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Eight Habits of Highly Effective Catholics

Fr Lawrence Lew OP
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The keys to peace on earth and joy in heaven.

Many years ago, an elderly Bishop visited a parish of his diocese for Confirmations. Despite the fact that he was losing his hearing, he continued his custom of quizzing the children on their catechism before Confirmation.

He asked a young girl to define the Blessed Trinity. The girl was rather nervous and shy. She whispered: “The Blessed Trinity is one God with three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

Not hearing her answer, the Bishop said: “Speak up, I can’t understand you.” 

Turning to the Bishop, the little girl replied: "You can't understand. It's a mystery!"

Precisely. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (234) states:

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.

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

St. 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."

Although we cannot 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.

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

I’d like to consider with you what I call the Eight Habits of Highly Effective Catholics. These are the habits of believers who have a radical trust in God. 

What do I mean by “radical”? It comes from the Latin word radix, which means root. So for those who have a radical trust in God, their relationship with God goes to the very core of their being. It is a personal relationship. As Paul explained to the Athenians, “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17: 28).

Habit #1 – Highly effective Catholics accept suffering

Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan was a Catholic priest from Vietnam. He became a bishop in 1975 and later became a cardinal. Only a few months after becoming a bishop, Van Thuan was arrested by the Vietnamese government and imprisoned for thirteen years, nine of them 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 he delivered were published in a powerful book entitled Testimony of Hope.

In one of the meditations, Cardinal 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 stomach aches." 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)

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