A good and holy priest once told me that sanctity is serious business.
Reflecting on that, I would agree that sanctity (holiness) is the most serious business there is! However, seriousness does not equal complicated. Oftentimes, there are those who love overcomplicating things.
The same can be said for holiness.
I recently shared a novena on social media asking people to join me in praying for an increase in youthful holiness. One of the post’s comments said, “Holiness versus religious…huge difference. We can be very religious and not be holy at all.”
Personally, I couldn’t agree more with that comment.
A person can to Mass every Sunday, cling to popular piety through personal devotions, and share beautiful prayers on social media. Yet, that does not necessarily make them holy.
They could do of the above, yet still treat their neighbors poorly or live a sinful life. Don’t get me wrong–although one can be religious without being holy, I doubt that one can be holy without being religious. Or at least the lives of the saints beg to differ.
Holiness simply means “set apart”–to be in this world but not of this world–letting love of God permeate your being so utterly that you no longer belong to yourself, but to the Lord.
Speaking of such love and holiness, I’d like to mention a little girl and her five simple lessons of growing in personal holiness.
Laura Vicuña was born in Santiago, Chile on April 5, 1891. Just a few short years after her birth, her dad died. Her mother, Mercedes, was forced to move to Argentina to overcome starvation.
At age nine, Laura’s mother enrolled her and her sister, Julia in a Salesian school. Laura’s mother then began working for Manuel Mora as his maid and companion in return for room, board, and school tuition for her two daughters.
Manuel Mora was a particular kind of creep who regularly abused Mercedes.
Once while on school break, Mora beat Laura twice and tried making advances towards her. When she resisted and ran away, he withheld tuition. However, once the Salesian sisters heard of the situation, they offered Laura and her sister a scholarship. They were then safe in Mary’s house.
Little Laura became ill and offered her illness for her mom’s conversion.
When Laura was near death, the sisters called on Mercedes. It made Laura very happy to see her mother, and even happier that during the visit, Mercedes went to confession and promised to give her life back to Our Lord.
When Laura heard this, she was overwhelmed with joy and exclaimed, “Thank you, Jesus! Thank you, Mary! Now I can die happy!” Laura died on January 22, 1904. She was only 12 years old.
What five lessons in holiness can Laura Vicuña teach us? Here’s some simple but serious quotes from Laura’s short life:
1) “To do the Will of God: this is my favorite prayer.”
Pray for God’s will in your life and pray for the courage to follow His will. He knows you and He loves you more than you love yourself. He can and will make something beautiful out of you if you let Him.
2) “Be constant in virtue”
Practice holy habits, especially the virtue of purity. Pray for the grace of self-control. Take custody of your senses. Do not do, speak about, look at, or listen to anything that could compromise virtue, especially purity. Remain in a state of grace and go to confession often. If you fall, get to confession right away!
3) “O Jesus, I offer myself to you and I want to be all yours!”
Laura was famous for receiving Holy Communion as often as she was able, as well as making visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Stay close to Jesus in the Eucharist.
4) “O Mary, give me your hand, take mine!”
Stay close to the Blessed Mother. Laura was close to our Lady and our Lady was close to Laura.
5) “Suffer silently and smile always.”
Stay cheerful, even in the midst of suffering. In other words, offer it up and keep smiling. Laura did that and she’s since been raised to the altar.
Holiness really is that simple.
Pope St. John Paul II beatified Laura Vicuña in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 3, 1988. He wore red vestments, marking Laura as a martyr because she offered her life for her mother’s soul.
Bl. Laura Vicuña is the patroness of abuse victims, incest and rape victims, the loss of parents, and purity.