The Natural and Ordinary Path to Holiness

5th Week of Ordinary Time: The Natural and Ordinary Path to Holiness

By Francis Fernandez-Carvajal

3/37.1 The social dimension of man.

The first page of Holy Scripture gives us a description, both simple and grandiose, of the creation of the world; And God saw that it was good – that is everything that came from his hands.[2887] Finally, to crown all that He had done, He created man, and made him in his own image and likeness.[2888] Scripture itself teaches us that He enriched him with supernatural gifts and privileges, and destined him to a happiness which would be ineffable and eternal. Scripture also reveals to us that all other men are descended from Adam and Eve. Although they separated themselves from their Creator, God did not cease to look on them as his children, and destined them once more to share his friendship.[2889] God willed that the human creature should share in the conservation and propagation of the human race, that he should people the earth and subject it to himself. Have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.[2890]

God also willed that relationships between men should not be limited to an occasional and fleeting expression of concern for their neighbors, but that they should constitute stronger and lasting bonds, which would become the very pillars on which life in society would rest. Men would look to others for help in providing all that the necessities and the dignity of life would require and demand. For divine Providence ordered human nature in such a way that men should be born inclined to associate with others of their kind and to unite themselves with other people both in the society of the home and in civic society. And such associations would provide them with the necessities of life.[2891] The Second Vatican Council reminds us that by his innermost nature man is a social being, and if he does not enter into relations with others he can neither live as a human being nor develop his gifts.[2892] Society is a natural means that man can and should use in order to reach his end.[2893] It is the ordinary sphere in which God wants us to sanctify ourselves and to serve him.

Living in society makes it easier for us to obtain the material and spiritual means that we need in order to develop our human and supernatural life. Living with others gives rise to many advantages and benefits, but also to obligations whatever the environment we happen to inhabit: think of your place within the family, in civil society, in your neighbourhood, at work ... These obligations are invested with a moral character because of the relationship of man to God his ultimate end. Observing these obligations, or failing to keep them brings us closer to or separates us further from God. They are matter for our examination of conscience.

God calls us to live with others, to simply make what contribution we can – small or large – to the good of all. In our prayer today, let us examine whether we live open to other people, but especially to those that God has placed closest to us. We should consider whether we generally make ourselves available; whether we give good example in the way we fulfil our family and social duties; whether we frequently ask God for light to know what we have to do whenever an opportunity arises, and to carry our task through to the end, courageously, with a spirit of sacrifice. We should often ask ourselves: What can I do for other people? What words can I say to console and help others? Life is passing. We are constantly coming across people from the most varied walks in life. What a lot remains to be done ... How many words still have to be spoken ... Certainly we have to start by doing (cf Acts 1:1); but then, too, we have to speak: each ear, each heart, each mind has its own moment, its friendly voice that can call it out of its slough of despondency, and encourage it to rise out of its present state of unhappiness.

If we love God, we cannot fail to feel the reproach of the days that pass, of the people (often so close to us) who pass by, ungreeted, unhailed ... without our being able to do whatever it was that was needed, without our even knowing how to say what we should have said.[2894] We should often ask Jesus, who sees us and who hears us, never to let us turn our back in indifference on those who, by whatever chance, are encountered around us: through kinship or friendship, through working for the same firm, through coming from the same town ...

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In Conversation With God

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[2890] Gen 1:28

[2891] cf Leo XIII, Immortale Dei, 1 November 1885

[2892] Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, 12

[2893] Pius XI, Divini Redemptoris, 19 March 1937

[2894] C. López Pardo, On Life and Death, Madrid 1973


Francis Fernandez-Carvajal,

Rev. Francis Fernandez-Carvajal

Rev. Francis Fernández-Carvajal is a Priest of the Opus Dei Prelature and the author of many popular spiritual works. His seven-volume series In Conversation with God provides over 500 meditations to be used throughout the liturgical year. It has sold over 2 million copies and has been translated into many languages.