Universal call to holiness
Universal Call to Holiness and Apostolate is a teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that all people are called to be holy. The Church's Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium states that "All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity".
Living a holy life, as defined by the Catholic Church, does not (normally) mean total sinlessness, but rather a lifelong struggle to do the will of God, so that the faithful "may wholeheartedly devote themselves to the glory of God and to the service of their neighbor", and attain more intimate union with Christ.
The universal call to holiness in the Roman Catholic Church is rooted in baptism, a sacrament which configures a person to Jesus Christ who is God and man, thus uniting a person with the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, bringing him in communion with intra-trinitarian life.
John Paul II states in his apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, his master plan for the new millennium, a "program for all times", that holiness is not only a state but a task, whereby Christians should strive for a full Christian life, imitating Christ, the Son of God, who gave his life for God and for his neighbor. This entails a "training in the art of prayer". According to the Pope, all pastoral initiatives have to be set in relation to holiness, as this has to be the topmost priority of the Church. The universal call to holiness is explained as more fundamental than the vocational discernment to particular ways of life such as priesthood, marriage, or virginity.
The universal call to holiness has always been a Catholic teaching. A prime example of this can be found when reflecting on St. Francis de Sales' work the Introduction to the Devout Life. The Introduction to the Devout Life was written in the 17th century and details a step by step explanation how to approach holiness in everyday life. Furthermore Our Lord says to His followers 'Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.' (Matthew 5:48). At the very core of the spirituality of a Catholic is this call to perfection. In more modern times it is also exemplified in the important role it plays in the spirituality of both Opus Dei and The Legion of Mary, which were founded before the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) and yet emphasize strongly the call to sanctity for lay people.