I recently gave a talk to the members of the RCIA class at St. Peter Chanel who had been accepted into the Church this past Easter.  I focused on sharing eight of the lessons I learned since I came into the Church in 2006 which have helped me grow in my Catholic faith.  This is by no means the definitive list.  What lessons and ideas can you share with us?

Beyond RCIA: Eight Tips for Growing Your Catholic Faith

Before we begin, let’s examine what we know for certain-we have a goal (Heaven), a road map (Scripture and Tradition), examples to follow (the Saints), leadership (the Pope, Bishops, Priests and Deacons), clear teaching authority (the Magisterium of the Church), help along the way (the Sacraments) and we have Divine guidance (the Holy Spirit).  It is obvious that we have the tools and resources we need.  

Pray.  Work on developing a daily prayer routine with the goal of at least an hour a day devoted to prayer.  Sound difficult?  Think about how much TV we watch a day.  Consider how much time we spend in our cars each day and how much time we devote to exercise.  We have more than enough time for prayer if we plan for it, schedule it and commit to it.  Pray the Morning Offering or other prayer before you leave home-10 minutes, Rosary in your car or while exercising-20 minutes, Daily Jesuit Examen-15 minutes, Prayer with all meals-5 minutes, Prayer with our children and spouse-10 minutes.  Add it up-we just did an hour of prayer.

Daily surrender and conversion is necessary.  I learned early on in my journey into the Church that my surrender to God’s will and my conversion was not a one time event.  We must always put His will before our own and experience a “dying of self” in order for Christ to be in charge of our lives.

Accept and Study our Faith.  Accepting the teaching of our Church is necessary, but so is the knowledge that our full understanding may take time.  Trust that two millennia of Church teaching is probably much more reliable than what you or I might conjure up on our own.  Go to a parish bible study, take apologetics classes, read the bible and catechism, and read great Catholic authors like Kreeft, Hahn, Archbishop Chaput, Archbishop Dolan, Chesterton, Fr. Groeschel, Fr. Robert Spitzer, Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul II.  Understand our faith and be able to defend it to others.

Devote more time to the Eucharist.  Want to fully experience Christ and be closer to Him during the work day?  Know what parishes are on your way to work or near your office. Seek out the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in daily Mass when possible and spend quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration every week.  We Catholics have a wonderful gift in the Eucharist and we should seek Him out at every opportunity.

Be a Light for Christ.  What does being a light for Christ mean?  How can it be manifested in us?  Author Francis Fernandez shares this observation from In Conversation With God, “Jesus said to his disciples in the book of Matthew: ‘You are the light of the world’.  The light of the disciple is the light of the Master himself.  In the absence of this light of Christ, society becomes engulfed in the most impenetrable darkness.  Christians are to illuminate the environment in which they live and work.  A follower of Christ necessarily gives light.  The very witness of a Christian life, and good works done in a supernatural spirit, are effective in drawing men to the faith and to God.  Let us ask ourselves today about our effect on those who live side by side with us, those who have dealings with us for professional or social reasons.  Do they see this light which illuminates the way that leads to God? Do these same people feel themselves moved, by their contact with us, to lead better lives?” 

Pursue Joy, not Happiness.  Father Luke Ballman, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, gave a wonderful talk to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association in January of ‘09 in which he described the pursuit of happiness as the pursuit of the things of this world.  We think we are seeking happiness in the bigger house, nicer car, better job, bigger paycheck, but do these things really bring happiness?  His point was that all happiness must be preceded by joy and that all joy is Christ-inspired!  Seek out and surrender your heart to Christ to find joy…and you will also find happiness.

Start with the end in mind.  I can’t think of a better motivation for practicing our Catholic faith than this mental image: Picture Jesus greeting you in Heaven with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”  We have a lifetime to love and serve the Lord.  Will we use it wisely?  What will Jesus say to us at the end of our lives? 

Privileged, not Entitled.  We are all privileged to be part of the Body of Christ in the Catholic Church, but privileges are earned not granted.  Our life of faith requires dedication, obedience and practice.  We must work to earn this privilege and to fully understand the gift we have been given.

A few thoughts in closing….

Dr. Peter Kreeft once said, “The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for Saints.”

Matthew 5:13-14 and 16- “You are the salt of the earth.  You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father.”

My favorite quote:  “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”  St. Ignatius of Loyola

Francis Fernandez from, In Conversation With God: “We make our Lord known through the example of our life, looking for occasions to speak out, not missing a single opportunity.  Our task consists to a large extent in making the way to Christ cheerful and attractive.  If we behave like that, many will be encouraged to follow it and to bring the joy and peace of the Lord to other men and women.”

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