This was always the mantra of parents and teachers as I was growing up that was applied to virtually everything in my life at that time. I had to learn to ride a bike before my parents would buy me a bike, so I borrowed and practiced, practiced and practiced riding until I could do it. My mother wanted me to play the piano, so I practiced, practiced and practiced until my brother, an accomplished pianist at 15, decided I didn’t have any virtuoso genes in my body – he got all of them for the family! Think about the word “practice” – here are the dictionary definitions for the noun form and the verb form:
Noun: “The actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it.
Verb: Perform (an activity) or exercise ( a skill) repeatedly or regularly to improve or maintain one’s proficiency”
Every vocation that requires a license to perform the work refers to the work as the “practice.” In my lawyering days, people would ask me “What kind of law do you practice?” and my reply was always the same “I hope it’s good law!” Doctors, nurses, dentists, lawyers, accountants, the list goes on and on, all engage in their ‘practice’.
I had never thought about my Catholic faith being a “vocation” like what I’m describing, but it really is…we talk about “practicing the faith” or being a “practicing” Catholic. Catholics who have a regular, routine of prayer life, participate in the Eucharistic Liturgy daily if possible, receive the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist frequently, by doing so, are practicing being Catholic! The practice of the faith takes time to master and our entire life should be “the performance of activities and the exercise of skills repeatedly to improve and maintain one’s proficiency” (check the definition above!). So many Catholics, when asked for a spontaneous prayer, stumble and mumble and usually make excuses about not being good at it, etc., and go to the fallback of a ‘formula’ prayer that everyone knows. Those who have become masters at conversation with God are always more comfortable responding with spontaneous prayer because they’ve been practicing it. Our attention and engagement in the Eucharist Prayer becomes so much more enriching if we have been ‘practicing’ at being attentive and engaging in the sacramental celebration we call Mass. The expectation for everyone who is present at a Eucharistic Celebration is to know what’s going on with the celebrant on the altar, to be able to hear and understand the message contained in the Scripture readings, to join in responding to prayers and song that make up the ‘body’ of our liturgical prayer in worship as a community, and to fully participate in the communion of our body and soul with the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ in the sacrament of the Eucharist. To do that with “proficiency” requires practice! The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “1324. The Eucharist is ‘the source and summit of the Christian life.” And again at “2181. the Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice.”
So, fellow pilgrims, in what’s remaining of this Lenten season, let’s all pick up our personal tempo a bit and resume ‘practicing’ this incredible faith that we’ve been blessed with and work to improve our proficiency in our vocation for eternity! Oh, btw, I’m still looking for my own rough brown robe!
This blog was written by Scott Immel, RCIA Coordinator & Tribunal Advocate here at St. Francis of Assisi. If you’re interested in writing a blog for St. Francis of Assisi, please contact Joseph at firstname.lastname@example.org.