Our Christian faith confronts us with the reality that we are called to holiness, that state of being that purifies us like unto God. This is a sobering thought, that God calls us to be perfect.
While this pursuit of perfection can lead to scrupulosity, it can also take the form of perfectionism. Enter into our most recent chat to learn of the difference. This pursuit of perfection is not about enjoying all the worldly comforts we can afford, the true pursuit requires self-denial and humility. The difficulty therein could make one wonder if holiness really is for everyone.
Saints like Francis de Sales and Vincent de Paul show us the true reward of pursuing holiness. Their lives also can provide us the assurance that God will be there alongside this pursuit, as He is the only way we can truly achieve it.
These great saints also understood the importance of passing along what they have established. This chat is just a small sample of their spiritual inheritance. Enjoy the fruits of their spiritual success.
All these topics are confronted in this latest chat installment. Come explore with us and learn more for yourself.
If you would like to chat with Catholics like yourself, why not check out our Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters. Join us at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday! We read a passage of St. Francis de Sales and then gather great insights and sharing!
Becoming Perfect vs. Perfectionism
Question: St. Francis says that everyone should pursue the “perfect life.” How can this harmonize with what St. Mother Teresa famously said: “God doesn’t require us to succeed, he only requires that you try”?
Ines: Perfection isn’t in the outcome we see. It’s in being constant and open to God’s movements in our lives, to do what he asks us to do. Which is hard for perfectionists — just thinking about this today. I learned that perfectionism gets in the way – a lot!
Caroline: Whatever He asks us to do, it is really His work. Success is by His effort.
Ines: Oh yes, Caroline. Success is due to Him, not us.
Caroline: So, if we fail in a step, the project is not delayed.
Ines: Correct… it’s so easy to be hard on ourselves when things don’t go according to our plan.
Visitation Sister: The other day I read what perfection really means. I think it was true humility, but I am not sure.
Caroline: That sounds right though. Heaven’s standard is not ours.
Ines: Yes, humility as perfection is a much better outlook.
Sherry: As for perfection, but I translated perfection always with “holiness.” Be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.
Does God Only Want Self-Denial?
Question 2: A part of pursuing holiness is self-denial. Does God just want us to be miserable, selfless people?
Ines: This question I ask a lot, Sister. Sometimes I don’t understand how self-denial works when it seems there is so much suffering in a day. Is that what God really wants?
Ines: Praised be Jesus Christ!!
Visitation Sister: Self-denial is putting others ahead of oneself in one way.
Ines: Yeah, but how do we be perfect like God? I think that humility is a perfect way to think about it, because then we’re being honest about who we are and who God is.
Sherry: I think so too, Ines.
Ines: Putting others ahead of oneself. Okay. What about when the “others” are a room full of misbehaving 8th graders? Haha.
Sherry: Then you RUUUUUUNNN!
Caroline: This is going to sound weird…humility is knowing and accepting the truth about yourself. God is all truth. Is He humble?
Visitation Sister: Yes, at least Jesus was.
Sherry: What an interesting question.
Ines: Ooo, that’s awesome, Caroline. Yes, I’d say God has to be humble. Right, Sister, Jesus was humble.
Caroline: I don’t know where I get this stuff.
Ines: The Holy Spirit!
Sherry: God is love – and humility is rooted in charity – so he has to be humble.
Ines: Very logical, Sherry!
Caroline: I mean, we tend to conflate humility and humiliation a lot, so humility can be misunderstood. So, humility is often perceived in the negative.
Ines: Oh yeah, not humiliation. Not at all the same.
Why Is Holiness for Everyone?
Visitation Sister: Q3, consider this verse: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, Leviticus 19:18). Why is it so important to emphasize that holiness is for everyone?
Caroline: Because we are all created in God's image, and He wants us to be like Him.
Ines: True, Caroline. Loving our neighbor as ourselves indicates we also do love ourselves, but not in a selfish way. Honoring others as God’s children puts us on equal footing – not above.
Sherry: As for holiness for everyone, temptation would be to delegate it to religious only – and settle for a lukewarm spiritual life.
Ines: I agree, Sherry. St. Francis de Sales really drives it home for us – we are all called to holiness.
Caroline: We also confuse self-love with the new term self-esteem–to think highly of oneself, but that’s missing the mark of the virtue.
Ines: Oh yeah, the pop psychology version of self-love is a bit twisted.
Sherry: The pop – psychology wants to polish the fallen nature – divine self – love focuses on the new nature.
Ines: I think self-care is very important, but some of the thinking takes things too far and pulls down the commitment to others.
Ines: Ooo very true, Sherry.
Caroline: The Divine wants to transform us from within.
Entrusting His Work to St. Vincent
Question: Why was it so important/exciting to St. Francis to find someone worth to hand his order onto? Shouldn’t we just rely on God alone?
Ines: Who doesn’t want a partner to share the vision and the work? We pray to the Lord to send more workers into the vineyard. That’s what He wants us to pray for. Being so new, I’d assume the nuns really needed a confessor to provide a stable presence in the spirit that St. Francis had begun with St. Jane.
Caroline: We also want to know that what we started will continue. Was it for after their passing?
Ines: It seems more like St Francis entrusted the spiritual life of the sisters to St. Vincent, to take his place as it were.
Visitation Sister: It continued naturally, with successors. True about St Vincent, he became St Jane’s spiritual director after St Francis. And maybe St Francis did rely on God alone and God pointed out St Jane and St Vincent to him.
Ines: Sure, it was God’s work there.
Caroline: It is hard to admit sometimes that we will not go on forever, even though we know we won’t.
Does Wealth Make One More Important?
Question: St. Francis was born into a noble family, and St. Vincent into humble circumstances. And yet they became the closest of friends. What does this say about theories of class struggle – that different classes tend to war against each other? Have you ever been close friends with someone outside of your station in life? Did you share a common religious faith?
Caroline: Sure! Class struggle is really a stereotype, a theory that is meant for classroom discussions, not individual lives.
Ines: I love this question – it hits at the heart of the Marxist proposition. In Christianity, there is no slave or free, Gentile or Jew… this is why Marxism opposes Christianity.
Visitation Sister: Was this the favorite question, Ines?
Ines: Yes!! This and the next. I’ve had several friends over the years from various socio-economic levels, cultures, etc. It’s poppycock that the classes will always war against each other. They only do this if they’re incited to!
Visitation Sister: Ever since I started to work, I got to know people who were outside my working-class life and became more comfortable with the middle and even upper classes.
Caroline: Because it’s about who you are, not what you make.
Ines: Were they comfortable with you, Sister?
Visitation Sister: Oh yes, and by now I identify differently than when I was growing up.
Ines: How awesome. I never even realized there were such things as class distinctions until I got to high school. Then I saw the wealthy students and not wealthy students and the divide. I think the divide can be real if people ascribe to the theory that being wealthier makes you more worthy of love, admiration, and the best in life. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Caroline: Yes, Ines. High school is such a trying time anyway, and now you realize what you have and don’t have.
Ines: I never felt like I didn’t have, but I was bullied because I wasn’t in the “in” crowd and felt that keenly. It didn’t make me hate wealthy people, though.
Caroline: No, just bullies! But I never wanted to be them.
Ines: Exactly! I wonder why people bully. It’s not just kids that do it, either.
Caroline: Because they feel small and unworthy. Unless they drive an expensive sports car and don’t believe in speed limits, lol.
Ines: Yeah… and where does that come from? Bad parenting, I suppose.
Will We Continue Our Earthly Relationships in Heaven?
Question: At the death of St. Jane de Chantal, St. Vincent de Paul saw a vision of both her soul and that of St. Francis as globes of fire. Will our friendships on earth continue in some way in heaven? Will we have unique relationships with others in heaven whom we have loved on earth?
Ines: I just heard a homily about this – that in heaven relationships will continue in some form. Particularly the homily was on husbands and wives, that although it won’t be the same as earthly marriage, their connection will be undeniable in the perfection of Love that is the Beatific Vision.
Caroline: I hope so!
Ines: If God is communal, of course we would continue in some sort of perfected relationship with those we love on earth. Stands to reason, anyway.
Caroline: Yet He sees each of us as though we are the only one.
Ines: How beautiful, Caroline! And the reality that we are ourselves – we don’t “dissolve” like Buddhists think about in their “enlightenment.”
If you enjoyed this chat, why not check out our Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters. Join us at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday? We read a passage of St. Francis de Sales and then gather great insights and sharing!