Is holiness attainable for ordinary laypeople?

I’m a regular person—I can’t become a saint, right? “Well, Jesus certainly didn’t preach it, His apostles didn’t share it, but somewhere along the line in Christian history this idea started to take root in the mind of at least some,” said Fr. Matthew Spencer, host of Saint Joseph’s Workshop. Saint Francis de Sales countered the mistaken idea that “holiness is only for a certain number of people”, for those who have taken Holy Orders or separated themselves from the world through hermitage or a cloister, and not for us ‘ordinary folk’.

“When God created the world He commanded each tree to bear fruit after its kind; and even so He bids Christians—the living trees of His Church—to bring forth fruits of devotion, each one according to his kind and vocation. A different exercise of devotion is required of each—the noble, the artisan, the servant, the prince, the maiden, and the wife.” Introduction to the Devout Life, Chapter III

“In centuries past, sometimes we have fallen into this line of thinking that … how could it ever be possible to become holy, how could it ever be possible to be a saint, if I have to live in the world? Look at how many temptations there are, look at how many difficulties there are, and by the way, just the ordinary duties I have to do all day long. If I can’t go into the chapel for four and a half hours a day, how could I ever become a saint? It’s an idea that sometimes will enter our minds,” says Fr. Matthew.

St. Francis de Sales, bishop and Doctor of the Church, squashed the idea that holiness and devotion was something only to be grasped by priests and nuns. “He has many devotees; in fact, his teachings became so powerful that they affected seminary teachings and teachings on spirituality all around the world after his own time … because he communicates the mysteries of the faith to us in a way that we can understand.”

De Sales wrote Introduction to the Devout Life, an instruction for how to obtain Christian perfection that is still used by faithful today. “He doesn’t create anything new because he goes back to what Jesus taught. Jesus wanted everybody to be holy!” says Fr. Matthew.

“It is an error, nay more, a very heresy, to seek to banish the devout life from the soldier’s guardroom, the mechanic’s workshop, the prince’s court, or the domestic earth.” Introduction to the Devout Life

“It would seem like the world, with its different temptations, challenges, difficulties, would be impossible to become a saint within that context. But quite the contrary! It’s within those circumstances, within those different situations that we can practice holiness, practice virtue and become the saints that God wants us to be. It’s up to us to discover how that works in each moment,” says Fr. Matthew.

Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.