Fulfilling Desires

What Does Holiness Really Mean? 

3 Minute Read - By Therese Bussen

We hear about holiness a lot as Catholics but it can sound unattainable. Some saint who lived in the desert for 40 years living on the Eucharist alone? No thanks, right? (Unless that’s your cup of tea, more power to you). 

But then, why is it talked about so much? And what might it look like if it was attainable for us to live?

First, Holy doesn’t mean “perfect”. It means sacred or set apart. Applied to us as people, it means we are set apart to belong to God—but belonging to God is actually much simpler than we might believe. It doesn’t mean running away from the world or rejecting reality in front of us. 

Fr. Jacques Phillippe says in his book, “Holiness is not the realization of a given model of perfection that is identical for everyone. It is the emergence of an absolutely unique reality that God alone knows, and that He alone brings to fruition. No individual knows what His own holiness consists of. Holiness is only revealed to us by degrees, as we journey on, and it is often something very different from what we imagine.”

In other words, holiness looks different for everyone. It’s an individual journey, not a checklist. 

Another great writer and saint, St. Francis de Sales says, “Let us be what we are and be that well.” 

Holiness consists of becoming more truly ourselves because that is who God made us to be. It means embracing the fullness of our humanity—after all, God became human too—so that in becoming more truly human, we also become more like Him. 

Ultimately, it also means letting ourselves be loved by God, which helps us love Him more in return. The more we do, the more we overflow to loving others, becoming more who we truly are, embracing the present moment and circumstances. 

Anything too complicated and without genuine love, could be steering away from true holiness. We don’t have to jump through hoops for God to love us, to get closer to Him, or to become more like him. 

Holiness also doesn’t include self-punishment. As Catholics, we do believe that sacrifices are good for our growth as humans, and especially when it means serving other people. But it doesn’t mean we need to deprive ourselves of enjoying life or the little gifts God sends along the way. 

St. Paul says in Phillippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” What is good, true, and beautiful is an experience of God that we are meant to enjoy. 

So make room in your heart and life for laughter. For spending time with friends. For intentional time with your family. For reading good books, long walks in nature, watching content that enriches you, engaging in hobbies that bring you life and joy. Serve others. Embrace the life you’ve been given and lean into God as you discover who you are and meant to become. This is the holiness the Father wants for all of us—and is completely possible to achieve with Him.

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