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“Ask a Priest: How Should I Live My Life?”
Q: My biggest question right now is how should I live, and why should I live like that? I assume the answer is to follow Church teaching, correct? – M.S.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It’s good that you are asking this kind of question. It’s good to reflect on what we should be doing in this world, which helps explain why we are here.
The short answer is yes, you should follow Church teaching. But it’s also vital to understand why you should do this.
God created each one of us, and he created us in such a way that we seek happiness. The pursuit of happiness involves the pursuit of truth and goodness and beauty. Ultimately, we will only find the perfection of truth and goodness and beauty in God.
This is why our ultimate happiness will be found only in heaven. The good news is that God “wills everyone to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4).
Entrance into heaven isn’t automatic, however. We have to cooperate with God’s grace. We have to live in accord with God’s commandments.
How do we know what that entails in day-to-day life? This is where the Church guides us. It helps us see how to live the commandments in real life.
We can turn to the Church with confidence, since Jesus is its Head. And he promised that the Holy Spirit “will guide you to all truth” (John 16:13).
This means that the Holy Spirit guides the teaching authority of the Church (its magisterium) in matters of faith and morals. This is how we can be sure that Church teaching is solid.
We want to be careful, however, not to see the Catholic faith as just about “following Church teaching.”
Our faith is ultimately grounded in a relationship with Someone who loves one. Jesus came into the world to teach us how to live, and he was willing to suffer a terrible death for the sake of our redemption. Our living of our faith is a response to his love. It shows our gratitude and love for Our Lord.
An analogy might help.
A husband who sees marriage as just a matter of “following the rules of the house” isn’t going to have a very healthy view of his state of life.
Ideally, a husband does acts of charity for his wife and children out of a sense of love. In this way he lives his state of life in a way that helps him grow in virtue and attain to salvation.
One reason for the big decline in the practice of the faith in the past 50-plus years is that many “cradle Catholics” never understood the reason behind the Church rules that they were expected to follow.
This is a shame. It is a problem that could have been avoided. Fortunately, there is now a lot of material that helps explain the faith in accessible ways. This includes the Youth Catechism, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the theology of the body.
The basic elements of the practice of the faith are easy: a solid prayer life, frequent recourse to the sacraments, a bit of mortification (Friday abstinence, etc.) and acts of charity (helping the poor, the shut-ins, etc.). Sharing the faith with others, and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary are helpful, too.
If a Catholic does that, and makes an effort to learn more about the faith on an ongoing basis, he will be the right path.
A book that might be fruitful for you is 60 Days to Becoming a Missionary Disciple, by Father John Bartunek. Count on my prayers.
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