My gym has a few things it can teach us church-going folk, especially when it comes to taking liberties with the rules. Rules are made for a purpose and if you don’t like those rules, why are you even here? I thought I’d interpret the gym’s rules for my church noticeboard and it wasn’t difficult. In fact, some of them hardly needed interpretation. It makes you wonder why we accept rules as common sense in the gym but feel free to question them when it comes to faith. Faith, like muscle, needs a disciplined approach or it’ll never grow.
Show up! It’s amazing how something so simple can be so effective for our spiritual growth, yet can be so hard to do. If you are not present, you can’t learn, you can’t change your habits, and you can’t make progress. If you want to strengthen your faith, all you need to do is turn up with a willingness to listen and learn; turn up to the Sacraments, prayer groups, bible study, social groups and parish celebrations. It won’t take long before you find your faith muscles primed and ready for action.
Be on time for Mass. It’s a sign of your commitment to the act of worship and a sign of respect for everyone involved. Those observing you will welcome the assurance that you’re on the same page. Practice your faith and be consistent in your expressions of faith: pray and read scripture every day and receive the Sacraments as often as possible. Listen to the Good News proclaimed by the priest and learn what it means to be a person of faith.
Leave your ego at the door. Faith is humbling to everyone if we take seriously the message to forgive, to put others first and to love our neighbors. It’s a lifetime of progression, but we are all called to be perfect. Still, even thinking that we are better than others will leave us disappointed and in tears.
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always”. Many people struggle with faith, for many reasons. Even entering a church can be difficult for some. Regardless of your own dedication to prayer and the sacraments, when required, go at the pace of the slowest and be gentle with those who can’t see the point or won’t be rushed.
For the love of God, please put your hymn books and prayer cards away at the end of Mass. Our church is a home, not a public service for you to take or leave as you will. Once the last chord of the last hymn has drifted away, and only then, gather up your belongings and make your way out. None of this sneaking away between Holy Communion and the Concluding Rites, as if you’ve got something better to do. And if you have children, don’t even think about bringing toys.
Ok, this one needs a different perspective; I’m sure God would be pretty bountiful with the chalk. So, how about: The Sacraments are a privilege, but they are there to be exploited. Go crazy with the Sacraments!
If you don’t know, ask! Your priests/deacons/catechists/theologians/ bible scholars/religious publishers are here to help you. Ask and it will be given. Catholics have the reputation of being woefully informed about their faith, but we have a wealth of material at our disposal, not least the catechism. A reading Catholic is an informed Catholic, and an informed Catholic is a strong Catholic.
Let priests be priests. Why do we criticize them, often openly? Father, I didn’t like what you said in your sermon; Father, you use too much incense; Father, you’re too tough on people; Father, Mass is too long (all heard in my parish, by the way). What makes us think we know better? If personal trainers won’t take that kind of crap, why should our priests?
Sin. Don’t do stupid things. The Church has been saying this for millennia; listen to its priests. There are very good reasons for avoiding immorality and we would be wise to understand them. Get the techniques of faith right – be consistent in faith – do it with great zeal. If you have niggles, go to confession. Always say your prayers.
Receive the Eucharist, often. Vary your faith-based diet so that you don’t become sluggish – throw in a pilgrimage, some novenas, a retreat, but don’t overdo it. Keep worship levels that support faith but not personal pride. Results reflect your participation in the sacraments and your dedication to prayer.
Be joyful! Rejoice in the Lord always; and again, I say rejoice.
Featured Image: Sam Sabourin / unsplash
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