Sunday, December 2, 2018

St Anne Charlotte, NC: Light of Renovation in a Sea of Darkness


Yesterday I made what is probably my last trip to Charlotte, NC. I had to wrap up some personal business there and while I was in town I decided to see the renovation of Saint Ann in the South Park area of town. When I lived in Charlotte, now over 13 years ago, this was one of the most liberal parishes, and one of the worst looking in the city. Those memories haunted me so I was motivated to check out the renovation hoping to leave Charlotte behind with a pleasant  memory, and I was not disappointed.

Below in the video you can see the transformation of the Church when it was first finished. Since the video was made however they have added to the Church, and I must say its impressive. The life size statues are reminiscent of those you see in the old churches up north. The niches on both sides of the upper windows have 12 life-sized saint statues carved by Studio DeMetz in Ortisei, Italy. The stained glass windows were also nice made in a traditional artistic manner. The mural behind the altar is stunning. There are also Biblical passages wrapped around the Church calling to mind how we must win the race against sin. I took a few pictures when I was there, and its things like this that help me keep my sanity. The church also comes complete with an altar rail where everyone kneels to receive Our lord on the tongue!

St. Anne's is a stick in the eye to the modernist menaces trying to destroy the Church. May this church be an example to bishops and priests across our country. St. Ann proves that Catholic churches in our age can be renovated in a fashion that gives glory to God, and we need this now more than ever in our time of liturgical and theological madness. They also happily have two regular Latin Masses each week. If you are in Charlotte on a Sunday, this is the parish I would recommend visiting. God bless Father Reid and those who made this happen.

(From their website)
St. Ann is one of the few parishes in the Diocese of Charlotte to offer the Mass in the Extraordinary Form (the Latin Mass) on a regular basis. The Mass schedule is as follows:

Sundays, 12:30 p.m.
Wednesdays, 6:00 p.m. (Low Mass)



 

Monday, November 12, 2018

What Really Happened at the Youth Synod?

This is a great talk given at the Remnant's Catholic Identity Conference, by LifeSite's Diane Montagna who gives you the inside scoop on the Youth Synod. You can subscribe and see all of the  talks on their website.


Vatican shuts down USCCB Vote on abuse crisis!

Just announced, the Vatican has told the USCCB that they cannot vote as planned on Wednesday on the abuse crisis. Cardinal DiNardo this morning read a last minute announcement which he learned of at 9PM last evening, that the bishops were asked not to vote on "Standards of Episcopal Conduct" scheduled for Wednesday. The Vatican has said that the USCCB must wait for the January meeting in Rome to address these issues. What I found interesting was that Cardinal Cupich just seconds later stood up, went to the microphone before the conference even began and proposed that the discussion on the crisis continue without a vote so that their petitions could be taken to Rome in January.

Image result for USCCB

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Bishop Athanasius Schneider Banned by Vatican From Travel?

Say it ain't so. One of the few outspoken orthodox bishops, Athanasius Schneider, is now being banned from travel by the Vatican? If this is the case, we are now seeing another move on the chess board to put Catholicism into checkmate by the hierarchy in the Vatican. Pray for this man, he is one of the few who helps keep our sanity under this Francis regime, which protects the predators and punishes the faithful. God help us! Update!

New update 11-7-18, Schnieder says he was asked to follow canon law by Vatican.

“I was asked on behalf of the Holy See to reduce the frequency of my travels outside my diocese, so that their duration will not exceed the limits indicated by Canon Law (i.e. 30 days). Therefore there is no travel ban.”

Canon 410, which regulates an auxiliary bishop’s travel, states the following:

Like the diocesan bishop, a coadjutator bishop and an auxiliary bishop are obliged to reside in the diocese.

Except for a brief time, they are not to be absent from it other than to fulfill some duty outside the diocese or for vacation, which is not to exceed one month.



Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Francis' Deal With Devil Results in More Destruction


Just weeks after Pope Francis made a foolish deal with the Chinese government devils, lifting excommunications of illicitly ordained bishops, the Chinese destroyed two Marian pilgrimage sites in China. I guess this is some of the suffering the true Catholic faithful will have to endure which Francis spoke of when he made the deal. “It’s true, they will suffer. There is always suffering in an agreement,” This is par for the course of this pontificate. Faithful Catholics are continuously thrown under the bus while the wicked are given free passes to destroy the Church. Another milestone in this ramshackle pontificate. The truth is, there is always suffering when you make an agreement with the devil. 




Sunday, October 28, 2018

Brace Yourselves: Youth Synod Over, Now What?



The Youth Synod in Rome has thankfully come to a close today with a Mass this morning. I have been following the event fairly closely and have been able to watch the event unfold over the past month. As expected the event has been fraught with fear of what the final document may contain, which at first glance seems to be a bit toned down to what was expected. However, there is a caveat, it seems that the pre-synodal document is to be taken alongside the final document. This means that the LGBT language remains attached to the synod regardless of what the final document says.

My impression of the event after watching hours of coverage is that first, there is much talk about nothing. There was much talk about technology, economics, and the various situations the youth find themselves. This would have been relevant is they had actually proposed tangible solutions, such as living the gospel in light of the unchangeable teaching of Christ and His Church. I have not read the full document, so it remains to be seen what actual tangible solutions are offered in light of Christ and His Church. There were also legitimate testimonies from the youth on how the gospel has changed their lives. I consider this to be the one positive aspects of the event. However, there was much useless talk about strategizing on how to evangelize the youth, as if the Church has no idea on how to preach the gospel to people of all ages. Its as if they are trying to reinvent the wheel. There were also some embarrassing moments such as the after synod dance where men in their 60s and 70s were trying to make themselves relevant to teenagers.

There were reports that certain language was toned down concerning human sexuality due to the presence of the African bishops and a few others. It seems that there were enough Francis supporters to pass all of the proposed paragraphs. All of the paragraphs passed by a 2/3 majority, although paragraph 150, it is reported that there were 65 votes against it, which was the one on human sexuality. All this being said, there appears, based on reliable reports, that there are problematic statements concerning sexuality and synodality in the final document. The language appears to propose that the Church does not have all the answers concerning human sexuality, and thus it must be investigated more closely. We can only imagine what that means. The issue of synodality is also an issue being that these synods can possibly be looked at as mini-Vatican II councils, that the Pope sets up, stacks to his favor, then under the appearances of the synod being the will of the Church, the Pope ratifies.

I think that the final document however is not going to be the main document to worry about, although it will be problematic. In my estimation Pope Francis will write an exhortation on the synod which will cause more of a problem. The ground work has also been laid for the next synod which will address the Amazon, in which topics concerning married priests and the role of women are supposed to be topics of importance.

Finally, Francis opened and closed with Masses using an abominable crosier made by some of the youth, which represents something out of the pagan cults. God only knows why he thinks that is an appropriate image of Christ. Stay tuned for more info as I get it. You can also follow me on Twitter for quicker updates.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Rigid Truths II: Marriage and Teaching Children-An Answer to the Youth Synod


 In order, however, that amongst men of every nation and every age the desired fruits may be obtained from this renewal of matrimony, it is necessary, first of all, that men's minds be illuminated with the true doctrine of Christ regarding it; and secondly, that Christian spouses, the weakness of their wills strengthened by the internal grace of God, shape all their ways of thinking and of acting in conformity with that pure law of Christ so as to obtain true peace and happiness for themselves and for their families. (Casti Connubi)

Its time for another dose of rigid truths! There is nothing new under the sun. For the past 2000 years the Church has been at work in the world bringing the grace of Jesus Christ to all cultures in all times. Human nature has not changed one iota since Christ and His apostles walked the earth. We still have the same fallen nature, the same propensity to sin and the same remedy for it, grace. Virtue is still virtue and vice is still vice and we all need to seek virtue and avoid vice. Our intellect can still know truth and we still have the freewill to choose what we love. We can do things God's way as perennially taught by Christ and His Church or we can do it the world's way, taught by Satan.

All of this hand-wringing and equivocation at the Youth Synod in Rome has worn thin on the hearts and minds of those trying to live the authentic Catholic faith. We do not need a group of so called experts to sit down and listen to the youth, what we need is for the shepherds to be actual shepherds and lead the sheep with the clear teaching of the Church. That means preaching the gospel as it has always been preached regardless of what generation you are preaching to, or where it happens to be on the globe. Yes we have new technology, but technology does not change human nature. Sure we have new means to communicate the truth, but communicate it we must. Like anything, technology can be used to improve things for the promotion of virtue, or be used to promote vice.

There is a very simple solution for evangelizing the youth and that is fostering a strong family unit in which the youth are taught the faith. Every child has a right to a loving mother and father who will bring them up in the Catholic faith. The indissoluble sacrament of marriage is of the utmost importance for the upbringing of the youth in the Church. All of this pandering to the world giving the impression that divorce is not such a bad thing has been a disaster. This new idea that Catholics who are divorced and "remarried" need to be able to receive the Eucharist is simply diabolical. This mentality does not foster grace in these individuals nor does it foster grace in their children. Divorce always divides the family and that is what the enemy wants. He wants to downplay the seriousness of the sacraments of marriage, confession and the Eucharist in order to foster a lukewarm faith, which is of course what Our Lord hates the most. He is doing a good job of it.

With marriage comes the obligation to be open to new life. This means that when a large portion of Catholics are illicitly using contraception, this brings with it a demonic presence that prohibits grace from working in the family. If the Youth Synod is serious about fostering the true faith in the Youth in order produce true holiness, it should be focusing on the bonds of marriage and clear traditional catechesis. The faith that is well understood and lived by the parents will usually also be strong in the children. When the mother and father are living the spiritual life in a state of grace, the children will also generally follow. We now have a modernist infused theology being taught in a large portion of the Church across the world today. We are taking our lessons from the world rather than teaching the world a lesson in grace. Families are being broken apart because of lukewarm faith, and this leads to the issue we have with the youth not seeing the Church as being relevant.

This has nothing to do with too few youth programs, as nice as more of these might be if they were well oriented, it has to do with actually living the Catholic faith in the home. If our bishops and priests teach the faith clearly, in season and out of season, and foster holiness in the spiritual life in the home, we can begin to pull the youth back into the Church. As long as the parents live a lukewarm faith, then so will the children. Remember, just because the parents are going to Mass does not mean they have a vibrant faith, and children can see right through hypocrisy in the home. A strong family unit that puts God at the forefront is the only solution to this crisis. This is a rigid truth that is unchangeable and relevant to every culture and every age. All of the pandering to the world will not change this truth and it will certainly not make the Church more relevant to the Youth, only truth and grace can do that. Will Francis ever take a queue from his one of his predecessors Pius XI?

Yet not only do We, looking with paternal eye on the universal world from this Apostolic See as from a watch-tower, but you, also, Venerable Brethren, see, and seeing deeply grieve with Us that a great number of men, forgetful of that divine work of redemption, either entirely ignore or shamelessly deny the great sanctity of Christian wedlock, or relying on the false principles of a new and utterly perverse morality, too often trample it under foot. And since these most pernicious errors and depraved morals have begun to spread even amongst the faithful and are gradually gaining ground, in Our office as Christ's Vicar upon earth and Supreme Shepherd and Teacher We consider it Our duty to raise Our voice to keep the flock committed to Our care from poisoned pastures and, as far as in Us lies, to preserve it from harm.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Rigid Truths I: Sin, Grace and the Necessity of Deification

This is the first in a series of articles titled, 'Rigid Truths.' It is a response to the noxious nonsense being peddled in Catholic circles today that we not be rigid in our thinking about divine truths. On the contrary, we preach and teach Christ crucified, in light of God's unchangeable Revelation. The truths revealed by God are not fluid and changeable according to the whims of man. The first article focuses on the rigid reality of the necessity of God's grace and divine sonship in the true 'Imago Dei.'  


Sin, Grace and the Necessity of Deification
Matthew J. Bellisario 2018

And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26)

The Imago Dei

The book of Genesis reveals that man was made in the image and likeness of God, the Imago Dei.  From the earliest times the Church has viewed this image not primarily as something physical, but something contained in the substance of the soul, the intellect and the will. The ability of man to grasp principles, understand reality, deliberate on what he has learned and put them into free action is unique among all creatures. This is the basic essence of the Imago Dei.

The Imago Dei however goes to a deeper level in humanity than this basic explanation, because the reality of the intellect and freewill presuppose a teleology in man. By the mere fact that man can learn, and act freely tells us that man can act towards an ultimate end. The proper ultimate end of course being God: to whom all men are created to return. This reality must also mean that there is a way that man can realize this end. This is by divine filiation, made possible by the incarnation of Christ. This image of God in man also allows man to love and interact in friendship, the highest of these being the friendship of God. This friendship results in sonship.

Although all men are created in the Imago Dei, not all men are truly sons of God, for they must possess divine friendship to be so. Thus, St Thomas Aquinas viewed this imago in three distinct categories.[1] The first being man as he was created with an intellect and will, the second, those who are infused with supernatural grace and are thus sons of God, and finally those who are blessed in heaven reaching their end in the Beatific Vision. By grace and divine filial friendship then the imago is perfected and reaches its proper end in the Beatific Vision.

The Origin and Consequences of Sin

Knowing that man must possess this grace and divine filiation, we must consider the obstacles to obtaining this end. The primary obstacle that must be overcome is what the Church calls ‘Original Sin.’ Adam and Eve, our first parents in the order of creation, (actual historical figures,) passed on to us the consequences of their choice to disobey God: “…the teaching authority of the Church proposed with regard to original sin which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam in which through generation is passed onto all and is in everyone as his own" (Humani Generis 37).[2] Thus, we must understand that consequently as we are all sons of Adam, we are all subject to a fallen nature. The great Saint Ambrose of Milan wrote, “Before we are born we are stained by contagion, and before seeing the light we receive the injury of our very origin, we are conceived in iniquity.”[3] What are the consequences of this ‘Original Sin’?

Through the sin of Adam every person inherits the consequences of his sin, making every man after him sons of Satan rather than sons of God. Saint Irenaeus rightly wrote, “the first Adam became a vessel in his (Satan's) possession.”[4] Traditionally there are two major consequences that are passed onto everyone concerning their relationship with God. The first being a loss of ‘Original Justice’ and the second the inheritance of the propensity to sin, or concupiscence. The loss of Original Justice means that man is no longer a friend of God, no longer possesses a filial relationship with God and is thus in Satan’s possession like his father Adam. This is often referred to as a “state of death.”[5]  

Included in man’s fallen nature is the loss of grace which orders man’s love towards God, and thus we have a propensity to act for our own interests rather than God’s. We tend to put our will above the will of God. An additional consequence is that our intellect has been darkened and this contributes to our inclination to sin.

Although man is fallen, he is still free to act and although his intellect is weakened, it still possesses reason, common sense and conscience which allows him to choose good over evil. True Christianity does not teach the total depravity of man’s intellect and will as do many of the pretended “reformers” of the sixteenth century. Man can indeed act in natural virtue, is able to deduce basic truths about his existence and can deduce from reason the existence of God.[6] Although man can naturally come to these conclusions using his natural reason, there is no natural way for man to return to this filial relationship with God. Being that man has an intellect and can act to obtain an ultimate end, how is possible for this breach to be repaired with God?

 Sin, Grace and Deification in the Early Church

The idea of man’s separation from God by sin being repaired by the infusion of grace along with man’s cooperation with grace is a commonality among all the spiritual masters of the early Church. This reparation however, was not to be done in isolation, but by one’s participation in the Church established by Christ through the apostles. It is important to recognize the importance of Christ’s incarnation and the establishment of His Catholic Church as the foundation for man’s possible reconciliation with God. The only known way for man to become a son of God is through the Sacrament of Baptism. This Sacrament is the entry way to the Church by a special grace which cleanses the soul of ‘Original Sin’ and the loss of ‘Original Justice’. It also cleanses the soul of one’s personal sins and the consequences due to sin. Baptism can be received when a person is first born or later in life when grace disposes a person to receive it. In addition to these graces one also receives the three theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. Along with this man’s cooperation is needed to foster more grace. This is done by engaging the intellect in prayer and catechesis. As one grasps certain truths about God they begin to love Him more and begin to develop a habit of prayer. This habitual intellectual effort guided by the will and grace, combined with the reception of Most Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confirmation, one continues to grow in grace and the love of God. Thus, the intellect, will and grace work together for an end, holiness and union with God.

Once man is in the state of grace however, due to his concupiscence which remains after Baptism, he may still use his own will to sin against God. Adults may have developed habitual vice before coming into the Church which makes them weak against sins of habit. Certain sins known as mortal sins can separate one from the sonship of God after Baptism. If this happens a man can freely recognize his fault, repent and resolve not to commit the sin again and receive grace through the Sacrament of Confession. This Sacrament is known as a “second baptism” which reconciles one in the sonship of God. Knowing that we are still prone to sin, all the spiritual masters advise that we undergo voluntary asceticism to help subdue our impulse towards sin.

Man cooperating with God’s grace then begins to choke out sinful habits by practicing good habits, known as virtue. Man receives certain gifts of the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. The Cardinal Virtues of Prudence, Justice and Temperance along with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord all operate in man while he is in a state of grace. The effectiveness of which they operate in each person depends on how each person is disposed towards God. A high level of holiness through grace usually comes by a gradual process of God transforming the person through personal experience in prayer, meditation, reading Sacred Scripture, the reception of the Sacraments and ascetical practices ranging from the basic practice of the virtues to acts of penance. Saint Gregory the Great wrote that our growth in the spiritual life, “…depends on our disposition: to the degree that you develop your struggles for piety, to the same degree also the grandeur of your soul develops through these struggles…”[7] This inevitable struggle then is focused on our pursuit for the love of God.

There are three basic stages of this process called by various names by the spiritual fathers. They are sometimes broken up into smaller stages, but in general we have the beginner, the advanced and the perfected. They are also commonly called purification, illumination, and perfection. The beginning stage known as the purgative is where one begins to follow Christ, mostly out of servile fear and begins to purify themselves of vice. The second stage called the illumitive stage is where they have purged away mortal sin but still struggle with venial sin and thus enjoy the ways of God in an imperfect manner. The final stage known as the unitive way is where a man is perfected and lives only to please God and usually involves a high level of prayer known as contemplation. The process described is known as deification, divinization or theosis. All the spiritual fathers teach this transformation of the individual although using different terms to explain it. Clement of Alexandria illustrates this idea “...the Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God.”[8] This mandatory process is how one partakes of the divine nature of God[9], which is the only possible means one can obtain the Beatific Vision. Although a man may do good things, even go to Mass, if they are not being deified through grace, they are not children of God. St. Augustine rightly says, “All who do not love God are strangers and antichrists. They might come to the churches, but they cannot be numbered among the children of God.[10]

Moral Theology and Deification in the Thomistic Tradition

In addition to the order of deification, it is important to study man’s moral action in relation to God as man’s ultimate end in Aquinas’ thought. This will shed further light on the previous quote of St. Augustine, whom Thomas quotes more than any other Father in his Summa Theologica. Although moral theology is sometimes presented as a type of ethics, this is a superficial presentation. Moral theology entails how man acts in relation to his proper ultimate end, God. The proper ordering of one’s actions is of the utmost importance when it comes to the salvation of man through deification. “St. Thomas teaches that everyone must order all of his actions to a single ultimate end.”[11] Man is either doing one of two things, directing all his actions with grace towards God or without grace to some lesser worldly end. Moral theology helps explain how man maintains his actions ordered towards God which makes deification possible.

Concerning sin, the Church teaches what actions are morally licit and which are not. Since acts of the intellect are directed to discovering truth[12], it is an obligation for man to inform his intellect as to what these consist. Those who do not seek out the truth of proper moral action are culpable for being negligent. Man’s habitual action aligns himself closely with what he perceives and wills to be his ultimate end. Those who orient themselves towards God will act for the good of that end, even if only virtually. The same for those whose ultimate end consists of something other than God.
Mortal sin, a sin involving grave matter, full knowledge and consent is a sin that objectively separates man from God. When this happens man’s ultimate end is no longer God, but something other than God. This constitutes in a loss of divine filiation. A person who commits adultery for example severs his or her relationship with God. Until, with the help of God’s grace, that person reconciles themselves through the Sacrament of Confession they will not inherit the Beatific Vision. They will instead spend the rest of eternity rejecting God in hell. Venial sin on the other hand, although spiritually damaging depending on its severity, does not sever man from the filial love of God. This means that man’s ultimate end remains oriented towards God, again even if their actions are only virtually directed towards this end, even regarding the act of venial sin.

Virtual acts are those that are not specifically directed at the end, but which make up a consistent order, or do not prohibit one from obtaining the ultimate end. For example, although a person may have as his end for the day as going to a guitar show, not all his actions are directly oriented towards this end. He may stop to eat on the way, and this does not prohibit him in obtaining this end. Other actions like driving a car to the event are directly related to the end, (again not obstructing) but assisting in completing that end. This explains why bad people can do “good” things. While a man may have as his ultimate end worldly pleasure, he may do an apparent good like giving money to the poor or helping a cripple across the street. This act however is not a true act of supernatural charity, only one of natural virtue, his orientation remains aimed at worldly pleasure. His act of feeding the poor is a virtual act aimed at his ultimate end of worldly pleasure. His direction can only be changed by an act which redirects his life towards God as the ultimate end. Much like repenting and going to confession reorients a person towards God, mortal sin does the opposite. In Thomas’ mind deification relies on the intellect and will of man directing his life towards God as his ultimate end and remaining directed to this end.

The Necessity of Deification in the Imago Dei

“…with fear and trembling work out your salvation. For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will.” (Philippians 2:12-13) In closing we need to emphasize the necessity of deification in the salvation of the soul and man’s proper return to Imago Dei through divine sonship. Many Catholics today put their focus and struggle on the world. Little thought is given to putting effort and struggle into a relationship with God. If we were to ask most Catholics today if most people they knew who have died have inherited divine sonship in heaven most would reply in the affirmative. It is apparent, however, from our brief study that the Church teaches that salvation and the restoration of the true image and likeness of God in divine sonship is directly linked to the process of deification, which few today seem to put into practice. “There are lots of those who speak but few who do.”[13]

“[The Father’s Son], His offspring, the First-begotten Word, should descend to the creature, that is, to what had been moulded, and that it should be contained by Him; and, on the other hand, the creature should contain the Word, and ascend to Him, passing beyond the angels, and be made after the image and likeness of God.”[14]


Bibliography


Ambrose of Milan, Defense of the Prophet David
Augustine of Hippo, Sermon on 1 John
Aumann, Jordan, Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition. San Francisco: Ignatius Press 1985
Cessario, Romanus, The Image of God and the Sacraments of the Church: The Practice of Divine Friendship. The Dominican Torch: Spring 2007
Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation 1
Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103323.htm
Jenson, Steven J., Sin A Thomistic Psychology. Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2018
Maximus the Confessor, Chapters on Love
Pius XII, Humanis Generis. St. Peter’s, August 12, 1950
Vatican I Council, Canon 2:1 On Revelation. April 24th, 1870



[1] Romanus Cessario, The Image of God and the Sacraments of the Church: The Practice of Divine Friendship (The Dominican Torch, Spring 2007)
[2] Pope Pius XII, Humanis Generis (St. Peter’s, August 12, 1950)
[5] Rev. A Nampon S.J. Catholic Doctrine as Defined by the Council of Trent (Philadelphis, Peter F. Cunningham & Son), 204
[7] Jordan Aumann, Christian Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition (San Francisco, Ignatius Press1985),  49
[8] Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation 1 (ANF 2:174)
[9] 2 Peter 1:4 http://www.drbo.org/chapter/68001.htm
[10] Saint Augustine, Sermon on 1 John 4:4-12
[11] Steven J. Jenson, Sin A Thomistic Psychology (Washington D.C., The Catholic University of America Press, 2018), 17
[12] Ibid P82
[13] Maximus the Confessor, Chapters on love 4:85
[14] Saint Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies Book V Chapter 3

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The 7.5 Necessities for Perseverance in the Spiritual Life

The 7.5 Necessities for Perseverance in the Spiritual Life




Remember that simply beginning, putting one’s hand to the plow is nothing. Holy thoughts begin the plowing, and perseverance in virtue finishes it.” (St. Catherine of Siena)

1. Live in the Imago Dei and Direct Yourself to Your Ultimate End: We are created to be deified and perfected in the image of God. Man has an intellect, a will, and he can choose whom he loves. God is to be every man’s ultimate end to which he must dedicate his life. He is to be our first love. This needs to be a daily conscience choice. Everything we do whether it is of primary intention or virtual, must be oriented towards this end, no exceptions.  This presumes one is in a state of grace, that he uses his intellect to learn and deliberate, then to act according to his will, to love God.  “...the Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God.” (Clement of Alexandria)

2. Participate in Your Deification: To be perfected or deified you must repent for your sins and exercise some form of ascetic penance. This means that you actively examine your life daily and confess your sins regularly. It requires that you do some form of penance in addition to that given by the priest. This is usually achieved by starting small and gradually working your way to more intense asceticism in loving God more. One then becomes gradually more holy. This means that you must move from servile fear, to loving God. There is no plateau in the spiritual life. “Come! Shovel out the filth from your soul and body!... No more filth! No more impurity! Run Back to your Creator. Open your soul’s eye and see how great is the fire of his charity, that he has put up with you and hasn’t commanded the earth to open and swallow you…” (St. Catherine of Siena)

3. Read Sacred Scripture: Scripture is the most important source for meditation. Every spiritual master in the Church attests to the importance of reading and meditating on Scripture daily. “Let sleep find you holding your Bible, and when your head nods let it be resting on the sacred page.” (St. Jerome)

4. Be Detached: You must detach yourself from worldly things. This goes back to The End of which you orient your life. Your life will be oriented to one of two things, God or something other than God. We fail to practice mastery over our attachments when we use them in excess of our needs; for purposes other than that for which they were intended; as ends rather than as means to a legitimate end. “The soul that is attached to anything however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union.” (St. John of the Cross)

5. Love Christ in The Eucharist: The Eucharist is the center of our faith and spiritual nourishment. There is no other source of grace greater on this side of heaven.  For this grace to be effective we must be well disposed to receive it. This means that if we do not have a daily prayer routine we will most likely not be disposed to receive Our Lord. We must be in a state of grace and disposed by daily prayer, otherwise going to Mass can lack love and be done out of mere obligation. “All who do not love God are strangers and antichrists. They might come to the churches, but they cannot be numbered among the children of God.” (St. Augustine)

6. Live in Grace and Virtue: We must work on exercising virtue and rooting out vice. We must be vigilant not only in fighting our predominant sin, but in practicing virtue while in a state of grace to choke out sin. We need to build spiritual habits. Virtue also leads evangelizing others. “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.” (St. Ignatius of Loyola)

7. Act in Daily Prayer and Meditation: We must strive in prayer asking for all the gifts we need to grow in love of God. First vocal prayer, then meditative, and finally contemplative. Our Lady asks us to pray the Rosary every day, its not an option. We must have at least 15 or 20 minutes each day to spend with God in prayer not including the Rosary. Spiritual reading should include at least the Scriptures. One should also have a strong devotion to Our Lady and the Saints. “The door to the castle is prayer and reflection,” (St. Teresa of Avila)

Bonus 7.5 Don’t be a Pansy! To live without Faith, without a patrimony to defend, without a steady struggle for Truth, that is not living, but existing. (Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati)