Blogger’s Note: Originally published on the Saint Andrew Catholic Church and School website, July 18, 2018.
One of the spiritual practices I am trying to cultivate in my life these days is holy simplicity. For example, just today I finally ditched my sleek Motorola smartphone for a bulky blue flip-phone with very limited data capabilities. My smartphone had become a distraction from the things that matter—family, friends, and even strangers who are present to me in the moment—as well as a source of frustration and anxiety. I can’t remember how to get anywhere without Google Maps and at random moments through the day, I feel the phantom buzz of notifications that don’t exist. It’s too much.
So I’m trying to simplify: to limit the number and kind of things I am about and to do what I am doing.And what it is it I am doing? The answer to that question used to be a lot more complicated, but today it’s pretty straightforward. I’m trying to save souls, including my own.
That’s what I want my life to be about. As it happens, my life today is about many others things, too: planning a grad party, paying off debt, learning to love my wife and kids, training an Airedale puppy, vehicle repairs, home improvement projects, you name it.
Insofar as these things lead me closer to God and eternity in heaven, they are my path to holiness, and I should do them and do them well. Insofar as they distract me from God and the goal of heaven, they should be eliminated.
It really is that simple, and it’s critically important. In his great book The Soul of the Apostolate, the Cistercian abbot Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard teaches that Satan will allow innumerable sapphires to avoid a single diamond. What he means is that the devil doesn’t care how much so-called good you do in this world, as long as you do not do the one thing that God has called you to do.
And what is that one thing? The Baltimore Catechism put it this way:
God made us to know, love and serve Him in this life so we can be happy with Him in the next.
Our only goal in life is to get back to God and bring as many people as we can with us. Whatever helps us do this is good. Whatever doesn’t, isn’t.
Like so many things in our tilted world, this is simple, but not easy. Each of us must discern—not once for all, but every moment of every day—how best to know, love and serve God. It is a huge struggle for me personally to stay recollected and close to God so that I know what He wants from me in the moment. Instead, I tend to pray in the morning, then salute and say, “Thank you, Jesus, I’ll take it from here,” only to give it all back to Him at the end of the day to help me sort out the mess.
All of this requires effort, repentance and conversion. But if I could wave a wand and infuse one truth directly into the hearts of each of you who are reading, it would be this:
Only one thing matters: the salvation of souls
Everything else in our lives—everything!—is secondary. Everything else should be measured against that one thing, and if it doesn’t help, it hinders.
Jesus, teach us holy simplicity, in order to live lives devoted to You and for Your glory, so we may spend eternity with You in Heaven. Amen.