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One Minute Advice to Ace Holiness

by Fr. Jonathan Atchley

Throughout high school and college, I was an avid sports player: handball two hours a day, every day, until I advanced in graduate school to racquetball.  There I won a trophy and eventually surgery with an artificial knee--rewards for diligent practice!  Those years of avid interest proved that doing something well brought about success.  For those wanting to attain life’s most important success, becoming holy as God is holy (Lev. 11:44), here’s my hard-won, one-minute advice:

1) Maintain central control of the court.  Doing so makes it more likely that you can react in time to your opponent’s plays.   And isn’t that what Satan does by dominating us with distractions, keeping one unbalanced against temptations?  Maintaining “centeredness” in court is much like maintaining focus in prayer, enabling you to respond with grace to the current challenge. 

2) Put the ball where my opponent isn’t.  You can’t return a ball in play if it’s out of reach, right?  A correlative strategy is to play to your opponent’s weakness, sending the ball to his left (if he’s not left-handed).  Then, with a sneaky low shot to the right that unbalances him, you possibly gain match point.  Of course, Satan, our primary opponent expert at preying on weakness, sends us spinning every which way with distractions.  It takes time and practice to handle the racket, to position oneself and move with agility.  So too, when good habits become second nature you learn to avoid vices and practice virtue, setting yourself up for eternal gains.  

3) Develop confidence, believing you can win.  Satan isn’t our only adversary when pursuing holiness.  If we are attached to sin and cease to struggle against fallen human nature, we’re losers from the start. Be realistic about goals you can achieve, like going to confession every other week, practicing the presence of God (read the very slim Catholic classic by Brother Lawrence if you don’t know what that means), and developing charitable compassion towards others, knowing we all share similar struggles.  A positive word or genuine smile can disarm distrust just as readily as an impatient gesture can chill charity.  Focus awareness on what you really want.  If holiness is your goal, fervent desire will help bring it about.  These steps are simple, but holiness doesn’t require genius; it takes practice, and perfect practice results in perfect performance.

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