One of the key features of holy people is that they have generally mastered the art of living well. It is not that their lives lack suffering or distress, but rather it seems that they possess a deep wisdom which allows them to engage their daily problems with a vigor and confidence that is both contagious and enjoyable to be around. Holy people teach us how to live because they have drunk deeply of divine wisdom, and they have learned to be guided by this wisdom in their daily lives.
I think it is a general sentiment that we desire not merely to cope with the difficulties that face us, but rather we desire to conquer them. Often this desire leads us to destructive and burdensome forms of self-improvement that do not lead us to inner peace and harmony, but rather seem to foster a spirit of frustration. We want to be like the holy people we know and have heard about.
However, what we fail to grasp is that the art of living well is like any other trade or skill. We need capable teachers and guides who will point the way by their words and examples. Furthermore, we have to be docile to the work of these guides and exhibit a generous and open disposition marked by love and receptivity.
Depending on guides is about personal relationships, and personal relationships have two dimensions. The first and primary is our relationship with God through the working and indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In this first dimension, we must receive God’s divine life through a steady regiment of the sacraments and personal prayer. Regular confession, regular reception of the Eucharist (in a state of grace), and daily personal prayer are the classrooms in which we discover the eternal wisdom of God.
The way we receive from our Lord through the sacraments and prayer must then inform and govern our reception of our neighbor. As we receive from the Lord with open arms, so must we experience our neighbor with the same open disposition. Jesus expresses the importance of these two dimensions when he gives the command to love God and love neighbor. By love, Jesus does not mean simple the sharing of nice sentiments or a general kind of good will. Rather he means a very concrete transformation in which the center of my life moves from my own limited self-interests to a communion with the other.
Jesus teaches us that the heart of living well is not about being self-focused, but rather is about being drawn out of myself in communion with God and neighbor. As we learn to master this art, we come to find ourselves connected with God and neighbor in new and powerful ways. We become more patient, docile, loving, kind and these traits make for more fulfilling lives.
We are called to be Saints and the Saints are people who learned to live well.