How To Avoid Distractions and Live a Devout Life

You strive to live a good Catholic life, but you find yourself being bombarded with distractions at the most random moments. It can impede living a devout Catholic life.

We live in a modern world that is full of distractions in the form of electronics. Sometimes distractions can be a means to temporarily escape from your busy life in order to relax. Anybody that owns a television, computer, tablet, or smart phone knows how easy it is to be distracted.

Distractions from God can be dangerous to your spiritual life. “And this I say for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is seemly, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” (1 Corinthians 7:35)

Because of original sin we have a natural tendency to focus on our own needs, rather than what God wants from us. Spiritually speaking we are like children that seek attention. We have to fulfill our basic physical needs, to eat healthy and get plenty of rest, but then we fall short on our basic spiritual needs–to spend time with our Lord, to adore Him, and to give him thanks every day.

The distractions are there. They are real. You’re familiar with what distracts you. Thankfully you also notice your need to spend time with Christ every day. Father Larry Richards says, “we are called to be people of prayer, and we are called to be people of love.”

We spend time with Christ at least once a week at Mass. This is the most opportune time for you to push aside all distractions and encounter Him in the Liturgy. If at all possible, arrive early so you can procure some quiet time and prepare for encountering Him in the Eucharist. You will get the most out of the Mass by this preparation. Yes, that means arriving at church early. This is a simple act of love on your part, by giving God more of your time. Also, spend a few minutes after Mass in silent prayer offering thanksgiving to Jesus for allowing Him to come and nourish your soul in the Eucharist. You can never spend too much time in the presence of our Lord at church.

Mass is about active participation. Not just an external participation with liturgical responses and singing, but there is a deeper, rather, supernatural participation that happens within. An internal, contemplative participation that reaches the depths of your soul. Your connection to the Mass uses all five sense that resonates to your inner participation. Whenever your distracted by one of your five senses, it interrupts your internal participation. Distractions come and go. Focus your eyes on what’s happening at the altar. That’s where the Lord makes Himself physically present in the Eucharist, and you want to receive all the graces you can to nourish you physically and spiritually.

Prayer is life-changing. It’s how we communicate with Christ and to deepen our relationship with Him, but we usually do all the talking. There are times in prayer where we need to listen to Him speak to us. In addition to praying the Rosary or other recited prayers, include silent prayer in your prayer regiment. Silent prayer (e.g. Ignatian Examen; Lectio Divina) is a deep and rich way to encounter Christ. Turn off all electronic devices when in silent prayer. You will find silent, contemplative prayer methods will enrich your prayer life.

We cannot completely get away from distractions. Our mind can be our worst enemy because it wanders from here to there. Ask Christ to help you. To shift your focus from yourself onto Him. He will guide you to a more devout life.

by John Connor

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Discipleship

A disciple is someone who “adheres to the teachings of another.” As Catholics we adhere to the teachings of Jesus through the Catholic Church. We are His students. Christ desires for us to be like Him.

Our discipleship begins at our baptism when we enter into the covenant family of God, and continues to form at home. We learn from our parents what it means to be Catholic by going to Mass every Sunday, going to Confession on a regular basis, praying together as a family, and receiving the sacraments.

The way we worship [at Mass] is what structures our belief system as Catholics. For instance, if Mass is celebrated reverently we will learn to believe that the Eucharist is the actual Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ, and not just a symbol. How we worship in the liturgy resonates what we believe as Catholics. This is an important part of how our discipleship with Christ comes to fruition.

Does being a disciple of Christ mean you have to be an active participant, that you have to possibly make changes in your life?

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.” – John 14:15

When you truly love our Lord and have an eagerness to be His disciple, you will follow His two Great Commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40) The ten commandments are summed up in these two. Christ instructs us to keep these two as the greatest acts of love we can offer to God and others.

As disciples we follow Jesus by obeying him through His commandments, and we also have to be willing to give Him everything we have. In the story of “The Rich Man” (Matthew 19:16-22) the man followed the commandments, but was unwilling to give up everything. He enjoyed his possessions. Does following Jesus mean we have to literally give up everything we own? No, you have to make a living to put food on the table and pay your bills, etc. If there is something that comes between you and God, then yes you must be wiling to give that up. Sometimes it helps to take inventory of all the external things you love and enjoy doing to see if they get in the way of going to Mass every Sunday or daily prayer. These can be the simplest of distractions. Eliminate distractions and you’re then able to focus on God.

Christ calls you and I to be disciples by ways of our baptism, but He also calls us to form others to become disciples too (i.e. devout Catholics) when He preached the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus calls us to make disciples of all nations. That means telling others about Jesus and His Catholic Church. You have to evangelize. Share the good news about why being Catholic is awesome. Your formation of being a faithful disciple never ends. There is plenty to discover about the Catholic Church in order to help you form disciples.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

Being a faithful Catholic and disciple is not easy. There will be adversity along the way. We live in a “me” culture that is very secular. You’ll run into opposition on important topics as abortion and same-sex “marriage.” Jesus never said being a disciple would be easy, but you will be rewarded in the end. “For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14) As Catholics, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we shall endure. “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he will also deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:12-13)

“If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world ablaze!” –St. Catherine of Sienna

by John Connor

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God’s Love on the Cross

According to tradition, in the fourth century the Emperor Constantine’s mother, St. Helena, discovered the true Cross of Christ while on a pilgrimage in Jerusalem. Helena and Constantine ordered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to be built on the holy site where Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected from the dead.

Constantine abolished crucifixion c. AD 337. Until then crucifixion was an extreme means to kill the victim in an excruciating and dishonorable way. Before Constantine, the early Christians saw the cross as torture and capital punishment.

Eventually the cross became a symbol of life and love, rather than death, through the Resurrection. Jesus Christ died on the cross, and changed the course of history by being resurrected.

His death on the cross is what saves us, and the Resurrection is proof that He is the Son of God.

“For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have life everlasting.” – John 3:16

Jesus loves us so much that He was willing to die on the cross for our sins. God the Father did not punish Jesus on our behalf, rather, Jesus as the second person of the Trinity, took upon Himself to lay down His life so that we too may have everlasting life with Him in heaven. Jesus willfully, out of pure love, laid down His own life to save us.

As Christians we look at the Cross today as an instrument or symbol of what love really is.

“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumbling block, and unto the Gentiles foolishness.” – 1 Corinthians 1:23

The reason we have crucifixes, rather than empty crosses, is to remind us of the ultimate sacrifice Christ made for us out of love. He loves us so much that He gave up His life for all of salvation. As Catholics we do not leave Christ on the cross (e.g. crucifix) as punishment, rather it’s a fitting reminder of what He did for us. Save us from our sins so we make have everlasting life.

The cross was a brutal way to die. We see the cross is a symbol of love. We look to the cross and give thanks to God almighty for his love for us. His willingness to sacrifice Himself on our behalf. We do not deserve it, but we can certainly appreciate by receiving and accepting this precious gift of new life.

That is why we venerate the cross certain times of the year, such as Good Friday, and celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross every September 14, to remind us of the love God has for us and the cross was used as a means to save us from our sins.

God could have chosen any manner to save us, but He chose to die for us. Sacrificial love is the most perfect act of love. In Greek, the word agape refers to the highest form of love one can offer to someone.

The next time you’re at Mass and you see the crucifix, remind yourself of the love (agape) God has given you. We can offer our love back to him at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

by John Connor