The Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, • Workshop of Bartolomé Estebán Murillo (Spanish, 1618-1682)(Workshop), The Walters Art MuseumWould you like a simple easy to follow plan to become virtuous? I have wanted a plan like this, and I looked for it. A number of saints outline how to grow in virtue and progress in the spiritual life. I want to share these with you.

Of course, the answer is easy, and yet extremely difficult. Jesus gives us just two commands… love God and love others. If we just do those two things, we will be like Him. This plan is incredibly simple, but it can seem really tough to get from here to there. How do I go from where I am now to where I would be living like St. Francis, Mother Theresa, St. Maximilian Kolbe or any of the saints?

I know the stories. St. Francis did not start out living like a saint. He grew in virtue and it took time for him to become the man we respect. The same goes for all the other saints. They all worked and progressed in virtue. Despite knowing this, it can seem impossible to become like the saints. The jump from where I am now to living as they did seems too big. I wanted a plan that was more gentle. Something that appeared easier.

Is there an easy plan to grow in virtue? Is there a checklist or a flowchart we can follow? Is there a set of steps that, if we follow them, we will grow in virtue and the spiritual life?

I know, the plan Jesus gives us is simple: love God and love others. There is only one task – love. That plan looks good, but I feel like I need something more tangible, more specific, and something that speaks to where I am right now. I have been looking for this plan and the saints offer great advice. Some provide very simple tangible actions we can take right now to grow a little in virtue. These plans are proven. They were created by saints that followed them on their path to heaven, and the Church has held up their writings as good for our instruction.

The goal is simple. We are striving to be more like Jesus, to live according to the Father’s will, and to love God and others in everything we do.

So, let’s look at the plans.

No Minimum

One important concern with seeking a plan to grow in the spiritual life is to remember we can never earn God’s love or earn entry into heaven. Both are freely given.

As we work to progress in the spiritual life, we cannot look for a minimum. If we think we are earning God’s love, then we may be tempted to think that we have done enough. This is a huge mistake. There is no minimum. This idea of trying to do the minimum to be acceptable to God is contrary to loving God. God asks that we give Him everything that we are. We cannot hold anything back.

When we seek God, our efforts will never be good enough, and yet, if we do nothing, God will not love us any less. What we do or how much we do is unimportant. It is that we give everything to God. Jesus describes this when He points out the widow who gives her last two coins away. Her gift was greater than all the others, not because of the amount, but because she gave everything.

So, as you consider the plans for growing in virtue, remember that they are always calling us to give everything we have and everything we are. We may need to grow in virtue to do that, but we must continually strive for that growth. Fortunately, our God loves us infinitely already and will be with us every step to help us.