What is holiness?  People have different ideas of what it means to be holy.  It is not at all unusual for a person’s idea of holiness to be distorted or tainted by ignorance.  One mistaken notion about holiness is to think of holiness as a privileged domain reserved for a select few.  Holiness is not a goal so high        as to be unattainable by ordinary human beings. That is to ignore or downplay the fact that God calls each and everyone to holiness.  Holiness is compatible with every state of life.  According to a saying attributed to Michelangelo:  “The great danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and we miss it, but that we aim too low and we reach it.”

Holiness is compatible with human frailty.  Many stories of saints give a wrong impression, an impression of other worldliness that obscures the fact that those saints were real human beings with very human fau lts and weaknesses.  Examples are plentiful.  St. Augustine was given to rage.  St Therese of Lisieux had bouts of depression.  St. Vincent de Paul, that great saint of charity, was said to be bilious and subject to fits of anger.  St. Jerome was known to be very aggressive and insulting to persons who disagreed with him.
A characteristic of all those people is that they never gave up struggling and working to overcome their human weaknesses.  They knew that what counts is not triumphant victory in the sense of perfection, but persevering effort.  Teresa of Avila said that we should strive and strive and strive for we were made for nothing else.   She was right but the way she said it makes it sound hard.  And    it is.  We can’t gloss over that fact.  But T.S. Eliot put it well saying   “We are only undefeated because we keep on trying.”

Some years ago Archbishop Roach in a pastoral letter on spirituality offered  a valuable insight in this regard.  He wrote: “It’s a funny thing but for years I couldn’t imagine thinking of myself as holy.  I was equating holiness with perfection and I knew I simply didn’t have that.  It is clear to me now holiness is the desire to be a friend of Jesus Christ and to surrender my will to God.  I may always stumble along with that.  I have so far – but so long as I continue a sincere effort toward that goal I am holy.”