Recently, a young Catholic woman who works in a local restaurant shared with me how off-putting it is when other “devout” Catholics come into her place of employment and behave rudely. Their grumpy demeanor and frequent complaining strike a loud, discordant note especially when juxtaposed to the beautiful Miraculous Medal or crucifix glinting on a chain around their necks. If we Christians are not virtuous in everyday interactions, people notice, and we can inadvertently alienate others from Christ. How much more so when our sins are grave!
Today’s First Reading and Responsorial Psalm highlight the fact that Gospel living requires virtue. The more conformed we are to Christ, the more we can impact the world, not only by service to God in His Church, but in communicating His love and goodness through commonplace interactions with others.
The saints assure us that praying daily will help us to grow in holiness and become more like the Lord we profess to serve, but evidently certain kinds of prayer are more efficacious than others. St. Teresa of Avila once said, “I would not want any other prayer than that which makes the virtues grow in me.” We might ask ourselves what “virtue growing” prayer looks like. St. Teresa, a true lover of Jesus and expert in prayer, has advice and insight that can help us to develop the kind of prayer life that leads to holiness and virtue.
St. Teresa recommended the kind of prayer that goes beyond rote prayer. She called it mental prayer saying, “Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with Him who we know loves us.” It is by spending time with Christ every day, and especially by reading about and meditating on the life of Christ in the Gospels, that we are able to understand how far we are from perfection. When we take the time and effort to encounter Christ in prayer, He will become our rabbi and instruct us in virtue. In the words of St. Teresa, “He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example.”
The world is watching to see if Christians are people of virtue. The more frequent or serious the sin, the more damage we do to the Gospel message. Heartbreakingly, our bad behavior can turn people off to the Catholic Church instead of seeing it as the means instituted by Christ to lead people to salvation. Service to God’s people, whether by a priest, deacon, religious, or lay person, is effective when we are people of daily prayer; the kind of prayer that brings us into intimate contact with Christ and the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit. Prayer, virtue, and effective service to God—it’s a package deal.
“I look to the faithful of the land to sit at my side. Whoever follows the way of integrity is the one to enter my service.” (Ps 101:6)
Reading 1 Dn 7:9-10, 13-14 As I watched: Thrones were set upand the Ancient One took his throne.His clothing was bright as snow,and the hair on his head as white…
Saint of the Day
Known mostly for his translation of the Scriptures into Latin, Saint Jerome was also an inspiring writer of letters and commentaries. He was said to have had a bad temper, yet he was a man of prayer and penance. A combination of conflicting qualities, Saint Jerome stands out as one of the four great Doctors of the Latin Church.