The Popes and Becoming Holy

Długosz and Saint Casimir by Florian Cynk (circa 1869) (

In the solemnity of All Saints Day we are reminded that we too can become holy. Holiness must be our existential target. In fact, if we miss this goal our lives would be an utter disaster, so much so that our fate may well be perdition.

But I am rather certain that no one wants to be a failure, let alone rot in hell. Instead, an excellent opportunity is presented to us today, through this solemnity of All Saints, to opt for holiness. Although holiness is everyone’s piece of bread it was never said that it was easy. On the contrary, holiness offers many challenges to overcome. Let us not forget that our human nature tends to obstruct or obscure this fascinating and resplendent life aim. Therefore, you and I must be humble enough to choose those ways which help us get there, help us be holy.

The Popes really are good coaches to show us this path. First of all, holiness demands courage. Which means that we are to shun fear at all and leap in faith in God’s redeeming mercy. Pope Francis tells us: Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self.

 Let us be practical now, all of us have our shortcomings. We all sin, me the first. However, if that is the case, the realizable ideal of holiness is for you and me! Pope Benedict XVI, in his audience of January 31, 2007, calms our fears when he tells us: Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness.

Thirdly, holiness is not the bread and butter of the selected and privileged few. If that were the case, God would be insulting Himself in permitting certain people to become holy whereas ignoring the remaining fellows. Let us not forget that God is the Father of all of us, and the Church herself requires holy men and women in order that, through their life-giving testimony, God’s salvation in Christ can reach everyone. Thus, St Pope John Paul II, in the World Youth Day of 2004, affirms: The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity.

Holiness should be the goal of every path of life within the Church and society, not least the young people. Pope Francis offers the following words of hope: Through the holiness of the young, the Church can renew her spiritual ardour and her apostolic vigour. The balm of holiness generated by the good lives of so many young people can heal the wounds of the Church and of the world, bringing us back to that fullness of love to which we have always been called.

But what is the essence of holiness if not love put into action? Again, Pope Francis: To be holy does not require being a bishop, a priest or a religious. We are frequently tempted to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not the case. We are all called to be holy by living our lives with love and by bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves.

Finally holiness helps us fulfill our real selves, that is our real God-given potential. Pope Francis wisely counsels us: The important thing is that each believer discern his or her own path, that they bring out the very best of themselves, the most personal gifts that God has placed in their hearts, rather than hopelessly trying to imitate something not meant for them.

Let us thank God for this very beautiful feast the Church has for us. If other people, before us were able, by God’s unfailing grace, to become holy then, holiness, is for real! The Popes’ teaching happily reassures that!

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Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap was born in San Gwann on August 26 1972. After being educated in governmental primary and secondary schools as well as at the Naxxar Trade School he felt the call to enter the Franciscan Capuchin Order. After obtaining the university requirements he entered the Capuchin friary at Kalkara on October 12 1993. A year after he was ordained a priest, precisely on 4 September 2004, his superiors sent him to work with patients as a chaplain first at St. Luke's Hospital and later at Mater Dei. In 2007 Fr Mario obtained a Master's Degree in Hospital Chaplaincy from Sydney College of Divinity, University of Sydney, Australia. From November 2007 till March 2020 Fr Mario was one of the six chaplains who worked at Mater Dei Hospital., Malta's national hospital. Presently he is a chaplain at Sir Anthony Mamo Oncology Centre. Furthermore, he is a regular contributor in the MUMN magazine IL-MUSBIEĦ, as well as doing radio programmes on Radio Mario about the spiritual care of the sick.