WHY: God loves you for who you are right now, but He loves you too much to let you stay that way!
WHAT: We are calling this spiritual path “Stations of Lifelong Faith Formation.” Catholics understand stations per the liturgical calendar, and of the course the Stations of the Cross, which serve to assist us in pondering the luminous. These stations are primarily based on a pastoral plan of the U.S. Bishops (see below).
HOW: This is a self-guided spiritual journey to strengthen various aspects of your faith life. The key is to take some time with each of these stations.
1) DISCIPLE: Knowledge of the Faith (See the Catechism, nos. 26-1065; General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84-85, 87.)
- Recognize communion with Jesus Christ as the definitive aim of all catechesis.
- Explore the Scriptures so that adults may be hearers and doers of the word.
- Become familiar with the great teachings of Christianity (its creeds and doctrines) and their place in the hierarchy of truths—for example, "the mystery of God and the Trinity, Christ, the Church, the sacraments, human life and ethical principles, eschatological realities, and other contemporary themes in religion and morality."
- Study the Church's teaching on the dignity of the human person in its social doctrine, including its respect-life teaching.
- Learn the richness of the Church's tradition, explore the theological and cultural heritage in which faith is expressed, and gain perspective on contemporary events and trends through an understanding of church history.
- Develop the philosophical and theological foundations of the faith and appreciate expressions of Christian thought and culture.
- Learn the meaning and practical relevance of current church teachings as presented by the pope, diocesan bishop, Vatican congregations, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
2) SACRAMENTS: Liturgical Life (See the Catechism, nos. 1066-1690; General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84-85, 87.)
- Understand, live, and bear witness to the paschal mystery, celebrated and communicated through the sacramental life of the Church.
- Learn and embrace in one's life church doctrine on the Eucharist and the other sacraments.
- Acquire the spirituality, skills, and habits of full, conscious, and active participation in the liturgy, especially the eucharistic liturgy.
- Value the dignity of the baptismal priesthood and of the ordained priesthood and their respective roles in liturgical celebration and Christian mission.
- Appreciate and appropriately participate in the Church's daily prayer, the Liturgy of the Hours, and learn to pray the psalms, "an essential and permanent element of the prayer of the Church."69
3) MORALITY: Moral Formation (See the Catechism, nos. 1691-2557; General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84-85, 87.)
- Understand how the "entire Law of the Gospel is contained in the ‘new commandment' of Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us," and promote each disciple's formation in the life of the risen Christ.
- Study the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the moral catechesis of the apostolic teachings, and live in accord with them.
- Appreciate the dignity, destiny, freedom, and responsibility of the human person, together with the reality of sin and the power of God's grace to overcome it.
- Learn how to acquire and follow a well-formed conscience in personal and social life, clarifying current religious and moral questions in the light of faith, and cultivating a Christian discernment of the ethical implications of developments in the socio-cultural order.
- Recognize, defend, and live by the truth of objective moral norms as taught by the Church's magisterium in its moral and social teaching.
- Promote a thorough catechesis on the Gospel of life so that respect for life from conception until natural death is honored in personal behavior, in public policy, and in the expressed values and attitudes of our society.
- Live a lifestyle reflecting scriptural values of holiness, simplicity, and compassion.
4) PRAYER (See the Catechism, nos. 2558-2865; General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84-85, 87.)
- Become familiar with the diverse forms and expressions of Christian prayer, with special attention to "the Our Father, the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples and which is the model of all Christian prayer."
- Experience and appreciate the richness of the Catholic ascetical-mystical tradition as it has taken form across the centuries in diverse historical and cultural settings.
- Develop a regular pattern of personal prayer and spiritual reflection, recognizing vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplative prayer as basic and fruitful practices in the life of a disciple of Jesus.
- Engage in shared prayer with others, especially family prayer, as well as at parish meetings and in small communities of faith.
- Recognize and encourage practices of popular piety and devotion that help believers express and strengthen their faith in Jesus Christ.
5) COMMUNITY: Communal Life (See the General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84, 86-87.)
- Pursue personal and spiritual growth in human and Christian maturity.
- Cultivate the human values and Christian virtues that foster growth in interpersonal relationships and in civic responsibility.
- Nurture marriage and family life to build up the Church of the home.
- Share actively in the life and work of the parish, and foster the potential of small communities to deepen the faith and relationships of members, to strengthen the bonds of communion with the parish, and to serve the Church's mission in society.
- Learn the Church's teaching on the nature and mission of the Church, including an understanding of the Church's authority and structures and of the rights and responsibilities of the Christian faithful.
- Support the ecumenical movement and promote the unity of God's people as a constitutive dimension of fidelity to the Gospel.
6) APOSTLE: Missionary Spirit (See the General Directory for Catechesis, nos. 84, 86-87.)
- Cultivate an evangelizing spirit among all the faithful as an integral element of their baptismal calling, of the Church's nature and mission, and of a Catholic way of life.
- Respond to God's call whether as lay, ordained, or religious, and develop a personal apostolate in family, Church, and society.
- Motivate and equip the faithful to speak to others about the Scriptures, the tradition and teachings of the Church, and one's own experience of faith.
- Explore and promote the applications of the Church's moral and social teaching in personal, family, professional, cultural, and social life.
- Understand the importance of serving those in need, promoting the common good, and working for the transformation of society through personal and social action.
- Appreciate the value of interreligious dialogue and contacts, and promote the Church's mission ad gentes in the local and universal Church.
7) SCRIPTURE (Note that while the original Bishop's pastoral plan had the above six dimensions, that incorporate elements of Scripture, this station focuses exclusively on understanding the Holy Bible. See CCC Article 3 and click on> http://www.usccb.org/bible/understanding-the-bible/index.cfm)
- Bible reading is for Catholics. The Church encourages Catholics to make reading the Bible part of their daily prayer lives. Reading these inspired words, people grow deeper in their relationship with God and come to understand their place in the community God has called them to in himself.
- Prayer is the beginning and the end. Reading the Bible is not like reading a novel or a history book. It should begin with a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the Word of God. Scripture reading should end with a prayer that this Word will bear fruit in our lives, helping us to become holier and more faithful people.
- Get the whole story! When selecting a Bible, look for a Catholic edition. A Catholic edition will include the Church's complete list of sacred books along with introductions and notes for understanding the text. A Catholic edition will have an imprimatur notice on the back of the title page. An imprimatur indicates that the book is free of errors in Catholic doctrine.
- The Bible isn't a book. It's a library. The Bible is a collection of 73 books written over the course of many centuries. The books include royal history, prophecy, poetry, challenging letters to struggling new faith communities, and believers' accounts of the preaching and passion of Jesus. Knowing the genre of the book you are reading will help you understand the literary tools the author is using and the meaning the author is trying to convey.
- Know what the Bible is – and what it isn't. The Bible is the story of God's relationship with the people he has called to himself. It is not intended to be read as history text, a science book, or a political manifesto. In the Bible, God teaches us the truths that we need for the sake of our salvation.
- The sum is greater than the parts. Read the Bible in context. What happens before and after – even in other books – helps us to understand the true meaning of the text.
- The Old relates to the New. The Old Testament and the New Testament shed light on each other. While we read the Old Testament in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus, it has its own value as well. Together, these testaments help us to understand God's plan for human beings.
- You do not read alone. By reading and reflecting on Sacred Scripture, Catholics join those faithful men and women who have taken God's Word to heart and put it into practice in their lives. We read the Bible within the tradition of the Church to benefit from the holiness and wisdom of all the faithful.
- What is God saying to me? The Bible is not addressed only to long-dead people in a faraway land. It is addressed to each of us in our own unique situations. When we read, we need to understand what the text says and how the faithful have understood its meaning in the past. In light of this understanding, we then ask: What is God saying to me?
- Reading isn't enough. If Scripture remains just words on a page, our work is not done. We need to meditate on the message and put it into action in our lives. Only then can the word be "living and effective."(Hebrews 4:12).
To read more about the U.S. Bishop's pastoral plan CLICK HERE.