The Facts of Life Series: Lifestyle
The breadth and depth of our Catholic faith teaches us how we are to live our lives here on this earthly plane. For our faith’s rich rational, revelatory and relational content is not just an enlightening and edifying reality merely to shape our thinking and soften our hearts. It is there too to shape our entire being and our behavior, our attitudes and our emotions, our aspirations and our decisions.
For no facet or feature of human nature is outside the reach of our faith’s influence and its implementational immediacy. Nothing escapes its concern. Nothing is outside its convictions. For nothing escapes our Father’s watchful eye. For how we live are lives matters. And it matters greatly for each of us and for all the people our individual life touches.
Yet, lifestyle is a modern term often used as a summary statement about our personal approach to living nuanced by our personalities and preferences, by our individual interests, our career aspirations, our marital state, our geography, our children, our habits, our ambitions, our standards of contentment and even our predilections and prejudices.
So, it should not be surprising or startling that God takes a profound interest in our lifestyle, in how each of our lives are lived. For in His kingdom, our lifestyle matters in more ways than we might imagine. And, within this general concern for our lifestyle, some things matter more than others. This too is a matter of commonsense, just as it is in Jesus’ specific teaching. And, He illustrated this operative principle, when He spoke to the religious leaders about “straining gnats and swallowing camels.” For they were majoring on the minors.
Yet, within primary principles and their prioritizations, one reality forms the foundation for everything else. One reality essential to all else is the true ground for each individual life, the essential essence of every human being’s existence, the source and summit of every aspect of our individual lifestyles and their accompanying order and dynamics.
For the simple profundity of life is a reality so often labeled “mysticism.” And, this label often conveys a sense of rarity, rather than one of regularity. This label of “mysticism” makes such experiences and encounters more of a religious specialization or a spiritual sensibility, rather than the primary point of existence now and in eternity. For it is truly the first fundamental facet of our faith.
For God calls us His sons and daughters. He wants us to know Him intimately and to experience Him regularly. To encounter Him through His activity in us and to be so familiar with His abiding love and His clarity of mind that we are truly one with Him. One not in the Eastern sense of losing ourselves, but rather in the ever- fuller completion of ourselves. He wants us to grow into the fullness of our created individuality and to ever deepen our personal intimate relationship with Him and others, as we live our daily practical lives.
For primarily, we are not just His followers or even His disciples. We are His sons and daughters. Sons and daughters who can call Him our “Abba,” our “Daddy.” This familiar. This intimate. This completely. This real. For this relational reality is not a metaphor. This intimate bond is familial, not metaphoric. It is the first and final reality from which everything else flows. Or, at least it should be.
For God loves us. A reality He wants us to comprehend, to seek and to experience as an abiding and pervading context for all that we do, think and experience. He wants us to know Him in the fullest sense of knowing, not just to know about Him or to know Him intellectually, conceptually, intermittently. But to know Him first hand, proximately and personally, actively and intimately, regularly and relentlessly.
But, as with any and every relationship, it takes two. And, our individual life must manifest a routine desire for such abiding intimacy with God, a regular pursuit of such intimacy and a resolute commitment to Him and His general expectations and to the more specific aspects of His particular plan for each one of us. Such is the essence of a truly Catholic life style.
So, where does that leave us when it comes to understanding and embodying such a relationally based personal life style enlightened and infused with God? The answer lies in two places. For there are general principles for a truly godly lifestyle. And, there are personal aspects and emphases, individual nuances and calling. Let’s look at two features of a truly inspired and guided lifestyle: stewardship and calling.
The general principle of stewardship, as discussed in an earlier article in this series, is truly a pervasive principle applicable to all those who are leading a life devoted to and centered on God. The fundamental precept is summarized in the idea of a true “steward.” A steward is not the master, the boss, the owner. The good steward is responsible for the use of all the time, talents and treasure which are bestowed by God and accumulate over a lifetime of godly use.
Stewardship means we are entrusted to use all our abilities and time in a godly manner, remembering always we are merely His stewards of such abilities, opportunities and the fruit of our efforts and industry. It means your money and resources are a trust bestowed on you providentially or through your use of your endowed talents and efforts.
Simply, God has a plan for each and every life. The fact that there is a reason, a plan, a purpose for each and every life. This is the reality of living each and every son and daughter of God must recognize and embrace.
But, the specifics of your particular life, your individual calling, is a matter of discovery and personal revelation arising from regularly seeking intimate relationship with God and specifically seeking the daily details of this plan, as well as the aspects of that plan appropriate to your particular developmental stage in life.
For example, through prayer and reason you may discern a calling to married life. But, the details of this calling may take some time to become clearer. For a calling to married life means you will have to discover your intended spouse as your life unfolds. This may take some time, a time you should be seeking His guidance about His intended life partner as you pursue your calling to married life. The same process should encompass the general course of your discovery of the particular career you will pursue.
And, you should seek regular intimacy with God and expect Him to guide you through such major decisions, such as your calling and your career. But, in your relational regularity with Him you should remember He is not just concerned with the big picture, the broad and encompassing strategic elements of your life and life style. He is just as concerned about the daily tactical aspects of your life.
For the larger calling informs your daily decisions, just as your daily decisions build the nature and scope of your greater general calling. And, all of this flows from your regular intimacy with Him and His relational activity with and accessibility to you. For Jesus tells you “to seek and keep seeking and you will find and keep finding.”
And, as with all aspects of life and living, love and truth are the primary point of all that you are and do. For the overriding realities of a true, good and beautiful life are rooted in God. For such a lifestyle is founded on acquiring a true devotion to the fullness and goodness of your love of truth. And, it is grounded in nurturing a heart with a passion for the intimacy and selflessness of the truth of love.
For your lifestyle should be a radiant and righteous witness to all those who may observe that God, His truth and His love are truly there in you and in the way you live your life. Then will you be a true child of the Light. Then will you be a true child of the intimately loving and perfect God. Then you will be the unmistakable “salt” and the “light” of the world, the “city set on a hill,” just as Jesus promises.
We also recommend Mr. Cronin’s latest book, The World According to God: The Whole Truth About Life and Living. It is available from your favorite bookstore and through Sophia Institute Press.