January is the perfect time to contemplate how to live a holier life in the new year, and the following post is the first in a six- day blog series devoted to helping you make some positive changes. To that end, we want to share some thoughts from Father Joe Coffey, a Navy Chaplain based at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California, who recently visited us here at the Catholic Company. We asked him, as one who counsels those who serve others, to offer some tips on how to rejuvenate our spiritual lives in 2018. His words reminded me of Saint Francis de Sales’s simple approach to holiness. We’ve combined Father Coffey’s practical words with Saint Francis de Sales’s long-standing traditions to bring you these Tips for a Holier New Year.
As a Navy chaplain, Father Joe introduced us to the term “bottom line upfront (BLUF)”: a way to precisely communicate the main points one wants to express. Each day we will give you the “bottom line upfront” on how to make 2018 your holiest year ever.
DAY ONE: Bottom Line Upfront: Do the Bare Minimum
Let’s face it, if we aren’t meeting the bare minimum, then anything else will be ineffective. What are the bare minimums of our faith? Simple: prayer and the sacraments. These are the life-blood of the Christian life. Prayer is essential to living a life with and for God. Just as we could not live with our spouse, our children, or our friends without communicating with them, we cannot expect to know, love, and serve God without prayer. Knowing this, God gave us the gift of the sacraments to help us in our spiritual journey to our Heavenly home.
As Saint Francis de Sales said, “holiness is possible in all walks of life, and a meaningful and fulfilling existence awaits all those who live well.” (p. 13 Live Today Well). He explained that to “be who you are and [to] be that well means to respond to the gifts that are given to us.” We might make the mistake of thinking of the spiritual gifts of prayer and the sacraments as optional, yet they are not. We know that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith in God, and therefore attending Mass at least every Sunday gives food for our souls. Although it may seem mundane as the basic requirement for Catholics, do not underestimate the strength of this gift from God. Our Lord knows that just as we need food and water to live, we need spiritual nourishment as well. He has given us the gift of Himself in the Eucharist to feed us, and bring further into His Love.
It can be helpful to think about this in practical ways and to bring to mind the other roles we have in our lives. The requirement of any job is first to show up. We can excel and offer other gifts and talents, yet the first essential thing is to show up. If we are parents we know that we must feed, nourish, and educate our children. While these are basic requirements, they are also essential means of living a good life. They are not optional.
We must “show up” in our spiritual lives as well. Attending Mass and praying are the basic means we do this. While they might be gifts from Our Creator, they are not optional if we want to live good and holy lives.
While it may not sound exciting, a holier existence in the new year must start with the bare minimum, with those two basic requirements, prayer and the sacraments.
Perhaps you are way beyond doing the minimum requirements for your faith. Then pray for your loved ones or friends who aren’t there yet. What better petition can we make through our own spiritual efforts than the good of those we love?
If you remember one thing:
Attending Sunday Mass is the way to a holy life and God’s precious gift of Himself to us, and it is not optional.