The next step then is to respond to that love with all that we are. We seek to give ourselves entirely to Jesus. Receiving His love and striving to get ourselves back to Him in love is called a “personal relationship” with Jesus.
In order to understand the meaning of your life and what you are supposed to do with your life requires a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Another way of putting it is to ask yourself, “Do I know Jesus, or do I only know about Him?” It is in this relationship with Him as Lord as Redeemer and as His intimate friend where we can hear his call to us. Many have found that reading My Other Self and I Believe in Love (see “Reading” page) really helped them to understand and develop that personal relationship.
Loving Jesus means to strive after holiness. Holiness is our first vocation which was given to us at Baptism. Holiness means to live the life of God here and now. Within this call to holiness emerges the more specific call of the state of life in the Church: marriage, priesthood, or religious/consecrated life. The life of holiness involves prayer (contemplating God) and virtue (living God’s life) and asceticism (opening up oneself to God’s life).
The Sacraments give us sanctifying grace. This is God’s own power and life at work within us. The Sacraments communicate God’s own life to our souls. In discernment we focus especially on the Sacraments we can receive more than once: Confession and Holy Communion. It is vitally important during discernment that one receives Holy Communion as often as possible. Daily communion is ideal. Confession, as mentioned above, is essential and needs to be more than once a month. It can be especially helpful to go to confession to the same priest so that he gets to know your soul and can offer more specific advice.
Prayer is our vital, daily and intimate contact with the Lord. It entails the lifting of our hearts and minds to Him who is with us throughout the day. Prayer is more about listening than speaking to Him, but it involves both. A man must be praying if he wants to know his vocation. An entire page on this website is devoted to developing a habit and daily routine of prayer. Only committed, daily prayer which would include Mass, Confession, the Rosary and Scriptural meditation leads to one’s vocation. Much can be learned about prayer in the Catechism, and please feel free to look at the other prayer hints on this website. Examples of prayer are Eucharistic Adoration, Lectio divina with Holy Scripture, the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, etc. But the most important thing about prayer is to JUST DO IT.
A personal relationship is built upon personal prayer. Therefore you must make time in your day to be with Him exclusively and not just when it is convenient. We make time for friends and important people, and there was no one else who is a better friend or more important person in your life than Jesus Christ. So these other links on this page will explain further how to develop a routine of prayer on how important the sacraments are and living the virtues live in a moral life.
Virtue is a habit of doing good. It comes from the Latin word vir meaning “man” and is also used to convey “manliness” or “power”. Virtue is a habit, that is, a virtue is not something we do now and again, but it is something that we do regularly, even without thinking about it. Part of the life of virtue is that we strive to live according to His commandments, and to develop habits that will help us keep His commandments. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”
You can find out more on Sacraments, Prayer and Virtue in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
ASCETICISM (“MAKING SACRIFICES”)
Asceticism helps to open up our human nature to receive the Lord’s life. Asceticism also sharpens our spiritual senses. To love means to give yourself and giving ourselves in love involves sacrifice. When two people love each other they do things for each other and make sacrifices for one another. Sacrifices are not made just for the sake of “giving up” things, but are gifts given out of love. In its most basic sense asceticism means to thwart one’s own will in order to embrace the Lord’s will. Asceticism means curbing our earthly desires (pleasure, things, my own way, etc.) in order to open up our spiritual desires (prayer, good works, etc.). The most important sacrifice to offer the Lord is the sacrifice of one’s will of doing good when we don't feel like doing good. This type of sacrifice can take the form of doing one’s chores around the house with a smile, taking on an extra chore, or helping a brother with his homework. The sacrifice can mean letting a brother or sister have his or her way or allowing him or her to play with or use one of your possessions.
Every time we resist temptation and avoid sin we are practicing asceticism. Resisting temptation can be quite painful, yet offering that suffering to the Lord with love is very pleasing to Him. Always remember, the more hidden the asceticism is, the more effective it is. A good way to begin practicing asceticism is unplugging from all the noise mentioned above and limiting one’s time with TV or computer games. It is important to remember that asceticism is not an end in itself. Asceticism is only good insofar as it opens us up to love and leads us to be more loving to Jesus and our neighbor. It’s also important to remember that we don’t do ascetical works to earn Jesus’ love or grace, we do it to accept more deeply His love and grace that He already offers. Asceticism will help to sharpen our sensitivity to Him and His Voice.