FIVE ESSENTIALS OF CATHOLIC LIFE

Whatever is happening in your life and however busy you are or however lost you feel, these five essentials are the foundation of Christian life.

1.  Daily Prayer:

In prayer, we lift our hearts to God, and we let him enter our lives.

We don’t need to pray a lot, but we do need to pray every day. If we don’t, then our faith gets weaker and our love grows cold. At the very least, we can give two or three minutes at the beginning of the day when we wake up, and at the end of the day when we go to bed. It costs us nothing – but what a difference it makes! In

the morning, for example, we can say the Our Father, and ask God to bless our day. In the evening, we can thank God for the

blessings of the day, and say sorry for our sins by saying an Act of Contrition, and finish with the Hail Mary and the Glory Be. These prayers are the foundations of our faith.

2.  Sunday Mass:

Whenever we go to Mass, the Lord speaks to us through his Holy

Word; we are united with Jesus in the Sacrifice he offered on the Cross for our salvation; we meet him in Holy Communion; we receive the power of his Holy Spirit; and we are united with the whole Church across time and space. It is the holiest act of worship possible on earth. Sometimes we feel inspired, sometimes we feel a bit dry; sometimes we feel very peaceful, sometimes we are completely distracted. The important thing is that we are there, every Sunday. This is not so much a duty, as an invitation. The Lord is there for us. He asks us to love and

honour him, and invites us to share his life. How can we refuse? Whatever is happening in your life, however difficult or dry things are – do everything you can to be at Sunday Mass. Don’t pretend it doesn’t matter, or you are too busy. (We are not obliged to go to Sunday Mass if we are too sick to go, or if we are looking after someone who needs our care and we cannot get away, or if we are travelling and unable to find a church for Mass).

3.  Regular Confession:

In the Sacrament of Confession, Jesus forgives us our sins,

pours out his loving mercy upon us, begins to heal what has gone wrong in the past, and helps us to make a new start in our lives. Of course we can say sorry to God at any time – but there is no more powerful way of receiving God’s forgiveness than by going to a priest for Confession. And if we have committed any serious sins (‘mortal’ sins), then we need to go to confession to receive

absolution so that we can receive Holy Communion again. Confession should be a regular part of our lives. A good habit is to try and go every month. We might end up saying the same things each time, or even feel that we don’t have much to

say – but gradually this habit will help us to grow in holiness and grow closer to Christ. Don’t worry if you haven’t been to confession for ages; don’t worry if you are shy or embarrassed. The priest will help you.

4.  Keep the Commandments:

It matters how we live our lives. We are called to love God and to love our neighbour. We are called to be holy. Everyone is different, but there are certain ways of life that will help us to be holy, and other ways of life that take us in the wrong direction. We don’t have to make things up as we go along: God has revealed to us the way to holiness, in the Ten Commandments, in the teaching of Jesus, and above all in the life and death of Jesus himself, as he lays down his life for us in love and service. And still today, God guides us in our Christian lives and in our moral decisions through thethe teaching of the Catholic Church. We may struggle and fail in our moral lives, but we can all make a fundamental decision to turn away from evil and to try and live

a good life. This decision is what matters most, because then God can help us – in his own time – to overcome our weaknesses and grow in holiness. We can renounce sin, and promise to do everything in our power to keep his commandments.

5.  Love Your Neighbour:

Your neighbour is whoever you are with at any moment. It might be someone at home, or at work, or at college; it might be someone in the street or in the shop; it might be someone you are phoning or emailing or instant messaging. You might be very close to this person, or you might not know them at all. Whoever they are, you are called to love them, to be kind to them, to respect them, to support them, and to pray for them. It may be that we cannot do much to help them at this time. And it is perfectly natural and good that we should care more about those we are close to (family, relatives, friends, etc.) than about those

we hardly know. But the essential thing, once again, is simply to make a decision that we will try to love our neighbour. We are bound to fail sometimes, and there will be situations where we have no idea why or how we should love someone. But at least we know that this person is my neighbour, and they deserve my love, and we will not pretend that they don’t exist or that they don’t matter.

FIVE ACTIVITIES THAT WILL HELP YOUR FAITH

We can’t do all of this, all at once. See what is possible for you, and what is helpful. Take a risk – try something. And if it helps you to be stronger and happier and holier in your faith, then that is probably a sign that you should keep it up!

1.  Visit the Blessed Sacrament:

Some Catholic churches remain locked all day; but many, like ours, are still open. Jesus Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament, reserved in the tabernacle. This is not just a metaphor or a symbol. He is truly present, true God and true man, in all his power and glory and majesty. Whenever we come near to the tabernacle, even if the Blessed Sacrament is not exposed, we come into his hidden but powerful presence; heaven is laid open before us; and we can share our

lives with him in a most intimate and profound way. If you can, make some time to pray before the Blessed Sacrament each week. Make a special ‘visit’ to the church, just for a few minutes. Or set aside some time before or after Mass for this purpose.

2.  Go to Weekday Mass sometimes:

You hopefully already go to Mass on Sundays, and that is the most important commitment. If there is time in your routine, try and go to Mass during the week; perhaps once a week, or once a month. There is usually a daily Mass at our church in the morning or evening; there may also be a Mass near your college or work. This ‘extra’ Mass, which will be quieter and shorter than the Sunday Mass, is another way of dedicating our life to the Lord, and letting his love touch the ordinariness of the week. The power of his Word, and of Holy Communion, give us extra strength and guidance for our daily lives.

3.  Do some Spiritual Reading:

Find a Catholic spiritual book that encourages or inspires you in your faith. It might be about prayer, or the Christian life, or the saints, or Catholic belief. It doesn’t matter, as long as it helps you. And read a little bit each day; or each week (perhaps on a Sunday)

It is amazing how much a few wise thoughts can help us. We realise we are not alone. We learn new and exciting truths. We go deeper. Faith is the greatest adventure; and there are many inspiring people there to help us. If you are not sure what to read, ask for guidance from someone at church or from the priest or chaplain.

4.  Join a Catholic Group:

As young Catholics, it is good to get involved in parish life somehow. There are usually many things happening. If there doesn’t seem to be much, be brave, and get together with some friends and suggest something that you could do as a parish to your priest. It also makes such a difference if we can find a Catholic group to join, with likeminded people. It helps us to feel that we are not alone in our faith. It might be a prayer group, or a justice and peace group, or a pro-life group, or a discussion group, or just a socialising group – all that matters is that there are Catholics trying to live their faith together in some way. Look around and see what there is, and then take the risk of joining one. If it works out, fine. If not, then don’t give up – try another. You may have to look outside your parish and travel a bit. But it will be worth it. Some suggestions are listed below.

5.  Go on Retreat or Pilgrimage:

There are many kinds of retreats, prayer festivals, away days, pilgrimages, etc. Some of them might be organised by your parish or Diocese, others might be on a national level. It is good to get away from our daily routine now and then, with other Catholics, and focus on the Lord and on our faith. Not every retreat or pilgrimage will suit you personally, but you should be able to find something that is right for you. Ask your parish priest; look in the Catholic newspapers; ask some of the Catholic groups and movements listed below.

YOUTH INITIATIVES

Faith Movement:

www.faith.org.uk (Fosters Catholic faith and spiritual life; concerned with the relation between faith and reason; organises youth events, days, conferences, publications, etc.).

Fanning the Flame:

www.dominicansrs.co.uk (Dominican sisters who run a popular youth summer camp in Hampshire).

House of the Open Door:

www.houseoftheopendoor.org (Runs "Eagles Wings" summer camps for young people).

Jesus Youth:

www.jesusyouth.org (Charismatic youth movement begun in India, with many people involved in the UK).

Sion Community:

www.sioncommunity.org.uk (Youth ministry, school missions, evangelisation, discipleship,training, etc.; especially using charismatic gifts; residential community as well).

Youth 2000:

www.youth2000.org (Eucharistic based retreats and formation for young people, to lead them back to a living faith rooted in their parishes).

Young Christian Workers (YCW)

www.ycwimpact.com (Young people meeting to share experiences and faith and live that through practical action. IMPACT is the part of the programme for 13 to 17 year olds).

Youth SVP:

www.youthsvp.org.uk (Young people's branch of the St Vincent de Paul Society; group meeting and one-to-one voluntary help in the local community. See also SVP 1833 for young adults or contact our church SVP group).

Recommended reading:

A WAY OF LIFE FOR YOUNG CATHOLICS

Author: Fr Stephen Wang.

Published by the Catholic Truth Society (www.CTSbooks.org)

Price: £2.50

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