Living our faith more

Living our faith more

Think of someone who was instrumental in your conversion or growth in faith. What were the qualities they displayed that had such an impact on your faith?

It may seem rather obvious, but to become a person who invites others to Christ we need to strive for the qualities of the people we have described. In short, we need to strive for holiness which is our vocation and the fulfilment of our baptism. This is not a process we do alone but with the help of the Holy Spirit or grace. Five essential elements for holiness are:

1. A mature and personal prayer life

To grow in holiness is to become like God and we cannot know God if we do not know him. An intimate relationship with God is possible and, in fact, is what he desires to have with us. Go to the How do I pray? link to learn more about prayer.

2. Frequent participation in the Sacraments

The purpose of the sacraments is to sanctify, to build up the Body of Christ and, finally to give worship to God.... They not only presuppose faith, but by the words and objects they also nourish, strengthen, and express it.
(Sacrosanctum concilium, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 59)

As Catholics we have the great privilege of being able to draw regularly from the graces freely available in the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. These incredible signs and manifestations of God’s saving power are so accessible that it would be ungracious and imprudent of us not to make the most of the opportunity. There are many good guides for understanding and participating more readily in these sacraments.

3. Ongoing formation through the Scriptures, Church teaching and spiritual reading

To be able to make good decisions and discern the often subtle differences between alternative patterns of living and behaving we need to have our minds shaped by the truth. We are provided with plenty of information and advice from the secular media and it would be unrealistic to think that it does not contribute to how we think and act. The trouble is that this influence often doesn’t reflect Christian values and understandings. Taking time to read the scriptures, Church documents and other forms of good spiritual reading is a way to redress the imbalance. This practice will help to ensure that our conscience is being shaped by the truths we profess to believe.

4. Growth in virtue

“Virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1833)

Virtues are where the rubber hits the road. Is my faith making a difference in how I live my life?  Can people tell that I am a follower of Jesus? The development of virtues enables us to answer these questions with a ‘yes’!

There are two main forms of the virtues: the human virtues and the theological virtues.

The human virtues are “firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith.” (CC, 1804). Human virtues can be developed by “education, by deliberate acts and by a perseverance ever-renewed in repeated efforts.”  However, to develop human virtues we also need our efforts to be “purified and elevated by divine grace”. In other words we need the help of the Holy Spirit.

The four key human virtues (or cardinal virtues) are prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

The theological virtues form the foundation for the human virtues. These virtues relate directly to God who infuses them into the souls of the faithful to make them capable of living as God's children and meriting eternal life. They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being.

The three theological virtues are faith, hope and charity.

Take the time to learn more about the virtues and how you can develop them in your life.

5. Community life

During his life Christ gathered many followers. After his resurrection he commissioned them to continue his work; not as individuals doing their own thing but for and on behalf of a community – the Church. Jesus knew that we needed each other. In fact, it is in sharing our life with others that we are given the real opportunities to live and grow in our faith.

Marriage and family, the domestic church, is a good example of the way that Christian community supports and challenges us to grow in our faith. It is in the family that we are presented with the challenge to grow as leaders and teachers for the spiritual and moral growth of our spouses and children. We are also challenged to grow in patience and provided with many opportunities to seek and grant forgiveness. The community of the family is also the place where we are faced with our own inadequacies and can, with reflection, look for opportunities to improve ourselves with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The same truths hold for the family of the Church. “It is in the Church, in communion with all the baptized, that the Christian fulfills his vocation” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2030). We need the support of the Church to continue to live and grow in our faith in a secular world.

Community life is not easy. The ‘fall factor’ means that things will not go smoothly. We will hurt and be hurt. But actively seeking to immerse oneself in our Church communities, to worship together, learn together, serve together and be vulnerable to each other, is the path that Christ has chosen for us. By enthusiastically embracing opportunities to live community within the Church we are giving ourselves the opportunities to grow in virtue in the ways that Christ intended.