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SUNDAY HOMILY: The Happy Priest - The 8 Habits of Highly Effective Catholics

By Fr. James Farfaglia
May 26th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

God is mysterious.  We have to accept this fact.  We cannot think that we can completely understand God.

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - Many years ago, an elderly Bishop visited a parish of his diocese for Confirmations.  Despite the fact that he was losing his hearing, he still continued his custom of quizzing the children on their catechism before the Confirmations.

He asked a young girl to define the Blessed Trinity.  The girl was rather nervous and shy, and she softly said: "The Blessed Trinity is one God with three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."

The Bishop could not hear her answer, so he said: "Speak up, I can't understand you."  The girl turned to the Bishop and said: "You can't understand, it is a mystery."

"The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life.  It is the mystery of God in himself.  It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them.  It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the hierarchy of the truths of faith" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 234).

God is mysterious.  We have to accept this fact.  We cannot think that we can completely understand God. 

Saint Augustine was once confronted by a pagan leader who showed him his idol and said, "Here is my god; where is yours?" Augustine replied, "I cannot show you my God; not because there is no God to show but because you have no eyes to see him."

However, although we cannot even begin to fathom the mystery of God, we do know that he is always with us.  The gift of faith that we have received at our baptism helps us to live in his presence and know that he is always with us. 

My dear friends, since the Blessed Trinity is a mystery that we cannot understand, I would like to focus our attention this Sunday on how we should live out our relationship with God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

I would like to consider with you what I call the eight habits of highly effective Catholics.  These eight habits are the habits of those believers who have a radical trust in God. 

By radical, I am referring to the use of this word as it relates to the Latin word radix, which means root.  Thus, a radical trust in God refers to those whose relationship with God goes to the very core of their being.  Their relationship with God is a personal relationship. "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17: 28).

Habit #1 - They accept suffering

Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was a Catholic priest from Vietnam.  He became a bishop in 1975 and later was chosen to be a cardinal.  Only a few months after he became a bishop, he was arrested by the Vietnamese government and imprisoned for thirteen years.   Nine of those thirteen years were spent in solitary confinement.

During the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II invited Cardinal Van Thuan to direct the annual Lenten spiritual exercises for himself and the Roman Curia.  The collection of meditations that were delivered make up an amazing book entitled Testimony of Hope.

In one of the meditations, Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan movingly describes what it was like not to have the Eucharist readily available and what he had to do to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

"When I was arrested, I had to leave immediately with empty hands.  The next day, I was permitted to write to my people in order to ask for the most necessary things: clothes, toothpaste.I wrote, 'Please send me a little wine as medicine for my stomach ache.'  The faithful understood right away.

They sent me a small bottle of wine for Mass with a label that read, 'medicine for stomachaches.'  They also sent some hosts, which they hid in a flashlight for protection against the humidity.  The police asked me, 'You have stomach aches?  Yes.  Here's some medicine for you.'

I never will be able to express my great joy!  Every day, with three drops of wine and a drop of water in the palm of my hand, I would celebrate Mass.  This was my altar, and this was my cathedral!  It was true medicine for soul and body, 'Medicine of immortality, remedy so as not to die but to have life always in Jesus', as St. Ignatius of Antioch says.

Each time I celebrated the Mass, I had the opportunity to extend my hands and nail myself to the cross with Jesus, to drink with him the bitter chalice.  Each day in reciting the words of consecration, I confirmed with all my heart and soul a new pact, and eternal pact between Jesus and me through his blood mixed with mine.  Those were the most beautiful Masses of my life!" (p. 131)

My dear friends, Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan understood that evil does exist, but he also understood that no matter what would happen in his life, God would always be with him in a very powerful way.  In prison, he was able to love his enemies and minister to the prisoners who were with him. 

Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan lived out the words from this Sunday's second reading: ".but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5: 4-5).

Habit #2 - They accept the reality of death

People who have focused their lives on heaven, think in terms of eternity, not in terms of days, months and years.  They see life as a mission and they are driven by that mission.  They do all that they can to get to heaven and to bring as many people with them.

Eternity is not an escape from their duties here on earth.  Instead, they develop the talents and gifts that God has given to them and they strive to make this world a better place for everyone. 

"Therefore, while we are warned that it profits a man nothing if he gain the whole world and lose himself, the expectation of a new earth must not weaken but rather stimulate our concern for cultivating this one. For here grows the body of a new human family, a body which even now is able to give some kind of foreshadowing of the new age" (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, 39).

Habit #3 - They pray daily

Anyone who has a radical trust in God spends at least one or two hours a day with the living God that they trust.  They are truly always in love with God, with others, with life and with all of their endeavors.  They are never bored and their time with God launches them into an enthusiastic donation of themselves to all those around them.  They are glowing Christians. 

Habit #4 - During their time of prayer, they listen

Always acknowledging their own inner poverty, high effective Catholics recognize their need for God.  They trust God and therefore they sit with him quietly, lovingly remaining in his presence.  They are convinced of the words of Jesus: ".your Father knows what you need before you ask him" (Matthew 6: 8).

Habit #5 - They avoid distractions

Because they see life as a mission, highly effective Catholics use technology correctly.  They understand that time is a gift.  They have a realistic view about life, and they understand true leisure.  They rest on Sundays, enjoy the company of their family and friends, and take vacations.  They use technology properly and do not waste time endlessly with Facebook and television. 

Habit #6 - They seek counsel and spiritual direction

Highly effective Catholics are spiritually in tune with God and they notice that God often speaks to them through the counsel and direction of a good priest, a good deacon, a religious sister or a well formed lay leader.  They do not avoid them, but rather they always have regular meetings with them.  Before they make a major decision, they always sit down with them and talk things over.  Moreover, they have a regular confessor and always make good use of frequent confession. 

Habit #7 - They always surrender themselves lovingly, in holy obedience, to the holy will of God

Those believers who have a radical trust in God, truly live out, within the daily circumstances of their lives, the words that Jesus taught us to pray: "your  will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6: 10).  They don't lament and complain about the difficulties of life because they know that the Father will provide their daily bread and they know how to forgive all those who hurt them in anyway. 

Habit #8 - They are happy

Highly efficient Catholics possess an indescribable joy.  Even when they suffer terribly, they continue to smile, because they know that their smile encourages others to press on and to persevere.  They can always laugh because they know that God loves them unconditionally.  They have an interior peace because they have a radical trust in God.  They are truly convinced that the words of  Teresa of Avila are true and real:

"Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you.  All things are passing; God never changes. Patience obtains all things. He who possesses God lacks nothing:
God alone suffices." 

Visit Fr. James Farfaglia on the web at www.fatherjames.org and listen to the audio podcast of this Sunday homily.

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