If you seek perfection in the spiritual life, the shortest road is the one right in front of you.
It is tempting to think that perfection in the spiritual life consists of becoming a hermit in the wilderness, resigning yourself to a diet of locusts and honey.
Yet, for most of us, that is farthest from perfection!
Perfection does not consist of doing extraordinary things, but doing ordinary things in an extraordinary way.
St. John Henry Newman explained this concept in one of his meditations, entitled “A Short Road to Perfection.”
He starts out by writing, “It is the saying of holy men that, if we wish to be perfect, we have nothing more to do than to perform the ordinary duties of the day well. A short road to perfection—short, not because easy, but because pertinent and intelligible.”
Often the most heroic thing we can do during the day is wash the dishes! It might entail renouncing our selfish will and doing a charitable deed for a family member, or even smiling at them.
We often go searching for something “saintly” to do, when in reality, we can become a saint right where we are.
Newman affirms this central truth, and encourages us to look at our everyday tasks for ways to become a saint.
If you ask me what you are to do in order to be perfect, I say, first—Do not lie in bed beyond the due time of rising; give your first thoughts to God; make a good visit to the Blessed Sacrament; say the Angelus devoutly; eat and drink to God’s glory; say the Rosary well; be recollected; keep out bad thoughts; make your evening meditation well; examine yourself daily; go to bed in good time, and you are already perfect.
Simple, isn’t it? It is a “short” road to perfection, but one that is not without its crosses and sufferings.
If we want to become a saint, we don’t need to retreat from all human contact. To become a saint means doing every task with great love and devotion.
When Therese of Lisieux whispers her “Little Way” into our ears
Newman’s one-word insight into why our spiritual life grows cold