[Q:] How Can I Become More Mature in my Catholic faith?
Someone asked “How can I become more mature in my Catholic faith?” This was my response.
Jesus simplified the Christian life for us when He reiterated the Greatest Commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength… and the second being to love your neighbor as yourself. This is your focus. This is your blueprint for Christian maturity. We need to break this down.
Love God with all your HEART: Do you have areas in your life that you struggle with, that take the place of God? God must be above all. Do you put yourself above God? He must be above all. Are your fears, your failings, your envies, your lusts, your covetings, and elements that draw you to anger… do these distract you from God? God will help give you the grace to defeat these, especially through frequent Confession and tactics as to help rid these in your life. It’s not going to be easy, but I recommend the tactics by the book “Change Anything:” to help craft habits and environments that assist you to naturally choose holiness. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great help.
Love God with all your SOUL: We often forget that we have souls, and we are to nurture them to prepare them for God, as this is the only part of the four attributes that survives our death, and moves on to eternity. We do this by adopting a Sacramental theology. Our souls are claimed by God, first by baptism, then by confirmation. Our souls are fed and transformed by the periodic reception of the Sacraments, both of Communion and of Reconciliation. Our souls are altered when we commit to and are faithful to our vocation, whether it be marriage or religious life. And our souls are given a last dosage of grace when, nearing our death, we can receive extreme unction. Develop a Sacramental spirituality, and protect it at all costs.
Love God with all your MIND: We are to know our faith, and know why we believe. We must know the Scriptures, know the minds of the Great Doctors of the Church, know our Christian history. We must be properly catechized. We need to make it a daily practice to read, study, engage, and learn. The readings and prayers of liturgy come alive as we study their texts in advance, and seek out common themes between all the different elements. Classic Devotionals like “The Imitation of Christ” and “The Spiritual Combat” should be read and re-read on a daily basis. Lastly, pursue apologetics — the science of defending our faith. We must always be ready for an answer to someone who asks why you believe as you do. This answer is as much an act of sharing knowledge and a delicate art of fragile communication and respect for that person’s God-given identity, even if they may be misled on some matters.
Love God with all your STRENGTH: As you pursue loving God with all your HEART, SOUL, and MIND, you may find yourself challenged to take a step in faith on some matter. Perhaps it is to fast for a time. Perhaps it is to tithe. Perhaps it is to help someone in need. Perhaps it is to attempt some action in a manner where your “left hand doesn’t know what your right hand is doing.” Perhaps it is some radical step that, depending upon your circumstances, your talents, your surroundings, your knowledge, your desires, the affirmations of those in your life who you trust (like your family or spiritual director), and the needs of others around you, is evident. And all that is required is that you take that step. One at a time. Too often we let other steps be taken by those whom we perceive to be “better” than us, whether it be clergy or some living saint in our midst. But God may be calling you to do a hard, but do-able step. Take that step. And again. And trust.
Love your Neighbor as Yourself: As you pursue loving God with your HEART, SOUL, MIND and are taking tangible steps to love Him in action (your STRENGTH), then you begin to change, more and more, into the likeness of Christ. And as you change, your heart will go out to others. You recognize that the bulk of the Commandments are to our neighbors, we need to continually remind ourselves that our neighbors are on the same journey we are on, and yet have their own challenges before them. Practice empathy. Practice charity. Learn to listen. Learn to engage. Learn to express your innate talents so to draw others to Him.
I am convinced that as you make these five areas your focus, you will grow in Christian maturity. Your temptations will be countered by Godly strength. Your life will become that adventure that God had always dreamed of you having.
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