Saturday, August 28, 2010

'To Know, Love, and Serve God' - Great, but How?!

I used to wonder what, specifically, God wanted me to do with my life. I'd assumed that I would, God willing, be a husband and a father: I've written about that before.

I felt that I might be - quite likely was - missing something, a sort of second vocation.

I still feel that way, from time to time.

That's how I feel.

Now, what I think.

It's [Not] All in the Catechism

I'm a convert to Catholicism, so I didn't know much about the Baltimore Catechism when I was growing up.

I've seen that old standard in more recent years, and think that the Q&A format made sense for a book that was used as a teaching tool. I also think that the Holy See had the right idea, publishing a newer Catechism.

Back to the Baltimore Catechism for a moment, though: here's a question and answer pair that addresses the question "what does God want me to do?" Sort of.
"4. What must we do to gain the happiness of heaven?

"To gain the happiness of heaven we must know, love, and serve God in this world."
(Baltimore Catechism, Revised Edition (1941), The Purpose of Man's Existence, via
That's pretty straightforward:
  • Know God
    • I've been working on that
  • Love God
    • Same comment
  • Serve God in this world
    • Great advice
      • But how?!
Specifics! I want specific, detailed instructions! And, naturally, I want them now.

You can probably guess how God would react to a demand like that. If not, check out Job in the Old Testament.

Specific Instructions: A Case Study

St. Francis of Asisi, I'm told, in response to a prayer in a ruined church, heard a voice telling him "...'Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.'..." (Catholic Encyclopedia, Saint Francis of Assisi) So he went off and started repairing St. Damian's, the church where he'd been praying.

There's nothing wrong with a DIY job of architectural restoration: but there's very good reason to believe that St. Francis of Assisi was supposed to "repair" the Church: the outfit that my Lord put Peter in charge of.

Eventually, St. Francis did "repair" the Church. Which is another story.

I'm no Francis of Assisi: and I don't mind a bit.

Have you noticed? Quite often, the first thing a prophet did was try to talk his way out of the assignment. It was the same way with a fair number of Saints, I understand. And I'm getting off-topic. Again.

'Don't Worry - be Happy'

Wanting to be happy probably makes sense: assuming that "happiness" isn't a sort of vacant euphoria. I seriously doubt that's the sort of "happiness" defined in the current Catechism:
"...God put us into the world to know, love, and serve him, and so come to the happiness of paradise (1720)."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary, H, under Happiness)
Sounds a lot like what was in the Baltimore Catechism, doesn't it? (I've quoted that excerpt from the Catechism's glossary before.)

What is the Purpose of Life? To Know, Love and Serve God

That triad of instructions - to know, love and serve God - are clear enough. But that still doesn't answer my desire for explicit, specific instructions about what to do with my life.

Which is okay. I've learned that the Church doesn't work like that. We get instructions like "be charitable." It's up to us to decide, based on what we see around us and how the local culture works, just what we do to be charitable.

How to Serve God? Good Question

I've decided that I was probably supposed to serve a family as a husband and father. Which I've been doing for over a quarter-century now.

Along the way I've given a tenth part of what I make to the Church and a variety of charities. No bragging, by the way: I've just been following instructions about tithing, within the framework of the culture I live in.

I've also tried to be an informed citizen. America selects leaders in elections, and I have the right to vote: so when I vote, I'm responsible for having some awareness of which candidate deviates least from what a practicing Catholic can, in good conscience, support.

And, in a small way, I support the charitable activities of the Knights of Columbus, through the local council.

Finally, I try to let folks know what it's like to live as a Catholic: and tell what I know about my faith.

Which is where this blog comes in.

Related posts:


Unknown said...

The Baltimore Catechism does tell you how you can "know, love and serve God." We know Him through the Creed, that He is one and in Him there are three divine Persons: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each of Whom is fully God. The catechism also mentions some of His attributes: He is eternal, all-good, all-knowing, and all-present.

Loving God means that we put Him first in our lives: we prefer Him over all things, we detest sin because it offends Him, and follow His commandments (which both prohibits and commands that we do certain things, about which the catechism is explicit).

Serving God involves not only following the commandments, but also worshipping Him, by acts of faith, hope, charity, by personal prayer, and especially by faithfully attending and assisting at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass every Sunday.

The whole Baltimore Catechism aims at informing us how to "know, love and serve God." I personally believe it to be the best catechism ever available in English (i.e. Fr. Connell's edition of the 1949 Official Baltimore Catechism No. 3).

Brian H. Gill said...


Good points all around.

The English translation of the current Catechism, as approved by the Holy See, has essentially the same guidance: and those are all good ideas.

My question for this post isn't the general instructions. Those are clear enough. It's what I call the nuts-and-bolts details: the day-to-day details, trivial as they are, which add up to the experience we call "living."

Thanks for your comment, by the way.

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What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.