Only by striving for personal holiness can we help the Church resolve its crises, the Bishop of Shrewsbury said
In a pastoral letter marking the first Sunday of Advent, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury dedicated 2019 as the diocesan Year of Holiness, calling attention to the Second Vatican Council’s emphasis on the universal call to holiness.
“It is this universal call to holiness which I wish all of us, clergy and people, to focus upon anew. It is striking that, amid all the crises of the 20th Century, the central message of the Second Vatican Council was that every one of us, in every state of life, is called to the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of love: that is, called to become nothing less than a saint,” Bishop Davies wrote.
“Advent is a time of renewed hope leading us to the light of Christmas,” he said. “It is a journey we make in the darkest days of our year. Such days evoke the dark shadows in the world around us, and those failures in the lives and witness of Christians which have at times cast dark shadows over the face of the Church, obscuring for many, the clear light of Christ shining from her.”
He said that “our renewal in holiness” is “the only renewal of the Church which will ever matter … It is why only saints resolved the crises the Church has faced throughout history and why they have proved to be the great evangelisers.”
“It is also why, today, amid the dark shadows of scandal and the challenge of a new evangelisation of western societies, it is urgent to recall this one goal of every Christian life for it is in the saints that the true face of the Church shines out. For, though they can have their place, no pastoral programme; no discussions amongst us; no re-organisation or re-structuring can ever accomplish this; only our striving for holiness to become the saints we have been called by God to be.”
Both “our Christian calling and the ultimate goal of every human life” is “to become, in the end, a saint,” said Bishop Davies, recalling that Christ told us “that this is the one thing which alone matters.”
The bishop noted that Pope Francis wrote in a recent letter that “the only great tragedy in life, is not to become a saint.”
“A saint is someone who reaches the complete and everlasting happiness of Heaven. We might say that holiness is happiness … it is only by being holy that we can be truly happy.”
Bishop Davies said: “The Holy Father writes, ‘Do not be afraid to set your sights higher, to allow yourself to be loved and liberated by God’. For holiness, he writes, is ‘the extent that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we model our life on Christ’s’. We can never reach this goal by our own unaided efforts. By the grace of God we can!”
He encouraged everyone in the Diocese of Shrewsbury to recall in the coming year that there is found in the Church, holy though composed of sinners, everything needed to grow in holiness.
“In daily prayer, frequent Confession and, above all, in the Holy Eucharist, we are given the Divine means, the grace to reach this goal,” wrote Bishop Davies.
“This is our purpose as we enter anew into Advent,” the bishop concluded. “Let us ask Our Lady, she who is ‘full of grace’, to accompany us along the path to the holiness, the true happiness to which we are called. In the beautiful words of the Second Vatican Council, we know that in the most Blessed Virgin Mary the Church has already reached perfection and in our struggle she shines out for us as a sign of certain hope and consolation until the day of the Lord shall come in splendour.”