A Great Spiral Staircase
When I was a student at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH, my faith gradually came to life. Already I had a good sacramental life. I participated in the eucharistic celebration every day, experienced reconciliation weekly, and studied the Catechism. In short, I was a good Catholic. But at the university I had the opportunity to go with a group of students on a mission trip to Mexico. It was during this time that my faith began to really come alive. All of a sudden, the grace of the sacraments took on a new meaning. Not only was I working on my own salvation with the grace of God, but also I realized that the gifts I was given were gifts I could share. I began to practice various ministries in my daily life: I assisted the poor, I was a reader and extraordinary minister of holy Communion, and I engaged in theological discussions and prayer with others. I even started teaching the faith in religious-education classes. As I became more engaged in living my faith, the meaning of the sacraments took on new depth—my spiritual life was transformed by my experiences. I recognized that the more I gave of my time, talent, and treasure, the more I received. Jesus told us that to give is greater than to receive, but it wasn’t until I experienced sharing my faith in words and deeds that I understood that offering up the gift of faith increases our own faith.
When we help someone in need, when we offer God’s love, and when we permit the Holy Spirit to work through us, God touches the lives of real people. By seeing the action of God in the world, our desire to serve is intensified, our faith is enhanced, and our love for God and neighbor is increased. That mission trip to Mexico afforded me the opportunity to put my faith into practice in a new way. Also, it allowed me to experience the faith of many people, and together we helped one another grow closer to the Lord. When we live our faith through charity, our hope increases. The increase in hope makes our faith grow, and that allows us to do even greater works of charity. This pattern builds a great spiral staircase of virtue that helps to lead us to heaven. Faith without works may be dead, but faith with works reveals the love of God present in lives and produces fruit that will last for eternity.