There is no “cookie cutter” approach to holiness.

There is no “cookie cutter” approach to holiness.

We must resist the temptation to aim for perfection. Perfection is never attained this side of heaven. When we seek perfection, we quickly become discouraged since most of us are burdened by our imperfections, weaknesses, and sins. Discouragement brings us to that slippery slope where we might be tempted to abandon the spiritual journey altogether. And that’s what the deadly sin of acedia is all about: throwing water on our smoldering spiritual embers, covering them with dirt, and walking away.

It’s more realistic to aim for progress rather than perfection. We daily try to move just one step away from the ego. We daily try to move just one step out of the limelight. We daily try to move closer to those in need.

We also must resist the temptation to look for a single book, program, practice, or guru that will cause spontaneous combustion; there are none. How many times have I been tricked into thinking that by reading the most recent book by a favorite author or practicing the latest spiritual craze, I’ll become a saint? A wise spiritual director once said to me, “There’s no spiritual microwave oven you can put yourself in and come out sixty seconds later as a saint. You must be willing to jump into the crockpot called your life and simmer a lifetime.” Catching fire takes patience and perseverance; it’s hard, fatiguing work. It also requires a daily commitment to nurturing and tending the fire once it’s been lit.

It’s important to remember that the process of catching fire and becoming flame will be different in each person’s life. A third temptation we must resist is trying to live another person’s process. There is no “cookie cutter” approach to holiness. The spiritual tradition offers us the saints to stir our inspiration, not our strict imitation.

—Fr. Albert Haase, OFM, Catching Fire, Becoming Flame: A Guide for Spiritual Transformation

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