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The Catholic Moment: The basic or deluxe package

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

By Jeanne Hunt

Anyone who has ever purchased school photographs or cable-television services understands the difference between the bare minimum and all the bells and whistles. It seems to me that faith formation has the same criteria: We can choose the bare-bones model or engage ourselves in a full commitment to growing in faith.

It’s worth our time to examine which plan we are currently using. The really bare, bare-bones plan offers Mass only on Easter and Christmas, no religious education after high school and prayer only when a life-or-death situation arises. The super deluxe package is a life filled with prayer, frequent celebration of the sacraments, a front-row seat at the parish mission and Catholic books and magazines on the coffee table. Most of us are somewhere in between.

What’s important is that we take the care of our souls very seriously. The soul is just like the body and the mind; it needs lifetime attention. Too often we presume that we learned enough about our faith in childhood for a healthy journey to paradise.

If we take that basic package up a notch, we might consider these features of “Soul Plan A.” We pray daily with a short period of time with God every morning and evening. We attend Mass every Sunday and are involved in some activity at our parish. We read something about our Catholic faith in a newspaper or magazine (such as The Catholic Telegraph or St Anthony Messenger) and attend a parish-sponsored mission or inspirational talk in Lent.

So what does “Soul Plan B” look like? Well, we get everything in the first package, but in addition, we go to daily Mass when we can. We celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation at least twice a year. We have a Bible and use it to reflect on the daily Mass readings. We have a spiritual companion with whom we share our daily faith struggles and victories. We meet monthly in a small faith group or spiritual book club to talk about our faith. We go on a yearly retreat and, at least once a month, take a day off to pray and refocus on God’s presence. We seek out spiritual talks and conferences in the parish and diocese. We keep up on current theological and spiritual directions in the church.

Most of us may think that the deluxe plan is too much for us ordinary Catholics and that it sounds like the lifestyle of a monk. In reality, many ordinary people are buying in to the deluxe plan, maybe not the whole package, but major parts of it. We begin to realize that faith requires discipline and work just like keeping your body well or having a sharp mind. The soul needs a regimen of fitness.

That old adage, “God isn’t finished with me yet,” applies in this situation. If we are relying on what we learned at the age of 17 to get us through life, we will come up short. The Christian life is a journey into the mystery of God. Catechisms and textbooks are full of answers, yet deep and challenging questions remain that only a relationship with God and ongoing conversion can endure.

If you decide to go with the deluxe plan, you can expect amazing results. As your soul grows beyond the childhood stage, you’ll begin to see life as God sees it. An abiding strength of character and a peace that surpasses anything the world can offer will be yours. God isn’t kidding when He includes a bonus in the deluxe package: living water that quenches your soul’s thirst forever.

Hunt is the catechetical and evangelization advisor for St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications.

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