Committing to Discipline
Discipline is one of the important parts of living out the Catholic faith that we don’t talk about enough. Most people might realize that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ have the same root, but it’s rare that I hear about discipline from the pulpit. Although nowadays we often use ‘discipline’ to mean something like ‘self-control’, the tie to ‘disciple’ gives us a hint at an older meaning: A commitment to live in obedience to a specific authority. For today’s Christian, both meanings are essential – Jesus taught us how to live, but it’s up to us to apply the self-control to live it out.
I was blessed to be brought up in the faith, but when I was younger, I didn’t have the discipline to even start to live it out. As a teenager, my parents trusted me to go to Mass by myself, and I broke that trust. I convinced them I should be able to go to Church on Sunday evening, because that would be easier than the morning. After they dropped me off, sometimes I did, but other times I wandered around the neighborhood, or went to the park, before showing back up in time to get picked up and go home.
I knew what I was supposed to do, but I didn’t have the self-control, the discipline, to carry it out. When I got to college, I followed the same pattern. Of course, I wasn’t evading Mom and Dad anymore, but I was still finding any excuse not to go to Mass, go to Confession, pray and talk to God – you name it. I had the desire, I wanted to be a better Christian, but I didn’t know what changes I had to make internally to make it happen.
I slowly realized that the key to discipline is to gradually build it up by consistently doing small things. Most of us can’t decide to suddenly flip a switch and be living a faithful Christian life; we have to start deceptively small, like praying every night before bed, or giving up that one hour on a lazy Sunday for Mass (which isn’t a lot, even if it feels like it sometimes). Those seemingly small things lead to big changes in the interior life, in the soul. The more you build a habit, the easier it is to keep doing, and more importantly, the more you miss it when you don’t.
There is one more key I’ve found to discipline – it’s much easier in community. That’s where YCP has been invaluable to me. As I pointed out before, I’m not the greatest at holding myself accountable. It really is a good thing for me to have other people looking out for me or depending on me to help them live out their faith, it means I depend on them too. As a member and volunteer for Young Catholic Professionals, I’ve found so many peers who have the same desire to live the faith, but also have the same struggles in doing that. My challenge to anyone struggling with discipline is to meet one other young Catholic to go to Church with, or carpool to Confession with, or however you are struggling. It will make you a better Christian, and starts great friendships too.
Written by: Patrick Lynch, Previous YCP Omaha Director of Technology, Current YCP Omaha volunteer