Discipleship is the theme of this year’s mens retreat. There are simply tools that anyone can use to grow as a disciple. This week I am focusing my attention on four of them.
1. The Bible. The Scriptures are full of stories about people who spent their lives following the Lord. Whether one looks to the Old or New Testament, there are a multitude of examples from Abraham to St. Paul, who successfully followed the will of God. Each one of these stories begins with a call, continues with God’s guidance and shows us what one’s life can look like when we place our faith in God.
2. Tradition. Our Catholic Tradition is full of ways in which we can grow in our relationship with God. This week we have looked closely at the tradition of the veneration of the saints as a tool to growing in holiness. The saints are those who have gone before us who were successful in following the path that leads to heaven. I particularly appreciate the fact that while all the saints have things in common, they are as diverse of a group of people that you will find.
3. Prayer (most especially the liturgy). It was as a teenager that I first began to truly listen to the prayers at mass, especially the Eucharistic Prayers. When I did, it was the opening to a much greater understanding of the core beliefs of Christianity. The liturgy is meant to form us and to instruct us while allowing us to worship God. The hymns, the words, and most especially the structure of the mass is meant to show us how to become better followers of Christ.
4. Beauty. Catholics are often accused of worshipping idols. One reason is a lack of understanding as to why our church buildings contain statues, icons and stained glass windows. The things of this world which are truly beautiful can and should lead us to God. I recall the first time visiting the Temple Mount in Jerusalem when our group entered the Dome of the Rock. While it contains no images, the stunning beauty of the place brought our entire group to an immediate silence.
Often when we set out to accomplish something great we believe complex tools are required. When it comes to Christian discipleship, the best tools are the simple ones. The difficult part is choosing to use them consistently with a spirit of courage, faithfulness and love.