A Simple Way of Life
If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples,
and you will know the truth, and the truth
will make you free. (John 8:31-32)
The Lord Jesus calls us, by our Baptism, to share His glory and live in the perfect happiness of the saints, and this is the blessed state of life called beatitude. "God put us in the world to know, to love, and to serve Him, and so to come to paradise. Beatitude makes us 'partakers of the divine nature' and of eternal life. With beatitude, man enters into the glory of Christ and into the joy of the Trinitarian life." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1721)
This happiness is possible only through the salvation granted to us freely by God's grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation is "God's free gift to us of the forgiveness of our sins and restoration of friendship with God, which can be done by God alone." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 169)
This unmerited gift of grace is poured out upon us at our Baptism when Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, unites us to Himself, makes us part of His family – the Church – and marks us forever with the sign of His Cross. After Baptism, Jesus continues to touch us and heal us with His grace through the Sacred Scriptures and the Sacraments of the New Covenant.
Baptism, although essential for salvation, is only the beginning of our life in Christ. In response to God's free and unmerited gift of grace poured out upon us in our Baptism, we are called by the Lord Jesus to become His disciples. A Christian disciple is a student who learns a complete, coherent, comprehensive Way of Life from the Lord Jesus. According to the Second Vatican Council,
The followers of Christ are called by God, not because of their works, but according to His own purpose and grace. They are justified in the Lord Jesus because, in the Baptism of faith, they truly become sons of God and sharers in the divine nature. In this way they are really made holy. Then too, by God's gift, they must hold on to and complete in their lives this holiness they have received. (Lumen Gentium, 40)
In Jesus Christ – and only in Jesus Christ – do we come to know who we really are: immortal persons created in the image and likeness of God and chosen by Christ to share in His divine nature. In the words of Pope John Paul II,
Jesus is 'the new man' (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10) who calls redeemed humanity to share in His divine life. The mystery of the Incarnation lays the foundation for an anthropology which… moves toward God himself, indeed toward the goal of 'divinization.' This occurs through the grafting of the redeemed onto Christ and their admission into the intimacy of the Trinitarian life. (Novo Millennio Ineuente, 23)
In becoming students of the Lord Jesus and by following Him in the Way of the Cross, we become like Him. Discipleship is the process by which Jesus Christ makes us holy and transforms us into His likeness: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)
The Path to Holiness
Through God's grace, disciples grow into "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13), and when we cooperate with God's grace to grow in holiness, we are brought into a union of heart and mind with the Lord Jesus. "This union is called 'mystical' because it participates in the mystery of Christ through the Sacraments — 'the holy mysteries' — and, in Him, in the mystery of the Holy Trinity. God calls us all to this intimate union with Him…" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2014)
Disciples are not content to live what Pope John Paul II calls a "life of mediocrity, marked by a minimalist ethics and a shallow religiosity" (Novo Millenio Ineunte, 31). Genuine disciples come to see that the primary purpose of their lives is to seek holiness: "This is the will of God, your sanctification" (1 Thessalonians 4:3), and "You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48)
The call to holiness is not just for priests, monks, and nuns. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, "all the faithful of Christ of whatever rank or status are called to the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of charity." (Lumen Gentium, 40) Pope John Paul II reminds us that "this ideal of perfection must not be understood as if it involved some kind of extraordinary existence, possible only for a few 'uncommon heroes' of holiness. The ways of holiness are many, according to the vocation of each individual." (Novo Millenio Ineunte, 31)
In other words, the path to holiness will look very different for a lay person living in the world than it will for a nun living in a monastery or a priest living in a rectory. It will also take different forms for different people depending on their state in life (married, single, widowed, etc.) and their unique personalities, gifts, and temperaments. For every person, though, the only way that we can know true freedom is in perfect obedience of faith to the Lord Jesus and His Gospel. Evangelical freedom is not the license to do whatever we want; it is the liberty to do everything we should. And while following Christ and obeying His Gospel requires discipline, the fruit of discipleship is not hardship, it is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.
While the surrender to Christ will take many different forms, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition suggest certain virtues, dispositions, and customs that help define a life of Christian discipleship. Taken together, these "marks" constitute a Christian Way of Life — a disciplined pattern of living designed to help every baptized Catholic move from Church member by convention to Christian disciple by conviction and respond promptly, joyfully, and easily to Christ's call to holiness.
This Way of Life is suggested not as a burden to be imposed but as an invitation to help followers of Jesus place themselves before God so that He can transform them and make them holy. The Church teaches that while Christ gives us the strength to follow Him, we must give all of ourselves to the work of becoming mature disciples:
In order that the faithful may reach this perfection, they must use their strength accordingly as they have received it, as a gift from Christ. They must follow His footsteps and conform themselves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. They must devote themselves with all their being to the glory of God and the service of their neighbor. In this way the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in Church history. (Lumen Gentium, 40)
By practicing the disciplines of the spiritual life, we allow Christ to shape our inner person in such a way that the words and actions of Jesus Christ naturally flow from us. Growing in holiness as a disciple of the Lord Jesus is a daily process and one that requires patience, humility, and perseverance.
Christianity is a not merely a set of doctrines to which one must assent or a series of rules which one must obey. Christianity is a complete, coherent, comprehensive Way of Life, and the Gospel touches every dimension of our being — our thoughts, words, actions, bodies, relationships, spending habits, political convictions, leisure activities, lifestyle choices, business ethics, etc. A decision to follow the Lord Jesus demands a willingness to allow His Gospel to be the measure of our whole lives and a readiness to abandon anything that is contrary to the revelation of God.
Our purpose at St. Mary's Church is to help every man, woman, and child in our parish to grow closer to the Lord Jesus as faithful disciples. We invite you to embrace the following Way of Life as a tool through which the Holy Spirit might transform you ever more deeply into the likeness of Jesus Christ so that you may come to understand more completely your dignity and destiny as a child of God, a member of Christ, and an heir to the Kingdom of Heaven.
A Simple Way of Life
Surrendering myself every day to the grace and mercy of God the Father and relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, I resolve to be a faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus who
- Prays every day.
The Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, and a quiet time of meditation are all splendid ways of entering each day into prayer. Prayer before the Blessed Sacrament reserved in the Tabernacle or exposed for adoration is especially fruitful.
- Worships at least once each week in the Most Holy Eucharist.
Faithfully participating in Mass every Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation is the bare minimum of Catholic practice; participating in Mass every day is a laudable goal. Without faithful attendance at Sunday Mass each and every week (serious illness and essential work aside), there is no possibility of authentic discipleship.
- Studies Sacred Scripture every day.
There is absolutely no substitute for direct, personal contact with the Bible. Studying and praying with the Sacred Scriptures (lectio divina) is an essential and irreplaceable part of mature discipleship, and this can be done both alone and with a group of other disciples. Study of the Sacred Scriptures then leads naturally to lifelong study of the teaching of the Church, the lives of the saints, and the history of divine revelation in Judaism and Christianity.
- Confesses my sins regularly in the Sacrament of Penance.
The Sacrament of Penance is Christ's Easter gift to His Church. Each time we make a worthy Confession of sins and receive Absolution, the grace of our Baptism is renewed and restored in us. We show reverence to Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist by not receiving Holy Communion after serious sin until and unless we have been to Confession.
- Serves others in the Name of Jesus Christ.
Our worship of God is empty unless it changes the way we treat other human persons, most especially the poor and those in need of any kind. Finding some form of direct Christian service to others in keeping with our state of life is essential to a life of mature discipleship. Teaching children, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, and comforting those in sorrow are a few of the many ways of serving "the least" of Christ's brethren.
- Shares my personal gifts, time, and money with the Lord and His Church.
We are called to give ourselves to the Lord Jesus in every way and to acknowledge that we are merely stewards of the good things He has given to us. Offering our time, talent, and treasure in service to the Gospel is a natural consequence of following the Way of the Cross. True disciples are always good stewards.
- Connects with other disciples in Christian community.
We are not called to follow Christ in solitude, and so we must seek the fellowship of other Christians, not only for worship but also for recreation, family activities, study, and service. Mature friendship with other Christian disciples is essential to a healthy interior life, and Christian friends encourage each other in fidelity to the Way of the Cross.
- Evangelizes the world through my words and deeds.
The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is given to every person who is baptized into the death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We must always and everywhere bear witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and invite others to believe in Him and to join us in following Him in the Way of the Cross.
By the grace of my Baptism and with the help and mercy of God, I commit myself to strive to live according to this Simple Way of Life.