Ite! The Call to Go Forth in Christ

climberToday, I begin a series geared especially toward young men that have experienced a renewed commitment to Christ or a recent conversion.  The series is titled Ite, is Latin for “go”.  

I once taught my three-year-old son to climb up on the lower branches of a cedar tree.  I left for a while and when I came back he had climbed as high as a telephone pole, his toddler body looking rather tiny way up there.  My wife was less than happy (revealed by a long scream), but I was able to climb up and retrieve him, and I assured her that it was completely normal for him to want to climb to the top.  He cannot help but reach for new heights.

As a man you are naturally action oriented, and there is a deep and mysterious pull that draws you to new heights.  You have within you a desire to go and achieve greatness, unless this desire has been obstructed by sin, laziness, or brainwashing.

Jason Craig writes a weekly column for the Catholic Gentleman from his homestead in rural North Carolina.

The Country Gentleman – Jason Craig writes a weekly column for the Catholic Gentleman from his homestead in rural North Carolina.

This desire for new heights has meaning, it is there on purpose.  You were made to search out happiness on earth and ultimate happiness in heaven.  That is where all of the “going” in your life is oriented toward – being happy and finding God.  The problem is that many of us get climbing toward the wrong things, and instead of ascending in virtue and holiness, we actually descend into vice and hell.  How many people have you seen strive after things with their whole selves, yet ultimately end up unhappy?  What good is it then?  That is the foolishness of the world.  We all search for happiness, but only the wise find it.

Consider the men that cut each other’s throats “climbing” a corporate ladder, or those trying to be “on top of the world” through power, promiscuity, or popularity.  The problem with looking down from the top of the world is that it is still looking down, and it will disappoint.  You were made to look upward, climb a higher ladder, one that reaches God Himself.

The question we have to ask then is this – how do we go forward in a way that truly fulfills this desire for greatness?  How do we ascend?  If you are young in your faith, but are ready to leave mediocrity and boyishness behind, and to set out as the man God has called you to be, then this question is more important than ever.

That longing for more is actually a grace.  Faith is not a feeling, but a gift from God.  And that gift is calling you to new heights, telling you to “go”.  We can only go to these heights when we are in Christ and free from sin.  Will you go?

But if sin keeps us from Him, keeps us chained to earth, how can we ascend to God in heaven?  How do we achieve the freedom from sin that Christ win for us on the cross?  Is it just a sort of “substitute” where when we get to the gates of heaven and, realizing our sin excludes us, just swipe a “get out of hell” card with Jesus’ picture on it instead of ours?

No, the salvation of Christ reaches us when we become one with Him as members of His body, the Church.  We are still who we are, but “in Christ”.  St. Paul in the Bible describes it as being “co-heirs” in His Kingdom (Romans 8:17). His royalty becomes our royalty.

This is what grace is, God giving His own life to us, sharing His life with us.  He doesn’t just cancel a debt like a benevolent banker, but unites us to His cross and therefore His resurrection.  St. Paul also describes it as a sort of adoption, where we become sons of God through the Son of God, by being united to Him.  This is why we pray “Our Father” –  we can never go alone.  Jesus did not teach us to say “My Father”.  We pray “Our Father” because we go to Him through, with, and in Christ.

My point in all this is to say that to “go forward in Christ” you have to first go to Christ.  You must trust Him completely, listen to Him, and go forward at His command, not through your own ideas or engineering.  You must say like St. Paul:

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).

Our growth as men and as saints is just that, leaving behind the ways of sin and death and embracing life in Christ.  You may want to reach new heights of holiness, and that is good, but as my son started on the first and most necessary branches, you too must start with this most basic request for grace.  Speak with Christ, ask for this total faith, and in all your words, thoughts, and actions, go forward in Christ, because you have first gone to Him.

Jason Craig works and writes from a small farm in rural North Carolina with his wife Katie and their five kids. Jason is the Executive Director of Fraternus, a mentoring program for young men, and holds a masters degree from the Augustine Institute. He is known to staunchly defend his family’s claim to have invented bourbon.

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28 Responses to “Ite! The Call to Go Forth in Christ”

  1. Great post but it doesn’t resolve problem with sin. It is easy to say: “leave behind the ways of sin and follow Christ”. The problem is “how?” Reason tells: “avoid bad things and follow good way” but something inside (corrupted will? habitual sin? addiction?) can keep you chained to this earth. I try to convert myself since 2000 and still can do nothing. Vicious circle. SIn – conffession – sin – confession. I can read more books, I can pray more, I can try to be “moral” but my experience is that it doesn’t work. Something is wrong. Perhaps Christ wants to show me that I am still proud and I am still trying to do it by myself? I don’t know. Sometimes I think that protestants understand this problem: human being is so corrupted that it can avoid sins using natural will and reason. Sola gratia. If God won’t give it to the man he is lost. I don’t believe in “strong will”. When someone tells to me: “end up with sin, you are not growing, convert and follow Christ” I can only reply: “I can’t, I understand all of it but I can’t”. Any advice dear brothers?

    • You are not alone. I feel exactly the same way brother. The cycle that you mentioned is a very disheartening one, and one that seems to be playing itself out in my life, as well. Regardless of what I do its sin and confession and then more sin and confession. The confession really does not seem to help me very much, at the very least it has not borne any fruits as far as I can discern. It is very disheartening. I converted to Catholicism two years ago, and I have to admit that I really did not expect failure on such a degree. I thought that by receiving baptism and confirmation would be able to resist sin ,or be able to resist sin more easily. The degree of the struggle is something I did not expect. I have learned to be conscious of the fact that the sacraments are not magic. At times it has led me to question the validity of my own baptism. Did I have the degree of contrition for my past sins that is required? I cannot say. I remember wanting to enter the Church, but I don’t recall having any particular sorrow for my past sins. I don’t recall being exhorted to have contrition by the rcia director either. I do recognize that these are probably not good thoughts to dwell on. The enemy loves to discourage us. The struggle to avoid mortal sin and live a moral life must simply be more severe for some of us than it is for others. I cannot say why this is, but I do know that God’said Providence is manifest in this as well. Twenty-three years of sin is not completely done away with overnight. I have to believe that God is working for the betterment of my soul in this struggle that I feel far to weak to bear at times. The cross is more strongly imposed on the lives of some than it is on others. It is more difficult for some to grasp the joy that comes from serving Christ than it is for others. Those people must need this for some reason we cannot know. I’m sure it is the case with me.

    • Brothers, I think you are both touching on something very important: the issue of failure in the spiritual life. It is something we all struggle with, but it need not lead to defeat. I want to write something addressing this very issue soon. Please stay tuned.

      • Agreed. This is perhaps one of the most important topics we can discuss as brothers. The point I wanted to make in this article is that, in fact, we advance away from sin by uniting to Christ – we don’t get closer to Christ AFTER overcoming sin but we overcome sin as we unite to Christ. Keeping our eyes on him. Did God allow you to slip so as to reveal your pride? Maybe. Either way after a fall rising to look to Him, knowing better your weakness, is always the response. There is no other.

  2. “Grace is not a feeling.”

    Thank you for mentioning this.

    Mr. Craig’s family invented bourbon? He must be a descendant of the Rev. Elijah Craig who invented the stuff here in Scott County, KY where I live. Another Craig descendant recently bought an old bourbon distillery in nearby Frankfort.

    • Indeed! My aunt once sheepishly brought up this fact, and as one of the few Catholic (converts) in the family, I naturally took to it differently than she.

  3. Our Lord fell three times on his way to Calvary. He got up all three times and kept going. It’s the same with sin. All of the greatest saints sinned – some terribly. But through their cooperation with Christ’s will for them, they persevered and triumphed. That is the beauty of the Catholic experience. No one is more acquainted with the human condition than the Catholic Church. When you confess, you are not talking to the priest but to Jesus himself. Don’t be obsessed with your sin but learn to hate it – know you will fail and fall again but that Jesus is waiting to bring you home. Our Lord didn’t promise life would be easy, but he told us we are not alone.

    • Spot on Harry. I joined the Catholic Church in 2009 and It was not until about 2 years ago that I took my faith really seriously. I guess you could have called me a lukewarm Catholic.
      I used to struggle with pornography.I found going to Confession really helps. I was very ashamed of what I did but my confessor was really helpful and he gave me good advice.
      We are all on a Pilgrimage to heaven and we will fall but we have to be courageous and not let the devil try to dishearten us.
      Use the Sacraments and find a good Spiritual Director.
      Pray the Rosary and ask Mary for help and of course we have the Saints and our Guardian Angel.

  4. @Corey

    It is very interesting what you said. I only wonder how not to give up. When something doesn’t work (confession, prayers, reading books, reading Bible, listening great lectures etc.) it is really disheartening. Additionally, when I sometimes listen somebodies testimony I see that it is possible to stop sinning at once and become real witness of Christ (for example Michael Voris).

    @Harry

    „Don’t be obsessed with your sin but learn to hate it…” This is the point. I am sinning because I…like it. I wonder how the change – from loving something to hate it – looks like? I can feel gratiude towards God (I understand what He did for me) but I really don’t have an idea how I can really love Him. This is the most difficult thing for me. To LOVE God and His law. Too much reason, too much understanding and to less love. For me God is as a good uncle who loves me but he lives in…Australia. I KNOW that he loves me but he is absent. This valley of tears and its pleasures (good or bad) are more real. God (an uncle from remote country) is just an idea, a concept.

    @Sam

    I am waiting for your post connected with mentioned problem. I think sometimes we try to be “religious” but we are struggling with very basic things during a very long time.

  5. Harry Wallace Reply

    @Marek
    Hate your sin because that is what makes God a distant Uncle. Sin is distance from God. Pray – Pray – Pray. Also, there is no shame in recognizing that you love your sin because you are addicted to it. Embracing that fact is grace until itself and a solid step to understanding how to reject it.

  6. Harry Wallace Reply

    @ Corey
    As a convert myself, I can tell you that much of the RCIA out there these days is, well, lets call it not comprehensive. Continually seek conversion and catechism. If you are in a town with an Opus Dei Center – seek that out. They have wonderful opportunities for solid formation. The more you learn, the more you will love.

    • No, unfortunately I live in a small city in the South-East in that great wasteland of Evangelical Protestantism. Our pathetic, banal little parish is the only Catholic game in town. The closest Opus Dei center that I know of is in Atlanta which is about three and a half hours away from where I live not that I am particularly attracted to the spirituality of St. Josemaria Escriva to begin with. I’m much more of a Carmelite focussed person spiritually speaking.

  7. I’ve been catholic all my life, but it wasn’t until a year or 2 ago I really understood what that meant. Yet, I’m still learning every day what it means with an endless supply of humbling experiences that teach me more about holiness. Here’s what I can share from my own experiences that might help: Mortal sin must be your first place to start (pornography, masturbation, contraception, etc.). If you are struggling with mortal sin on a regular basis, you must go after that first. I struggled to grow in other areas of my faith for years and never made any lasting progress because I was trying to work around my struggle with pornography. I thought it was too big to overcome and thought if I could get closer to God first, THEN later I can fix that. It doesn’t work that way. That’s why confession is so beautiful though. We are sinners, but God’s mercy is greater always. The second you fall, you go to confession. If you have to go 3 times in one week, do it. Pick yourself up and keep going. Be vigilant. Additionally, there are many great programs that exist these days to help men combat sexual sin.
    Regardless of whether you struggle with sins of the flesh or other vices, man is not capable of anything good, all good comes from God himself. If we wish to accomplish anything good or holy we MUST ask for the grace to do so. If you want to be more patient, ask Him for patience and recognize that He will answer your prayer in the form of opportunities to practice that virtue with the necessary grace to succeed. When I finally started praying for virtue instead of results, it changed everything. It didn’t happen overnight though. It took me a year and a half to develop a consistent prayer routine that includes a daily rosary, adoration, and mass if time permits. It was one small step at a time with setbacks at every step, but every setback was a necessary learning opportunity. God has so much to teach us if we just stopped and asked Him, “Lord, what is it that you are trying to teach me?”.
    Of all the things I have done to grow in my faith, Exodus90 has by far been the most impactful. Among your fellow brothers in Christ, eliminating all the typical vices for modern day man for 90 days is transformative. If you don’t know what’s holding you back, I can assure you that you’ll figure it out somewhere in the thick of those 90 days.

    To sum it all up though, persistent is the key. If a soul desires to know and love God, He will lead them to Him. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but He will always give us the grace we need to find Him. It took me 2 very painful years to shed my pride and all the worldly baggage I was carrying, but eventually I found the light. I’m still nowhere close to where I want to be, but God-willing, I’ll keep making progress one day at a time.

  8. @Marek

    I’m a recent “revert” to the faith, and I’m currently reading “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis. Let me share a brief quotation:

    “To judge the management of a factory, you must consider not only the output but the plant. Considering the plant at Factory A it may be a wonder that it turns out anything at all; considering the first-class outfit at Factory B its output, though high, may be a great deal lower than it ought to be. No doubt the good manager at Factory A is going to put in new machinery as soon as he can, but that takes time. In the meantime low output does not prove that he is a failure.”

    We all come (back) to Christ from different backgrounds, with different issues. You say that it’s been tremendously hard for you to overcome sin. He knows this. Don’t you think He is that much more pleased with you because of your struggle? “I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (http://www.usccb.org/bible/luke/15:7).

    God bless you, brother. I’ll pray for you, and I hope that you’ll do the same for me.

  9. REMEMBER!!! Negative feelings of despair, discouragement ANYTHING do not come from our Lord!!! These are tools of the one who wants us to fail.

    Strive for sainthood WITH JOY in spite of falling.

    WE ARE ALL SINNERS!!

    If serious sin keeps happening change your environment (places, people, things) but do it with joy.

    Christ Lord is JOY! Misery and depression and emptiness are NOT from him.

    • I agree with you to a certain extent MW, but at the same time I think that modern Catholicism can sometimes get far too tied up with notions of Joy. I realize that people like Pope Francis focuses on the joy that comes from being a Christian to such a great extent because Catholics have a reputation of being a rather dour lot. However, people who are struggling greatly with simply living out the basic moral life can feel as if our experience of things is neither valued or even recognized. Of course, I cannot speak for Mareck in this, but it is certainly how I have felt. Joy is a wonderful thing, but it is a grace of the Holy Spirit which we cannot create for ourselves. God gives it to some people, but not to others. In a lot of ways telling these sorts of people to live out their faith more joyful is like telling depressed people that they can get over their illness if they simply think more positive thoughts or something. We must remember that sorrow too is very much a part of the Christian life.I don’t doubt that Christianity is something very joy-filled and emotionally satisfying for a lot of people, but it has not been that way for me. Constantly betraying Our Lord by my sins does not produce joy in me. Seemingly not being able to refrain from doing this does not produce joy in me. I have come to the conclusion that for some of us Catholicism is simply a slog. What matters, I think, is faithfulness and trust even if it does not come with great joy and consolation. What matters for me is forcing myself to keep going joyfully or not.

      • I had a priest tell me during confession once not to get caught up in measuring my successes and failures based on my feelings. To your point, yes, we are to lively joyfully, but obedience in many cases comes first. Just because we don’t feel joyful, doesn’t mean we are failing. Yes, living the Christian life is difficult and a never-ending journey. I started praying the rosary out of obedience. I grew up hating it, I learned to tolerate it as a young adult and only after several years have I come to find joy in it (and still not always). In other aspects of my faith the joyful piece came more naturally, but there are still many aspects that I do out of obedience with the hope that I will one day find the joy in it as well. St. Therese of the Child Jesus is a great example of a saint who suffered greatly from spiritual dryness where her consolation was found only in faith…confidence that her obedience to the Will of God was sufficient and no other consolation was required. Keep the faith @Corey, God bless

      • This is exactly what I think and feel. Christianity is rather sad and almost impossible struggle to win for me. I KNOW that it should be intertwined with joy but I have no idea how to achieve it. I agree with you, we can not create this by ourselves.

  10. I agree with everything that is being said here.

    My point wasn’t to skip along in a lala state of mind and be Joy Joy Joyful. I was expressing, unsuccessfully, that we need to joyfully look to Christ in spite of our sinful actions, in spite of our addictions, in spite of our negativity (all things I struggle with and more). We need to always remind ourselves that Christ wants us to be happily with him.

    The example of St. Therese is a GREAT example and huge source of reassurance for me in that my relationship with Christ is very dry. @Corey – disregard my rambling. Read @Jonathon and look to St. Therese.

  11. I am currently reading Confessions of a Sinner by Saint Augustine. I can honestly say that it would help a lot of my Brothers on this forum.
    Saint Augustine is a great inspiration of how a habitual sinner can turn his life around with the grace of God. Do not underestimate Gods love for us even when we sin. He knows our weaknesses and short comings but God is patient and faithful. We need to put our trust in him and it may take time but never, never lose heart!

  12. I have struggled with temptations, whether as simple as over indulging in food or the more common of pornography. The Sin>Confession>Sin cycle was very typical. It reminds me of putting on a crisp white shirt and trying to eat chips and salsa: it is just a matter of time until your white shirt is not so clean… With that said, I expressed the same frustration/disappointment that I wasn’t able to “fix myself,” and my confessor bluntly said to not be so hard on myself. Yes, we are moving to improve on these things, but no one is perfect. Do your best, when you mess up, confess. Not it isn’t easy, but I hope you find comfort in the fact that you are certainly not alone.

  13. I really liked this post, Jason. I’m a relatively young Christian myself (though it’s been awhile since I’ve climbed any trees!) and I’m truly looking forward to seeing more in this series. When compared to what I heard growing up (“Wait on God” being the most obvious and often-repeated one) the idea of “Go!” really resonates with me. It’s what truly captured my imagination, this idea of becoming a son of God, of being a joint-heir with Jesus, all of it. So I’m truly glad I stumbled on this article at this time.

    My only question so far- is it all right for a non-Catholic to engage and discuss? I’ve been exploring the different branches Christianity has taken, but so far I’m still feeling it out.

  14. 2 Corinthians 12:9-11
    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power my rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I an strong.

    Rejoice in the fact that, simply by taking part in this discussion, and asking the questions we are asking, we are actively seeking the Kingdom. Remember the example of St Paul, the self proclaimed “greatest of sinners.” And the example of St Augustine. Take joy in the fact that God’s grace can and will transform our lives, like theirs.

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