Catholic Herald staff
During his presentation at Spooner High School, Sept. 28, Chris Stefanick offered advice on how to stay spiritually healthy.
“Most people who lose their faith … don’t describe it as a big break,” Stefanick said. “They describe it as a fading away.”
Statistically, 80 percent of Catholics leave the church by age 23. It starts in college, with one missed Sunday Mass. Not intentionally, but gradually, that leads to a second, and so on.
Stefanick’s recipe for staying spiritually healthy and strong in one’s faith is to cultivate seven habits.
First, love yourself. That encompasses self-care, meeting basic needs, verbal affirmations and spiritual self-esteem.
“Our will has to be involved in claiming the truth in our lives,” he said. Taking good care of oneself helps replace feelings of worthlessness with an affirmation that each person is a son or daughter of God, a chosen one.
“Love yourself in action, in deed, because words are cheap if they’re not backed by action,” he added.
“We think that holiness means bypassing our basic human needs,” he said. “Am I being noble if I push all my needs aside?”
If you sacrifice self-care, you simply leave others with a burnt-out version of yourself, he explained. Find what inspires you, so you can inspire others.
Secondly, pray, which includes going to church, participating in Mass and reading the Bible, etc.
Stefanick challenged his listeners to spend three to five minutes reading the Gospels every day.
“You make time for things you value,” he added. “Make time for this.”
The third habit of holy people: Live a pure life, which includes physical and mental purity.
“God is love, and lust makes love impossible,” he said. “To love someone is to do what is good for them.”
Stefanick estimates he’s given chastity talks to a quarter of a million teens, and he always gives them the same suggestion for staying chaste:
“It’s very simple. Date in public places.”
His advice for married people:
“Simple. Don’t put yourself in compromising situations.”
He also advises married men not to tolerate guy friends who don’t understand the sanctity of marriage.
“Cut them out of your life like a cancer,” he said.
Ninety percent of teens have seen pornography by age 16, and the industry sends out billions of emails every day to catch unwary viewers. For people struggling with a porn problem, Stefanick suggests going to Covenanteyes.com.
The fourth habit to cultivate is community.
Despite excessive digital connectivity, “We are lonelier than we’ve ever been,” he said. He suggests reaching out to others, meeting for coffee and gradually building community.
For Stefanick, it’s a monthly gathering with his brothers that keeps him grounded and accountable.
His next suggestion is to forget yesterday – forget anything that makes you feel unfit to be a disciple.
Stefanick challenged listeners to go to counseling if they are holding on to wounds “and face that wound ‘til it’s healed.”
“Scar tissue is the strongest tissue in your body, and that’s true of your soul,” he added. “God loves to forgive us.”
For those who can’t let go of their sins, he suggests confession. The parable of the prodigal son exemplifies God’s forgiveness.
“I don’t think he was actually sorry,” Stefanick said of the returning son. “I think he was hungry, and that’s enough.”
His last two suggestions: Serve and share the faith.
“Holy people are servants, even if they can’t do anything,” Stefanick added, and showed a video of his friend who died of cancer, a young mother of four whose legacy was her service to others.
“How will we be remembered?” he asked. “How do you see yourself? How do you take on the mind of a servant?”
Words are powerful, Stefanick said, so say it: “Lord, help me be a servant today.”
Stop thinking so big, and serve the people right in front of you, he suggested. Serve the poor.
“Do something,” he added. “You don’t have to do everything.”
Finally, sharing the faith means reaching out to others.
Stefanick shared statistics of people contemplating suicide.
“Talk to someone if that’s you,” he said.
Some people brand Catholics as intolerant, Stefanick observed, but Mother Teresa started the first AIDS hospice in New York City. She defined people by their relation to God, not their sexuality.
“We don’t have to agree with people to love them,” he said, noting are all called to share God’s message through witness.