St. Thomas says that if we take care of order, order will take care of us. Having a plan of life means allowing prayer to enlighten our mind, order our affections, and set us on our way to fulfilling our obligations. It is directed to helping us love God above all, serve the others as Christ taught us, and reach our heavenly home. The plan of life is made up of traditional Catholic practices that people from all walks of life can practice daily to keep a constant dialogue with God.
The morning offering is the prayer we offer as soon as we get up in the morning. In it we offer to God everything that we are, have, and will do for God and for the good of all souls.
We devote one hour to mental prayer, divided in two half-hours. One part takes place in the morning and the other in the afternoon. The practice of mental prayer engages the mind, strengthens faith, converts the heart, and fortifies the will.
The graces that flow from attending Holy Mass and receiving Holy Communion are essential if we want to live a holy life in the middle of the world. As a detail or refinement, we stay for 10 minutes after Holy Mass in thanksgiving and in deference for the moments in which the Sacred Host is still largely whole within us.
Devoting 15 minutes to spiritual reading will expand our knowledge of God, man, and the world. We need this knowledge to inspire the mind and inflame the heart in our lifelong battle for holiness. This time can be divided between reading the New Testament and some suitable spiritual book recommended in spiritual direction.
We honor Mary and her Son in saying the Holy Rosary, an indispensable help in our battle for holiness and apostolate. We recite the Angelus to celebrate with Mary and contemplate with her the mystery of the Incarnation; in the Easter season, we recite the Regina Coeli instead and share in Mary’s joy over her Son’s Resurrection. Both are expressions of our gratitude to the Blessed Trinity for the gift of Our Savior and of Mary. Before we retire at night, we also recite three Hail Marys, asking for the grace of holy purity for ourselves and for all.
During the day, we make it a point to visit the Blessed Sacrament in a church or chapel where it is kept, going out of our way if needed, to give Jesus a bit of company, as well as express thanksgiving, reparation, and adoration.
The particular examination of conscience consists first in identifying a virtue we want to develop or strengthen and then spending a few moments in the middle of the day to check our progress. It is helpful to get some insights regarding this matter in spiritual direction. The general examination of conscience takes place at the end of the day. We spend a few minutes reviewing the day under God's loving gaze and then making an act of contrition, formulating a simple resolution or two, and giving thanks for everything that happened during the day.
In-between these norms, we have the always norms. Through them, we briefly express our adoration, petition, contrition, and thanksgiving through loving awareness of and a brief prayer to God, Our Lady, St. Joseph, our guardian angel, the souls in purgatory, or some saint.
Spiritual Direction is a means of helping us effectively and serenely orchestrate well-defined goals of responsible family stewardship, professional excellence, and a robust Catholic discipleship. It is a technique of guided and systematic self-discovery, together with the formulation of personal goals that focus on the virtues, both human and supernatural. The discovery, practice and growth of these virtues are crucial as they are the ordinary means we have of achieving every ideal that we can ever dream of in this life and in the next. Problems sort themselves out. Truth be told, absolutely no regrets. Indeed, it is an existential game-changer, but it comes with a price tag.
“Success” in this method presupposes complete openness and discipline. It begins with looking for a coach who is, in fact, a man's man. He should be compassionate, prayerful, focused, modest, staunch; he should be a competent professional who keeps his family first. He should also go to spiritual direction himself. Truthfulness guarantees that we keep our coach always on the same page as our struggle. Candidness opens the way to spot-on personal goals. Speaking about these goals with our coach helps us practice accountability and will be the primary motive for the exercise of discipline in making sure that these goals are carried out. Part of this discipline begins with committing to a regular meeting or chat. Usually, these conversations take 10 -15 minutes once a week or at least once a month.
As soon as we decide to begin spiritual direction, the demanding practice of the virtues required of friendship, work, focus on what is important, taking action, initiative, constancy, professionalism, and chastity become important. With our spiritual director’s help, we establish the time we must set aside for prayer, family, rest and recreation. It entails devoting time for Catholic doctrinal, philosophical, and theological study to enlighten ourselves and allow God's truth and love to sweep us off our feet. This, in turn, favors the development of a conscience that is tender yet demanding. Consequently, this coherent knowledge sparks a certain fire in the heart that makes the practice of virtue, like Christian apostolate, almost second nature to us; our interpersonal dealings begin to fill with understanding, forgiveness, and affection. It also creates a mysterious, innate loathing for evil not borne out of fear but rather out of a keen desire to avoid offending God as a result of having blown away by the experience of His unconditional love.
Sooner than later, we will be amazed to find ourselves habitually giving of ourselves. We may never achieve total human perfection. However, this reality does not diminish at all the gratification that follows from our ever getting closer to it. We are not surprised to find that in this venture, as in so many other worthy endeavors, the name of the game is no pain, no gain. No matter how small, the experience of our achievements is deeply exhilarating. Human effort and sincere prayer put all these towering goals well within reach. The experience of keeping a tight grip on our self-determined priorities redounds to a deep sense of fulfillment, meaning, and confidence. Growth in the life of prayer leads to learning how to slowly replace the malady of disturbing and wasteful internal chatter with the serene awareness of God's presence; it fills our heart with the certainty of God's affection and the consequent experience of an abiding joy of living, leaving us with no regrets, except perhaps that of not having tried even earlier and harder!
By sinning, Adam and Eve abandoned God's friendship and His ways and chose instead to be left to their own devices. They lost sanctifying grace, which entitled them to be God's children and live in His heavenly home for eternity; they forfeited untold supernatural gifts from the Holy Spirit that gave them clarity of reason and integrity of heart. The consequent obfuscation of reason fostered duplicity of heart and a wounded human nature greatly debilitated by pride, the lust of the eyes, and the lust of the flesh. Deprived of God, man finds himself very often chasing after rainbows.
Post-truth is the international word of the year in 2016. We live in an era where what matters is not fact but emotions. Time and again, man has fallen into the trap of making himself the arbiter of truth and goodness, giving way to the notion that everybody must be right and it is just inadmissible to say someone is wrong. This explains the loss of the sense of sin in wide swaths of modern society.
Conscience may be muffled and ignored. Fortunately, no matter how enfeebled its voice gets, it never becomes totally extinguished. It is an untiring and loving invitation of God to all men to come back home, much like the prayer of the father of the Prodigal Son. The voice of God in each man's heart is always a ray of hope, a blessing. It is a pledge that God's love and forgiveness trumps all evil. It is no coincidence that a good conscience is described as tender because of the unmistakable clarity of mind and affection of the heart that is felt when God speaks to us. The devil, aptly called the Accuser, is often behind a scrupulous conscience, because he is the Father of Lies who denies any evildoing in a hardened conscience.
Sin is a deliberate action that goes against the dictates of a good conscience. It may be one of omission or commission; mortal or venial. Mortal sins deprive the soul of sanctifying grace and supernatural life, while venial sins weaken the soul in its most important battle for holiness. Mortal sin is so grievous that to die even with one such impenitent serious sin is enough to bring about eternal punishment in hell, the most horrible tragedy that could befall man. Confession is the sacrament that forgives all mortal and venial sins without exception. It is a proof of God's mercy, power, and abiding presence. God gave us this sacrament to reassure us of receiving His forgiveness without leaving any shadow of doubt, filling us instead with joy and peace; indeed, it is a touching detail of God's paternal providence and refinement.
Confession begins with a diligent examination of conscience that covers the time since our last good confession. This is followed by contrition and a firm decision to overcome the sins we resolve to confess. We proceed with going to the sacrament to confess our sins to the priest, receiving the absolution and performing the penance or satisfaction imposed at its conclusion.
Although the Catholic Church bids us to go to confession at least once a year, regular confession anywhere from once a week to once a month is highly recommended, even if we do not have mortal sins to confess. It is an excellent battle-ax with which to conquer in the battleground of virtue, as well as a shield against the adversaries of holiness. It is a spiritual aid that helps us develop a tender conscience and humility, both necessary for a refined love of God and neighbor.