilt when I sinned, but without any sense of a need to sharpen my perception of “goodness,” to hold it to an objective standard, or to form my conscience by any deliberate study of truth. I didn’t have my sights set high.

This all changed by my falling in love with my future wife. Her strong, well-informed Presbyterian faith was extremely attractive to me. Her parents were missionaries, and they made me their project.

Their personal love of Jesus was a striking revelation, and I offered no resistance. For me, at this transitional point in my life (getting married; getting God), my life had to be all or nothing.

My fiancé, then wife, and I turned ourselves towards ministry, eventually discerning our work to be in the Catholic tradition. In finally listening to Mother Church, I realized that God wanted us to realize that the path of real progress in personal holiness is not complex or hard to figure out – it’s made up of ordinary, everyday stuff, found in family life.

How do I understand spiritual “progress” towards holiness at this point in my journey? For me, it is the question of how do I stay close – an intimacy question. Who has God given me to love right now? Here is what I see that I should be seeking (however poorly I do so at present):

I try to listen to God’s words at Mass and in study. I try to repent and confess with regularity. I receive Communion as often as I can. I talk to others about him, most especially those within my vocational life, but also those who would stretch my comfort zone, and those “most in need of thy mercy.” I try to prioritize loving over doing, listening over speaking, trusting over doubting, simplicity over calculation, giving over accumulation, fasting over ease. I ask God to help me pray, and ask him to give me prudence to see what to care about, and what to let go. I try to live expectantly and not in fear of disaster – God desires my good, desires my peace, desires me. I try to hold my wife close to me as my prime calling in this life, and by that to discover the nature of God’s generosity and my deep need.

I think our highest spiritual wisdom is to see that no life circumstance will ever come upon me in such a way that I could be justified in ignoring a command of the Lord or a vocational duty.

So, what gain is there in a practical real-world pursuit of sainthood? Mother Church tells us that, among other things, the benefits include: fidelity in our vocation, joy, and freedom from self-centeredness. Sounds like a war worth fighting! As I finish writing this, my son is calling me for another saber fight. So, for this Knight, it’s off to battle!

Bill Keimig writes from Maryland, where he lives with his wife, Heather (who wrote the Husband & Wife column for May 2011), and their five children.