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Are You Fully Alive?

Are You Fully Alive?

St. Irenaeus, a bishop and early Church Father, wrote, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” I love this quote.  In one sentence he describes what it means to be holy. To be holy means being fully alive; to be holy means being fully the persons God created us to be.

To be fully alive is not equivalent to the modern notion of “living life to its fullest.”  When many people talk about living life to its fullest, what they really mean is that we should indulge in as many pleasures as possible, pamper ourselves, and just be comfortable.  Not that there’s anything wrong with pampering ourselves once in a while, but that’s not exactly what St. Irenaeus meant.

FlickrDonMacauleyHappyWomanTo be fully alive means enjoying a deep friendship with the Lord, the effect of which is a life of virtue (faith, hope, love, charity, justice, fortitude, prudence, and all the other virtues).  And living virtuously has a beautiful reward: in the depths of our souls we experience the fruits of the Holy Spirit for which we all long (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness, self-control).

Isn’t it true that we all desire to be fully alive? We want to live each day knowing that our lives have meaning and purpose.  Our hearts long for love and fulfillment. The good news is that we can satisfy this longing by living in friendship with the Lord, which is really what it means to live in holiness.

MotherTeresaofCalcutaportraitpaintingbyRobertPerezPalouThe saints are our models of what it means to be fully alive.  When I think, for example, of Saint John Paul II or Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I think of two people who were fully alive.  They radiated the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  People are attracted to saints—or, should I say, people are attracted to God through them.  Saints are fully alive because they live in deep friendship with Jesus, Who is the glory of God in the flesh.

Saints are fully alive because they are not enslaved to their passions or negative emotions; rather, the virtues have fully flowered in their lives; and living virtuously is exactly what leads us to have true peace and happiness in life.

Being fully alive means living the fruits of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis.  As the fruits of the Holy Spirit grow in us, people begin to identify us with the fruits: he is always joyful; she always seems so peaceful.  In a sense, we can say that we become the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  True, we’ll all have bad days when we don’t feel the fruits as much, but they are still alive in us.

I know, it sounds so appealing but it seems so difficult to live.  Maybe it sounds like pie in the sky, too good to be true, not possible.  But it is possible.  So what can we do to be fully alive?  What can we do so that when we get out of bed in the morning we are grateful for the day, filled with joy, and open to all that God has planned for us?  There’s no shortcut.  It begins by asking the Lord in prayer to conform our wills to the His will.  It begins by surrendering our lives to Him.

How to be fully alive today

Holy SpiritKarlskircheFrescosHeiligerGeist2(crop)While it’s true that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are an effect of a deep friendship with the Lord, I also believe that the more we choose to live the fruits, the more they will grow in us grow in us.  I like to say that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are both gift and choice.  If we really want to experience what it means to be fully alive, to be holy, then we must choose to live the fruits of the Holy Spirit every day.  Today, we must:

  • Choose to be loving to each person we encounter
  • Choose to be joyful even in the midst of difficulty
  • Choose to be peaceful in times of adversity
  • Choose to be patient when our patience is tested
  • Choose to be kind to those who are unkind
  • Choose to be gentle when we’re tempted to be harsh
  • Choose to be generous with our time and resources
  • Choose to be faithful to prayer and our vocation in life
  • Choose to live in self-control when temptation comes our way

BathroomMirror2No, we won’t be perfect; but the more we cooperate with God’s grace, the more the virtues will be alive in us.

Here’s a tip: on an index card write: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, faithfulness, self-control.  Tape that index card to your bathroom mirror so you see it every morning.  Put another copy on your desk at work or some place where you’ll see it.  I know, it sounds corny, but the more you remind yourself that your calling is to be fully alive in the Lord, the more fully alive you will be.  And to be fully alive is our deepest desire and our ultimate calling.


Art/Photography:  A happy woman, Donald Macauley, 18 January 2011, CCA-SA; Mother Teresa of Calcuta [sic], portrait painting by Robert Pérez Paulou, 1 January 1994, CC; Detail from Dove (Holy Spirit) as Part of the Holy Trinity, Johann Michael Rottmayr, 1714, CCA-SA; all Wikimedia Commons. Bathroom Mirror, Liz Estler, own work, 29 April 2015 Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, used with permission.

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About Fr. Michael Najim

Fr. Michael Najim is a priest of the Diocese of Providence. He is Pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Westerly, Rhode Island and has been the Director of Spiritual Formation at Our Lady of Providence Seminary and Chaplain of LaSalle Academy, a coed Catholic high school in Providence, RI. He is the author of Radical Surrender: Letters to Seminarians, published by the Institute for Priestly Formation. He also blogs at Fr. Michael Najim's Blog.

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  • ThirstforTruth

    The index card is a great idea but instead of just listing the fruits, I am printing out
    from the article the “choices” as a better reminder of my active role in acquiring
    the fruits….of the Holy Spirit to help me, until their practice becomes habit…and
    help me be more fully alive in daily life. Thanks and God bless you!

    • LizEst

      Wonderful…of course, fitting the choices on an index card might be a bit of a challenge considering all the words. Looks like the choices could be printed out and taped to the index card as well! Good show, ThirstforTruth! Great idea! God bless you!

      • ThirstforTruth

        Thanks Liz. I simply printed that page ( with the choices) on my printer, cut them out and now have them on my pantry door in
        my kitchen where not only will they serve as reminders to me but to all, including grands that will be arriving in a week, that pass
        through or visit in my kitchen. Might even be conversation starters. Let us pray!

        • LizEst

          Let us know about the reactions you get to it. Yes, great conversation starters!

  • Plevesque

    I thought there are traditionally 12 fruits CCC1832. Including modesty and chastity, faithfulness

    • LizEst

      Father Najim is listing some fruits of the Spirit. His list is not meant to be exhaustive.

  • CLudwick

    Such helpful and practical information. I’ve been struggling with focusing on and practicing God’s will in my life each day. So many times I tend to try to be who I am not! This will certainly help me “keep my eye on the prize” when every circumstance presents itself. All for the love, glory and praise of Our Lord Jesus, God!

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