In a catechism called "My Catholic Faith" by Louis LaRavoire Morrow, there is a chapter on Christian perfection that is most interesting. Many people today fail to realize that the main goal of all should be their eternal salvation, to go to Heaven for all eternity. But to merit Heaven, we must strive to always improve ourselves, to aim towards Christian perfection. Hopefully from reading this catechism lesson, our reading audience will learn more about this spiritual science, and then work to improve their spiritual lives.
Our main concern while upon earth should be to become as perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, in order to merit the eternal glories of Heaven. Perfection is the summit — the highest degree of holiness. No one can ever be as perfect as Our Lord, but having Him for a model inspires us to strive for greater and greater sanctity.
The spirit of Christ obliges us to strive for greater perfection. All states of life can be sanctified by those who wish to live for God. Saints are found in every class.
Christian perfection consists in union with God by the practice of virtue; it requires love of God and our neighbor, and detachment of the heart from the things of this world. It is nothing else but sanctity, holiness, the love for God. It does not require extraordinary works, but only requires a deep, abiding love.
We should not be satisfied merely to keep the Commandments of God. If we only give God what He commands us to give, we would be doing only what is absolutely necessary for salvation. In such a case, we would go to church only once a week and on holydays of obligation; we would go to Confession only once a year, and we would receive Holy Communion only during the Easter Season. But what would you think about a child who gives to his parents only what is demanded of him? What would you think of him if he never showed any affection towards them, never did anything extra for them to show his love and gratitude?
If we say that we love God, our Creator, we must prove this love by deeds and by the amount of sacrifices we are willing to make. Can we ever serve God sufficiently to show our affection for creating us and for all he has done for us?
To attain the state of Christian perfection, we must have a spirit of detachment towards the things of this world. Let us remember that the eternal is what counts; the temporal is given us by God only to help us fulfill our end of praising, of serving Him, and thus saving our soul. By the spirit of detachment is not meant actual dispossession. A rich man can be completely detached from riches, if he uses them only for the end God gave them to him, if he does not love his riches for the sake of riches or for other worldly purposes, but uses his wealth for God and his fellowmen.
A man in a high position of honor and power is detached from such honor and glory if he knows they all come from God, and uses them for God's purposes. On the other hand, even the poorest of men and the most despised can violate the spirit of detachment if he desires to possess what he does not have, for the sake of such possession.
After the observance of the Commandments of God and of the Church, the following are considered to be the general means of perfection. They are considered to be general means of perfection because they are suited to every one in every state and condition of life.
1. Holy Mass with Communion. God instituted the sacraments as effective means of grace. Can we get more grace than from God Himself, coming in Holy Communion?
2. The habit of prayer. Without God we can do nothing. We should especially make a habit of ejaculatory prayers. We should sanctify our every action by offering it to God. A good plan is to make a general offering every morning, with our morning prayers. In this way, all we do — work, prayer, and even sleep — becomes a prayer to God.
3. Self-control and self-denial. These are acts of mortification: keeping down anger, and abstaining even from things which are permitted, but above all avoiding even the least yielding to what is forbidden. Self-control is the mark of the true Christian; it gives us a strong will. Self-denial is the mark of the human being made to the likeness of God. If we deny ourselves some things which are permitted, we shall find it easier to avoid what is forbidden. One may deny oneself by avoiding what is not necessary, such as splendid dress, rich food, costly houses and cars, excessive entertainments, curiosity, etc, and above all, by doing cheerfully whatever duties come, and accepting with resignation all trials.
4. By faithfulness in small things. Here we obtain greater graces and avoid grave sins more easily. As in the natural order, so in the spiritual, great things come from apparently insignificant things. We should be careful to avoid venial sins in order to be saved from mortal sins.
5. To observe order and regularity. There should be a fixed time for everything, such as for rising, retiring, eating, working, recreation, etc. We should imitate the order that God has placed in the whole universe, regulating everything by law. For example, recreation is not against the practice of Christian perfection, but it should not interfere with our duties nor take up too much time.
6. Regular spiritual reading and meditation. This should be done for at least ten minutes each day as food for our souls. Meditation on the truths of faith, the life of Christ, and the lives of the saints will inflame our hearts to virtue.
7. Solitude. Solitude helps us grow in virtue. The noise and bustle of the world are distractions. We should once in a while imitate Our Lord and withdraw into solitude, to see our faults better and to be closer to God.
We should begin from youth to strive after perfection. Saint Dominic Savio on his First Communion day, when only seven years old, made some resolutions to which he was faithful until death. These resolutions helped him towards perfection, so that at the age of fifteen he died a holy death. Among his, resolutions were:
(1) frequent Confession and Communion;
(2) Jesus and Mary as friends; and
(3) death rather than sin. The virtuous example of his short life shows us that we should start from childhood to strive for Christian perfection, and to help others to shun sin and love God.
One of the most practical means of perfection is that called the Little Way of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, the way of spiritual childhood. Making ourselves as humble as we can, let us be ever aware that without God we can do nothing. The only thing we can give to God is our love. We show our love for God by doing all things, small and great, to make Him happy, to give Him pleasure. In full trust, let us abandon ourselves to God and His infinite mercy.