We talk about using sacramentals to bring grace into our everyday lives, and this is achieved through habits of mindfulness we consciously form. Habits are practical acts accompanied by a disposition—the ways we approach life and pursue holiness and virtue. It’s faith in action. Sacramentals, as instruments for incarnational piety, are a wonderful aid to this approach. Here is an interesting essay about incarnational spirituality.
Ken said his graduate studies explored the formation of virtue as the development of good habits, a firm commitment to choose the good and exercise it in concrete action. Seeking a closer relationship with God, there are qualities we can develop ourselves and more fundamental qualities that God infuses in us. Think of the four cardinal virtues—prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance—as human qualities that can be pursued with or without Christian faith. There are also theological virtues—faith, hope, and love—which are the greatest gifts, infused in us by God, who is Love. (CCC 1804-1829) Human virtues are purified and elevated by God’s grace. All goods point toward the Creator.
William James wrote about the development of habits. In a famous quote, he urged people to strive diligently to develop good habits; otherwise, one can fall into bad habits which seem trivial at first but can build up to steer us toward a kind of hell on earth.
God can infuse courage and goodness and prudence as we need it, if we are receptive. The Catechism also discusses a related subject, receiving the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, as set forth in the Catechism. (CCC 1830-1832). In terms of incarnational piety, habits can be a beautiful way of receiving and cooperating with God’s grace in how we deal with everyday experiences. Some habits may tend toward mindlessness, such as the cautionary practice of checking whether the door to one’s home is locked. But we must strive to receive from the Holy Spirit habits of mindfulness that embody a sense of purpose centered on the Kingdom of God—the goal of growing closer to the Lord, participating actively in His grace and love.