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The Seven Daily Habits of Holy Apostolic People

By Father John McCloskey Pastor of Souls

April 08, 2002

A good priest gives good advice on developing good habits!

Catholic Way - You are reading this because you are interested in taking your spiritual life more seriously from this point on. You heartily assent to one of the key points of the Second Vatican Council: the importance of the doctrine of the universal call to holiness. You also know that Jesus is the one way to holiness, "I am the way, the truth and the life." The secret of holiness is constant prayer which could be defined as continual contact with the Holy Trinity, "Pray always and do not lose heart" (Luke 18:1).

There are various ways to come to know Jesus. We are going to speak briefly about some of them in this article. You want to come to know, love and serve Jesus the same way you learn to love and stay in love with anybody: your spouse, family members, and close friends, i.e. by spending a considerable amount of time with him on a regular and, in this case, daily basis. The payoff, if you will, is the only true happiness in this life and the vision of God in the next. There are no easy substitutes. Sanctification is a work of a lifetime and it requires our determined effort to cooperate with God's sanctifying grace coming through the sacraments.

The seven daily habits that I propose to you are the morning offering, spiritual reading (New Testament and a spiritual book suggested to you by your spiritual advisor), the Holy Rosary, Holy Mass and Communion, at least fifteen minutes of mental prayer, the recitation of the Angelus at noon, and a brief examination of conscience at night.

These are the principal means to achieve holiness. If you are a person who wants to bring Christ to others through your friendship, these are the instruments by which you store up the spiritual energy that will enable you to so. Apostolic action without the sacraments and a deep solid interior life will in the long run be ineffective. You can be sure that all the saints incorporated in one way or another all of these habits into their daily routine. Your goal is to be like them, contemplatives in the middle of the world.

I want to stress several points before examining the habits.

One, remember that growing in these daily habits, just like taking on a diet or a physical exercise program, is a gradual work in progress. Don't expect to insert all seven or even two or three of these in your daily schedule immediately, any more than you would attempt a 5K race after not having run regularly, or attempting to play Liszt after your third piano lesson. This haste would be inviting failure and God wants you to succeed at both your pace and His. You should work closely with your spiritual advisor, and gradually and fruitfully incorporate the habits into your life over a period of time in a way that fits your particular situation. It may even be that your life circumstances require a modification of the seven habits.

Second, at the same time you must make a firm commitment with the help of the Holy Spirit and your special intercessors, to make them the priority of your life -- more important than meals, sleep, work and recreation. I want to make it clear that these habits cannot be acquired on the run. That is not the way we want to deal with people we love. They must be done when we are most alert, during the day, in a place that is silent and without distractions, where it is easy to put ourselves in God's presence and address him. After all, is not eternal life more important than our temporal life? All that will remain at the time of your particular judgement will be the amount of the love of God in your heart.

Third, I want to point out that living the seven daily habits is not a zero sum game. You are not losing time but rather, in reality, gaining it. I have never met a person who lived them on a daily basis who became a less productive worker as a result, or a worse spouse, or who had less time for his friends, or could no longer grow in his cultural life. Quite the contrary, God always rewards those who put him first. Our Lord will multiply our time amazingly as he did with those few loaves and fishes that fed the multitude with plenty left over. You can be sure that Pope John Paul II, Mother Theresa, or St. Maximilian Kolbe pray, or prayed, a lot more than the one and one-half hours that is required for the seven daily habits spread throughout the day.

The first habit is the morning offering, when you kneel down and using your own words, or a formula, you briefly offer up all the day ahead for God's glory. What is not so simple is what has to happen before the offering. As the founder of Opus Dei put it "Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a set time, without granting a single minute to laziness. If with the help of God, you conquer ...

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