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What, Me Holy?

Chris Lowney


© 2019 RENEW International All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the publisher. The scripture passages alluded to in this book are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Most of the Scripture readings recommended in this book were referenced by Pope Francis in Gaudete et Exsultate. RENEW International gratefully acknowledges the contributions to this work by Sister Janet Schaeffler, OP, and Alice Hugh Brown. NIHIL OBSTAT Rev. Stephen J. Fichter, Ph.D. Censor Librorum IMPRIMATUR Joseph W. Cardinal Tobin, C.Ss.R. Archbishop of Newark Cover design by Ruth Markworth Interior design by Linda Eberly ISBN: 978-1-62063-152-2 RENEW International 1232 George Street, Plainfield, New Jersey 07062-1717 www.renewintl.org RENEW International is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization. Printed and bound in the United States of America 

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v Session One: The Lord Has Chosen Each of Us . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Session Two: Being Holy Is Being Whole . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Session Three: Building the Kingdom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14 Session Four: God Has a Path Just for You . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Session Five: Friendly Conversation with One Who Loves Us . . . . . . . 26 Session Six: Being Both Martha and Mary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Session Seven: Your Christian ID Card . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 Session Eight: A Gentle Challenge to Change Our Lives . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Session Nine: We Can’t Make This Journey Alone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50 Session Ten: Discerning God’s Will . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 Session Eleven: The Saint Next Door . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Session Twelve: Beyond the Comfort Zone . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 About RENEW International . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75 The Structure and Flow of a Session . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 76  


About the Author

Jesuit-trained Chris Lowney is a former managing director of J.P. Morgan & Co. Before leaving the firm in 2001, he held senior positions in New York, Tokyo, Singapore, and London. His books include the best-selling Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company That Changed the World; Make Today Matter: 10 Habits for a Better Life (and World); Everyone Leads: How to Revitalize the Catholic Church; and Pope Francis: Why He Leads theWay He Leads. Chris Lowney lives in New York. Visit his web site at www.chrislowney.com.

A Note about the Music

Songs are suggested for the moments of prayer at the opening of each session of this book. Music selections for What, Me Holy? are provided by our partners at OCP. The music is available as individual songs or as a 12-song digital album or “virtual CD.� The individual songs and the digital album are available for purchase through RENEW International at ocp.org/renew-music.



When I was invited by a friend to write the introduction for What, Me Holy?, I outwardly stated what an honor it was, but inside I immediately thought, “Who me? I am not worthy,” and finally admitted to my friend my feeling of inadequacy. But it was in admitting to that inadequacy that I realized I do try to be holy every day, and that is the theme of Pope Francis’ message and Chris Lowney’s book—the quest for holiness at work, at home, and in the community. As I continued to ponder the request, I took a more in-depth review of what I do, and I really made the time to hear God talking to me so I would get the message right. I am a firm believer that God has a definitive plan for your life, and although the direction my life took was very different from what I envisioned, it turned out to be a fulfillment of things that I had dreamed of doing, only in God’s way. I always thought that I wanted to serve in the diplomatic corps, meeting people from different cultures and influencing the formation of ideas that would be globally accepted. Marriage, children, and two significant work-related geographic moves, had me waking up one morning in my latest home and work location with that “Aha!” moment: Those dreams had been fulfilled, even in the work that I was called to do, and as I grow and change, they continue to be fulfilled. My life has taken me places that I might not have chosen for myself, but I am a great believer in signs, even those that appear in little decisions. As the deadline for completing this introduction was drawing closer, I still was looking for that spark. It took two attempts at Sunday Mass on the same day to get my attention. On that Sunday morning, I left a simmering pot on the stove, forcing me to leave Mass. I prayed all the way home that I would not return to a fire, and my anxiety was heightened by getting every red light and being stopped for the passage of a train. God was good, and everything was fine, and I returned to the next Mass. I shared with the celebrant at the later Mass how a different message had been driven home at each celebration. It was a song at the first one, and the sessions in this book aptly demonstrate the power of song to get our attention. For me that morning, it was “The Summons” by John Bell: “Will you let me answer pray’r in you and you in me?” At the second Mass,


it was a story highlighting that we all have value which provided the gentle prod not to let a feeling of being unworthy be a deterrent. What a powerful message of prayer and value and the need to bring those gifts with us in all that we do. It’s not always comfortable trying to be holy in many places today, and the workplace sometimes presents the biggest challenge. I work for a global company and have represented it in international and domestic forums, have set policies to provide needed services, and am sometimes the lone voice in advocating for these services. At times, there seems to be an inherent conflict between driving a work effort to fulfillment and being a disciple. I try to remember that how I interact with others is a sharing. One of my sons recently told me it was my actions and not my words that provided an example for him. Many years ago, a priest shared that a good way to start the day was to exclaim: “This is the day that the Lord hath made, let us rejoice and be glad.” I try to take that with me; some days I am really good, and some not. I think the challenge is to find and do the small concrete things, sometimes in a quiet and unassuming way, that make a difference and fulfill Christ’s message of love. I think you’ll find as I did that What, Me Holy? is a reminder of what we are called to be and that this should be evident in all that we do, even in the workplace. I know that the reminders, the sharing of stories, the suggestions, the challenges, and the encouragement all help me to recharge and be willing to go out and try again. ~ Rosalie Crabbe Rosalie Crabbe, married and the mother of two grown sons, has strived to maintain a balance between work and family life. While Rosalie has attained a managerial position in a global business, she has at the same time actively participated in the family-life programs in the parishes where she has lived.

The Lord Has Chosen Each of Us Introductions




Allow a few moments for participants to introduce themselves and briefly share how they became interested in participating in What, Me Holy?


What is this ‘holiness’ to which we are being called?


Song Suggestion: “You Have Called Us,” Bernadette Farrell (To download this song, visit www.ocp.org/renew-music)

Pray together: Loving God, by walking among us in the person of your Son, Jesus Christ, you have presented us with an image of what we are called to be—holy and blameless in your sight. As we contemplate your call to holiness during these times of reflection and sharing, help us to move ever closer to you step by step and day by day, so that our everyday lives will bless everyone we meet and the earth you have given us as our home. We ask this through your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.


The Word of God

St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians 1:3-8 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and insight. The Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.


What word, phrase, or image from the scripture reading touches your heart or speaks to your life at this time?


What do you want to be when you grow up? As a child, everyone heard that question. And we know the familiar answers: I want to be president, a fireman, a ballet dancer, or a pitcher for the New York Yankees. As we grow older, we realize that our curve balls won’t curve enough for the Yankees, and our aspirations change. I want to keep progressing in my career and have a nice home. I want my kids to be healthy and happy. I want to have a comfortable retirement. Often, unfortunately, our aspirations involve comparing ourselves to other people: “I want a nice home” might really mean, “I want a nicer home than that annoying, show-off across the street.” What do you aspire to? What do you want to have or to be? I’ve heard lots of answers to such questions, but here are two answers I’ve never heard: “I want to be a holy person” or “I want to be a saint.”

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Let’s face it. The first answer might mark someone as a pious weirdo. To be holy? You mean you want to be one of those gaunt people who never smiles and never has fun? To say, “I want to be a saint,” might even be worse. Some of us would be offended to hear a neighbor say that. It seems uppity and sneakily ambitious: “Does she think she’s better than the rest of us? We know what she really wants—to pretend to be holy and become so famous that our grandchildren will have to look at her sanctimonious face on holy cards.” Our first task is to address such stereotyped caricatures of holiness and sanctity. Even a little kid can identify the president of the United States, so we can picture what it means to be president, at least generally. But even dedicated Catholics would have only vague notions about holiness. That’s a problem. The philosopher Aristotle said, “If, like archers, we have a target to aim at, we are more likely to hit the target.” When it comes to being president, the target is clear. When it comes to being holy, most of us don’t see our target clearly enough. Therefore, we might miss. Pope Francis hoped to make our life target clearer by writing, Gaudete et Exsultate, which is Latin for, Rejoice and Be Glad. This book is inspired by key themes of that exhortation. We’ll try to understand what holiness means. But, more importantly, we’ll try to discern what a holy life might entail in the concrete circumstances of our own daily lives. Because Pope Francis, quoting St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, reminds us that: “the Lord has chosen each one of us ‘to be holy and blameless before him in love.’” 1 Note, my friends, the crucial phrase: “has chosen each one of us.” I guess that means every single one of us is called to “holiness.” Yikes. It’s not as if holiness is only for the pious nerd Catholics who want to sign up for “extra credit.” So, I guess it’s essential that we jettison the stereotypes and understand better what holiness means and how to lead a holy life. That’s what the rest of these sessions will help us do. But for now, why don’t we just focus on our current aspirations, which is where this reflection started. Let me invite you to do a little exercise. Write down a few of your major aspirations in life: it might include such things as a 1

Ephesians 1:4


job, possessions, lifestyle, or set of values. When you’re finished, look at the list and ask yourself, “Is this what I really want my life to be about?” Now let me ask a sneakier question: If someone followed you around for a month, observing your behavior toward your family and others, watching how you spend time and money, what would that secret observer say your life is really all about? Those exercises can help you clarify your aspirations, and whether your real-world actions match those aspirations. Your answers may give you a lot of comfort and consolation. Or, your answers may make you cringe a bit. You know what I bet? I bet that much of what you aspire to and pursue in life is already placing you on a trajectory toward holiness. You just need to sharpen your perception of what the target, holiness, looks like. And you then have to sharpen your aim a little bit, to increase the likelihood of hitting the bullseye. The following sessions can help you to do so.


Take a few moments to silently reflect on the following questions. Then share your responses. • When have you recognized holiness in another person – friend, relative, coworker, stranger? What was it about them that revealed ‘holiness’ to you?

• Steps toward holiness don’t need to be giant leaps. What small step toward holiness have you recognized in yourself lately?

Invitation to Act

Coming together and sharing in a small Christian community fosters growth in our faith and in our spirituality. Still, no communal sharing

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is complete without a serious commitment to putting our faith into practice. In this session, we have reflected on the basic understanding of holiness and how to begin our individual paths to holiness. How does this inspire you to act? Here are some possibilities. 1. Write down your thoughts on the meaning of holiness to you now, and how it has changed from your understanding of holiness as a child. Discuss these thoughts with someone else in the group. 2. With your current understanding of holiness, look back at your activities last week. Choose one action you could improve on that would be a more positive step toward holiness. What steps can you take to carry it out? 3. Select a new way to ‘act out holiness’. Focus on how you can have a positive effect on someone you encounter this week.


Form two groups and pray: Side 1 Holy Spirit, source of wisdom, help us to see clearly that each of us is called to holiness. Side 2 Help us to see in the encounters of our everyday lives opportunities to be compassionate, merciful, generous, and just. All Be with us as we take this journey together— this continuing journey toward holiness that will lead us, step by step, to greater intimacy with you, the Father, and the Son, one God, forever and ever. Amen.


Looking Ahead

To prepare for the next session, read the following: • Rejoice and Be Glad: The Call to Holiness [1-9] 2 • Session Two: Being Holy is Being Whole • 1 Peter 4:8-11

Words to Ponder “I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile.” Pope Francis Rejoice and Be Glad, 7 


You can read Rejoice and Be Glad online: visit www.vatican.va, click on “Apostolic Exhortations,” and choose the English version of Gaudete et Exsultate.

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What, Me Holy? Sample Session  

What, Me Holy? Sample Session