Catholic Discipline

On the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, the reading for Morning Prayer that comes from the Common of Doctors of the Church reads:

Simply, I learned about wisdom, and ungrudgingly do I share – her riches I do not hide away. For men, she is an unfailing treasure; those who gain this treasure win the friendship of God, to whom the gifts they have from discipline commend them.”

Wisdom 7:13-14

When I graduated from undergrad, my father and I had a conversation about this idea of discipline. He congratulated me like all good fathers would, but as he did, I watched his memories through his eyes. He glanced back to my childhood and fast-forwarded to that present moment as an adult, and an epiphany of sorts crescendoed in his pupils.

He said, “I guess all of that basketball paid off.”

I was confused. Sure, I had played collegiate basketball, but I stopped after knee injuries made it impossible to play during my junior year. I hadn’t played in two years. Now, here I was, earning an academic milestone, not an athletic one, and he was thankful for my basketball playing days?

He read my confusion and swiftly answered my inaudible question, “Discipline. Basketball taught you how to work hard, how to make that work a routine, and how to follow through with consistency, even if that meant sacrifice.”

I had never thought about that. He was right, though – basketball was my life for some time. It gave me the blueprint for success in any venture I would pursue, even after basketball was no longer an option.

As life pressed on, I came into contact with many souls both as a missionary and teacher. I met those whose lives became a sum of their failures and others who floated upon the clouds in dreamlike success. What did they both have in common?


Those who struggled were being disciplined by life. Those who succeeded had already established the routine of discipline.

Spiritually, this was the most exhilarating realization one can ever make. For some, we wallow in the guilt of our sins, and our conscience razzes us into establishing a life geared toward the will of God. For others, like the Saints, we’ve managed to instill into our lives those “gifts they have from discipline,” the spiritual fruits that our practice of virtue produces.

Inevitably, we are destined to attain the friendship of God. But friendships aren’t made due to convenience – they take time, sacrifice, and, you guessed it, discipline.

Catholic Discipline can take many forms. The Church offers us many liturgical means by which to hone our spiritual discipline, such as weekly (or daily, for those who are able) Mass, frequent confession, daily praying of the Divine Office, and countless ministries (local, national, and international) to become a part of.

On a personal basis, devotional discipline can be practiced in just as many ways as there are personalities in existence. Be they the daily recitation of the Rosary, taking on the charism of a religious community, personal study, or simply practicing the presence of God, there are infinite ways to build your friendship with God.

The key is to remain disciplined.

If you would like a free resource on how to build more spiritual discipline into your life, consider downloading my free eBook, “Catholic Discipline: 8 Daily Habits Toward Living a Holier Life.”

Here’s the introduction to get you started:

We are wired to become better than we currently are in every aspect of our lives. Innately, we know that our current state is not where we need to be, and so we take the necessary steps to develop the skills to rise to a higher level. Athletes train with passion and deny themselves unhealthy diets to win the crown of victory. Chefs seek out the best ingredients and analyze every recipe until their palates are satiated. Writers spend countless hours writing, editing, and revising their words until they have articulated their message with perfect clarity.

There is nothing worthwhile in life that comes without discipline. As Catholics, there is nothing more worthwhile than attaining the ultimate degree of spiritual perfection. And doing so is no different than the athlete, the chef, the writer, etc. To rise to the highest of spiritual clarity, we must become intentional in our approach and disciplined in our pursuit of God.

The words disciple and discipline come from the same Latin root word, discipere, which means “to grasp intellectually, analyze thoroughly.” It would make sense then that, in order for anyone to grow in holiness as a disciple of Jesus Christ, they must first take intentional steps toward grasping him intellectually and analyzing him thoroughly. After all, it was He who gave us these conditions for discipleship; “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

So, how do we know when we’ve “made it?” How do we know when we’ve “lost” our lives in order to become a true disciple of God?

We look to the Saints.

Hagiography: (noun) biography of saints or venerated persons.

What I’ve discovered in my life-long study of hagiography is that all of the Saints I’ve met through my research, without exception, have shared a common discipline in their spiritual development. Granted, they all lived out their charitable lives in unique ways due to their talents, the time periods in which they lived, etc., but as a whole, they all shared 8 specific traits that led to their sanctity.

These 8 traits are a template, a mold that anyone can use even today to accomplish the same results. Discover how to accomplish these eight daily habits, and I guarantee you’ll receive the unfailing treasure of Wisdom, whose gifts you receive from discipline will turn you into his disciple.

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Photo by Sarah Moon on Unsplash


T.J. Burdick the author of several books and articles on the Catholic faith. He writes and speaks on how to grow in holiness amongst the distractions and difficulties of the current age. When he is not spending time with his family or writing books, you can find him teaching courses on the Catholic faith through Signum Dei ( For more about T.J., visit his site at

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