Universal call to holiness

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The Universal Call to Holiness and Apostolate is a teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that all people are called to be holy, and is based on Matthew 5:48 - "Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect."[1]


The universal call to holiness has always been a teaching of the Church. An example can be found in the Introduction to the Devout Life of Francis de Sales. Written in the 17th century, it describes a method to approach holiness in everyday life.[2]


Chapter V of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen gentium discusses the Universal Call to Holiness:

...all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status, are called to the fullness of the Christian life and to the perfection of charity; ...They must follow in His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor.[3]

At a General Audience on November 19, 2014, Pope Francis explained,

Holiness is not the prerogative of only a few: holiness is a gift that is offered to all, without exception, so that it constitutes the distinctive character of every Christian. ...Some people think that holiness is closing your eyes and putting on a pious face... No! ...When the Lord calls us to be saints, he does not call us to something hard or sad... Not at all! It is an invitation to share His joy, to live and offer every moment of our lives with joy, at the same time making it a gift of love for the people around us.[4]

The universal call to holiness is rooted in baptism, 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,[5] his apostolic letter 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.

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Matthew 5:48
  2. ^ Wagner, Francis de Sales O.S.B., "The universal call to holiness", St. Meinrad Archabbey, December 14, 2011
  3. ^ Pope Paul VI, Lumen gentium, §40, November 21, 1964 Archived September 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ McCarthy, Emer. "Pope at Audience: The universal call to holiness", Vatican Radio, November 19, 2104
  5. ^ Novo Millenio Ineunte Archived April 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.