“A good conscience and a holy life is better than all.”
St. Thomas a Kempis
This quote is one that you should memorize and say to yourself again and again, every day. There is nothing in this world that is better for you than a good conscience and a holy life. A college degree is not better. A nice car is not better. A beautiful wife or handsome husband is not better. A nice house is not better. A successful business is not better. A vacation in the most beautiful place on earth is not better. Nothing you can ever accomplish in the world is better than a good conscience and a holy life.
If you wish to have a good conscience and a holy life, you must not sin. Your mind and heart must be kept pure. Your life must be kept focused on heaven. You must not allow yourself to get busy and distracted. You cannot surround yourself with worldly people who don’t care about God. You cannot give up the freedom you have as an individual to serve God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. You have to live a holy life.
Now, you know that it will be difficult, maybe impossible, if you try to be holy in the world. Therefore, if you want the best things–a good conscience and a holy life–you must see that it is not a good idea to try and get them in the world.
Jesus Christ came into the world and taught us the religious life. He did not get married. He did not have any children. He did not seek attend the best schools. He did not run a business. He did not even have house. He kept himself totally free from all worldly distractions so that He could have a holy life.
The life that Jesus lived is the religious life.
If having a good conscience and a holy life is better than all, then religious life is the best life. That’s why Jesus lived the religious life. It’s that simple.
This is all that the Church has ever taught. Today, we often hear people saying that getting married is just as good as living the religious life–but that’s false. In fact, the Church said, at the Council of Trent, that anyone who says that is cursed. The religious life is the most excellent life because it serves the most excellent things in life: a good conscience and a holy life.
Some say, “Religious life seems selfish! Christians can do so much more living in the world.” This sounds like a good idea, but it’s false. Jesus warned us that our spirit is willing to take on great challenges, but our flesh is weak. People always talk about all the great things they’re planning to do in the world, but if getting married and working in the world was the best way to save men’s souls, Jesus would have done that–but Jesus didn’t get married and try to change the world by living in the world.
St. Paul and the Apostles didn’t.
St. Anthony and the desert fathers didn’t.
St. Jerome and the Hieronymites didn’t.
St. Augustine and the Augustinians didn’t.
St. Benedict and the Benedictines didn’t.
St. Francis and the Franciscans didn’t.
St. Dominic and the Dominicans didn’t.
St. Thomas Aquinas and the Scholastics didn’t.
St. Teresa of Avila and the Carmelites didn’t.
St. Ignatius and the Jesuits didn’t.
St. Alphonsus Liguori and the Redemptorists didn’t.
St. John Bosco and the Salesians didn’t.
Mother Theresa and the Missionaries of Charity didn’t.
Is anyone going to influence the world more than these people did? No way! Anyone who says that he or she is going to influence the world by going into it doesn’t seem to know much about history.
Some may say, “But there have been married saints!”–and this is true. St. Peter was a married saint, but you know what? Jesus called him to give up everything and follow him just the same. St. Thomas More was a married saint, but you know what? He had his head cut off by the king. The parents of St. Therese of Lisieux were married saints, but you know what? They wanted to live the religious life but weren’t allowed because they had health problems. The “married saints” didn’t live in the world the way that Catholic people are choosing to do. So, if we’re going to talk about the “married saints”, we have to talk about them honestly.
What we will always come back to is this: Jesus lived the religious life and said, “Come, follow Me.” Jesus shows us the way to the best things–a good conscience and a holy life. You never, ever, need to try to live a holy life with a good conscience in the world, living like everyone else. That’s very, very rarely going to happen.
If you do go on and earn a college degree, you will share an achievement with people who don’t know or serve God. If you do go on and start a successful business, you will share an achievement with people who don’t know or serve God. If you do go on and buy a beautiful home, you will share an achievement with people who don’t know or serve God. If you do go on and start a family with lots of children, you will share an achievement with people who don’t know or serve God. These are all good things–but they are not the best things.
You, in your life, have the opportunity to enjoy the best things in life. I didn’t have the opportunity you have to choose to live a religious life like Jesus and the saints. I didn’t become a Catholic until I was 30 years old and was already married with children. I have, however, chosen to live as religious a life as I can, and I want you to do better than me. I want you to be happier than me. I want you to be freer than me. I want you to have the best things. Remember:
“A good conscience and a holy life is better than all.”
Classical Liberal Arts Academy
Mr. William C. Michael is the founding headmaster of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. He graduated from Rutgers University with an honors degree in Classics & Ancient History and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Mr. Michael has worked in private education as a Classics teacher and administrator for over 20 years. He is a Roman Catholic homeschooling father of ten children, and keeper of a quiet family farm in North Carolina. Mr. Michael enjoys studying ancient natural philosophy, gardening, and running.