We all know the importance of forming good habits. Eating healthier foods, exercising and spending time away from electronic devices are good practices in our daily lives. When we do these things continuously, we see the mental and physical benefits they provide.
Our spiritual lives are just as important. Forming good habits with regular prayer, participating at Mass, receiving the sacraments and other spiritual-related activities are just some of the ways that we grow in our Catholic faith.
As children, those habits are cultivated through the actions of our parents, such as going to Mass, attending a Catholic school or PSR program and participating in social activities at the parish. But if we see those things as mere habits — rather than intentional spiritual growth — there is a danger of falling away from the faith. Growing in faith, especially with the assistance of others, can minimize that danger.
Students at St. Dominic High School in O’Fallon are seeing firsthand the benefits of being disciples to one another through a peer ministry program that has grown in popularity in recent years. In addition to leading retreats and organizing school Masses, student peer ministers have formed discipleship groups to share their love for the Catholic faith with their fellow students.
“If our mission as a school is not to get every one of our students to heaven, then we’re failing as a school,” said Father Patrick Russell, vice president of mission and identity at St. Dominic. “Our primary mission is to create disciples for Jesus Christ.”
Students are learning in a safe space how to become vulnerable with one another and share what their faith means to them. It’s here that their spiritual habits are being solidified so that as they emerge from high school and enter young adulthood, they’re able to make their faith their own as independent adults.
“We’re learning how important those things are in our lives, and we’re seeing the change in our lives,” said St. Dominic senior Benjamin Eusterbrock. “So when we move on from here, it’s something we’re going to want to keep pursuing. We don’t want to fall away from it, because we’ve seen how good it is.”
A recent study from Pew Research shows that most teens (ages 13-17) in the United States share the same religious affiliation of their parents. The study also found some differences: among them, it’s usually the teens who are less religious than their parents. Far fewer teens (24%) than parents (43%) say that religion is very important in their lives.
Additionally, roughly three in 10 adults in the United States are now religiously unaffiliated, according to Pew Research. The secularizing shifts evident in American society in the 21st century show no signs of slowing down.
The latest Pew Research Center survey of the religious composition of the United States finds the religiously unaffiliated share of the public is six percentage points higher than it was five years ago and 10 points higher than a decade ago.
Faithful disciples are desperately needed. Let’s take our cue from Father Patrick Russell and students at St. Dominic: Are we consciously working to get ourselves and those around us to heaven? And let’s continue to invest in our young people, who are not just the future of the Church — they’re making disciples, bringing Christ’s love to each other, right now.