The Growing in Holiness article series shares the stories of Catholics in the Diocese of Parramatta who are striving to grow in holiness through the means provided by the heritage of the Catholic Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2013: “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.” (LG 40 § 2) All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48)
Crystal Wilkes wears many hats in her dynamic lifestyle as primary school teacher, Billings Natural Family Planning Educator, youth minister, parishioner and as a wife and mother of young children.
“I remember reading a story once of a mum with a large family who would actually sit inside the playpen (with kids on the outside!) with a tea towel on her head and tell her kids she was praying,” Crystal told Catholic Outlook.
While a tea towel is not on Crystal’s list of hats, she strongly empathises with that story.
“As a mum, I can be left feeling less holy than others around me who are able to head to daily Mass or Adoration,” she said.
“Sometimes the Lord doesn’t release us from his work to do this as often as we’d like. This has certainly been my experience!”
Recalling the presence of the Lord throughout daily life has been Crystal’s salvo.
“Pray without ceasing, Paul’s instruction in his letter to the Thessalonians has been something of an encouragement to me,” she said.
“What I’ve come to realise is that Paul was onto something – we need to understand that constant listening and talking with God is what keeps us on track.”
Crystal’s spirituality is reminiscent of Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ and Br Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God, which exhort the priority of love, humility and prayer above merely intellectual knowledge of God.
“It’s easy to know lots about God without knowing Him personally.”
“I find that being selective in worship is important so that I’m always worshipping him in a personal and real way.”
Listening to some popular worship music throughout the day also helps Crystal ‘pray without ceasing’. Her favourites include the album Starlight from Bethel Music, as well as artists Will Reagan and Matt Maher.
“They also need to be songs to God, rather than about Him, if that makes sense,” she said.
“Positioning my heart as a worshipper puts me at the foot of Jesus and it’s much easier receiving from him when I have myself at his feet and I’m looking right at Him!”
“As Paul was pointing out – the fruits of praying without ceasing are that you are able to be far better aligned with God’s heart.”
It’s clear Crystal’s heart is on fire with love for those around her.
“The fruits of the Spirit are alive in my life and (mostly!) I’m able to recognise slippery slopes of sin before I slide too far down!”
When Crystal has a rough day she tries to set her children an activity while she spends a quiet moment in prayer, sometimes with scripture.
If Crystal is briefly available for a weekday Mass or Adoration, she finds the Lord gives her strong encouragement.
“He knows what I need and he knows my burdens and doesn’t waste time!”
Another fruit of their prayer is an annual combined Parish youth camp in the July school holidays.
This is part of Jerry and Crystal’s passion for youth ministry and providing early intervention services to disadvantaged children and young people.
“We have sponsorship for any young person in school Years 5 – 10 who might wish to attend but is unable to afford to do so.”