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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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Well Father, your words to this person with question on following the doctrines of the One, Holy, Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ . . . .fell right in with a reflection of me today on why Christians of the Catholic ‘faith in practice’ leave church.
I will give the ‘short response.’
1. The initial reason for attending to Mass is to WORSHIP GOD and THANK HIM FOR BLESSINGS. (this is the basic reason taught to young children and teens in Sunday School)
2. In adhering to (ie: persevering) to the Sacramental UNITY of mankind and THE GOD, there comes the deeper reason for Mass: MYSTERY IT IS… but in ‘doing as Christ said to do’: ‘take and eat, this bread is my body.’ We grow up (ie mature in SPIRIT) to knowledge, Understanding, Counsel, and WISDOM of ‘GOD’ ‘the GIFTS of the SPIRIT of God, Father’s ONLY Divine Son’ The other GIFTS of the SPIRIT of God Fortitude, Piety, ‘fear’ aka RESPECT for GOD. Respect for all things OF GO(O)D. There also comes because of God’s grace to those HE KNOWS are His (because of their FAITH in what His Son said to do) there comes a ‘connecting of the dots’ of the biblical readings at Mass and The Gospel ‘good news’ with LIFE in the material world. It takes time but when ‘doing as ought’ and ‘working out the salvation’ provided when water went over the infant head (to clean a soul) . . . yes MASS brings us to all the above … because we are being ‘sanctified’ aka ‘purified’ of ALL THE WORLDLY IDEAS (human ideas) swirling about. THIS IS CALLED SPIRITUAL GROWTH… aka Spiritual Maturity… an ‘other centered’ way of seeing. (it does take time and
is hardly perceptible for a long time on the earthly journey)
3. This PURITY (Holiness) of knowing what to do AND WHY (Why? Because we want to KNOW GOD, LOVE GOD, and SERVE GOD) is the same purity of soul God began ‘in the heavens’ when He conceived Mary’s soul Immaculate (not a trace of original sin) GOD isn’t partial…the grace He gave to Mary, He does FOR ALL WHO SHOW ‘THE FAITH’ (initiated at Baptism by His grace) Mary was wholly part of God, Her creator, Her own human/Divine Son (her Redeemer also) and the Holy Spirit (sum of Father and Son aka counselor to her and ALL HUMANITY … who helps us to pray) To pray for others generally or in specific need is ‘to love.’
Every Sacrificial Mass attended is PURGING WE OF FLESH… of this ‘material world’ and all its ideas and subjective truths. When God says so… WE RISE (we die fully of the flesh actually) and RISE above all of the
worldly ‘truths’ . . . to a world without end and all to the GLORY of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
World without end … because of WHOLLY (Holy) being WITH GOD …. obedient to God’s laws (10 commandments) The ‘church doctrines’ are there to assist us in following God’s ONLY Divine Son… No one comes to the Father, but through THE SON. (and THE SON, Jesus Christ, gave us a world of grace even as we are ‘in the world of flesh.’ The grace to ‘take and consume the real presence of Christ’ as He instructed
‘take and eat this bread is my body’ (who wants to argue with THE Lord?) The grace to ask forgiveness 7x 70x in Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Grace ‘to pray as ONE BODY’ (various ages and stages of faith at work, but all in this transformation from ‘earthly flesh to the glorified flesh’ of God’s ONLY DIVINE SON one day. Ie: PERFECT as the heavenly father is perfect. PERSEVERE TIL THE END and THE JOY THAT WILL BE… for enduring THE KNOW NOTS of earth. (endure and ‘offer up’ for them)
oK, So it wasn’t ‘so short’ . . .
Ok, so that’s WHY we attend to Mass AND a HOLY COMMUNION (HOLY COMMUNICATION earth to heaven and heaven to earth)
Why do so many leave? THE ENTICEMENTS of ‘NICE’ . . . rather than HOLY. Many took to the PSYCHOLOGICAL means of getting along with the bulk of human nature: smile nice, no truths to worry over, just be POLITE… root of POLITE is POLITICS. So many have opted for BEING LOVED by mankind… than the LOVE OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD… ie: many opted for being POPULAR! ‘in’ with whatever is current ideas. (all which OFFENDS AND GRIEVES THE SPIRIT OF GOD) Watering down love to only a physical action, while cursing and swearing any who dare to say NO to them. (same as what was done in high school) They will ‘save the planet’ . . . but kill NEW LIFE all the way to 9 months. (not exactly logical) They ‘sell out’ truth OF GOD (10 Commandments) for a new set of thou shalt and shalt nots THAT SUIT their own ways. NO SACRIFICE OF SELF NECESSARY.
I SUPPOSE some think this better… but BRRRRR there will be a facing of THE TRUTH they crucified.
I will continue on the slow and steady path UPWARD… via the sanctification (purging) of the HOLY MASS.
I ‘hang’ with Mary, Spiritual mother and Jesus Christ through the ONE HOLY APOSTOLIC ‘CATHOLIC’ aka UNIVERSAL CHURCH (body) of JESUS CHRIST. In the world, not OF this CWAZY material world.
Living religiously (not scrupulously) but LIVING and putting God FIRST… will not make one popular. (especially if openly speaking of the faith ‘IN PRACTICE’ aka religion. Many will claim to know God, but I suspect they merely know OF Him. The KNOWING what to do and why… is God’s grace to those who persevere in the practices of FAITH (which is not just doing of good in the world, an atheist can be kind for their own purpose) An ACT OF FAITH is to do WHAT GOD’s WORD says to do: Be Baptized. Take and Eat, this bread is my body. ???? oooh so many walked away. FAITH says: if he says TAKE AND EAT of this consecrated bread BLESSED at altar… do it. AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN…with a ‘state of grace’ within. Not taking in vain… taking on Sunday and DOING ANYTHING ONE WISHES in the workplace to ‘get ahead.’
BELIEVE in HIS REAL PRESENCE within and do not do that which HE WOULD BE OFFENDED BY. The 4 letter ‘adjectives’ in conversation, the over abusing of alcohol or ‘shudder’ drugs, the ‘shacking up’ thing ie: playing house as kids do… no commitment to LOVE ‘forever’ before witnesses. By the consuming of that blessed bread… the fruit of the spirit will grow (ie VIRTUE). A quiet life WITH HIM here and now, enjoyment of simple pleasures, and then A PERFECT ETERNAL LIFE with Christ, and God Father and Holy Spirit.
Many say NAAAAAH . . . I WANT (NAME ALL THAT GLITTERS and entices the senses) It’s ok to have nice things… surely these are consolations for living a virtuous WORK life with Acts of Faith. But the difference is, the ‘stuff’ is not the motivation. THE LOVE OF GOD. is the motivation to serve GOD and neighbor. Then ‘offer up’ the good we GET TO DO in Him… back to Him… at the altar . . . no words even necessary, He knows the good one is about… just PRAY FOR … unity in the family, more compassion in ‘the world,’ more listeners rather than yakkers who are usually slackers of work. When He’s with us, He will direct our steps…..on what to do, say, or not say… and when to ‘walk away’ from temptation that PULLS US DOWN.