WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - "It's time to stop picking your nose and get your butt into gear!"  How's that for spiritual motivation?  For Fr. James Farfaglia, it was just the medicine he needed.

As a young college freshman, Fr. James accepted the challenge of one of the founders of Magdalen College to get his life in order and stop "fiddlin' and diddilin'".  In short, it was a challenge to get serious - about life, about the Faith, about the soul, the will, the mind and body.  

In his new book, Get Serious!  A Survival Guide for Serious Catholics, Fr. James now issues the same challenge to each of us, and he ain't beatin' around the bush.   In his typical straight-up fashion, he's calling all of us to stop merely warming the pews with our behinds.  Our culture is sick and depraved and literally crumbling around us.  The good news is, there is a cure.  And it's not a "what" but a "who."

By God's grace, you are the cure.  But only if you get serious.

When you look at a holy card featuring a saint, do you see a real human being?  Or do you see an intangible image of a mysterious someone from a different world who succeeded in doing the impossible, which of course, you could never do?  I know what my answer usually is, sadly.  And that's precisely the trouble.  We have stopped aspiring to sainthood.  While all hell breaks loose outside our door, the would-be saints on earth have grown cold, timid and lazy, or are simply MIA.

We can't long for an age we weren't born into (as tempting as it is).  We can't dream of easier times and grow discouraged at the challenges we face today.  This is our hour in history.  This is the culture we must transform.  Only saints can dispel the darkness closing in on us with the light of Christ.  Only saints can dismantle the lies and deceptions of our "enlightened" age with eternal Truth.  Only saints can tell about the irrational Mercy that all our sin cannot exhaust.  Those saints are staring back at us in the mirror.

Are you ready to get serious about your faith?  To snap out of your lukewarm, semi-comatose state and make some profound changes in your life?  Good!  Fr. James has laid out a clear instruction manual to get you moving toward a meaningful spiritual life.  But first, let's get one thing straight.  As part of the laity of the Church, your call is to sanctify the temporal order.  Father explains, "Your home, your neighborhood, your place of work, your school, the supermarket, the restaurant, the ball field and the movie theatre are all part of the temporal order."  It's in your everyday life with its everyday problems that you need to be holy.

In fact, Father writes, "You should not be walking around with rosary beads hanging from your eyeballs.  You can't look like some kind of weirdo or religious fanatic.  If you want to bring people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you need to look normal and professional."

He begins with some very practical advice that may not seem all that "spiritual" at first glance, such as the necessity of a daily schedule.  Consider it the foundation of your spiritual house.  It's precisely because our modern lives are so round-the-clock and chaotic that we must establish and maintain the discipline of a schedule.

Included in this daily order are what Fr. James calls the "basic aspects of human formation.  Clean rooms, well-groomed hair, ironed clothes, polished shoes, and personal hygiene all make up the fundamentals of what it means to be human.  Grace does not work without human nature, it builds upon it.  First a man, first a woman, and then the saint."

 "Discipline is essential.  You will not be able to live out a serious spiritual life without it." he says simply.   The moments of quiet and calm we need in order to experience God will never come if we don't organize our time.

Maintaining a schedule is what allows us to prioritize prayer and actually make it happen, because we all know that when the day runs away with us, prayer time is the first thing to be postponed and neglected.

Without a disciplined prayer life, we'll never grow out of our "spiritual kindergarten" as Fr. James calls it.  I was encouraged to hear him acknowledge, "prayer is not an easy enterprise.  The spiritual life will always be a battle."  Phew!  It's not just me!

For those wanting a concrete "how-to", Fr. James lays out three levels of a daily prayer routine that anyone can follow, so there's no more wondering, "What do I do?"  All that's stopping you now are your excuses!  Father reminds us, "There will be moments when you simply do not feel like praying.  You will battle with distractions and moments of dryness.  Do not worry.  Welcome to the human race.  Stick to your prayer schedule.  Persevere and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit.persist in praying no matter what."
Building upon that foundation of discipline, order and prayer, Father calls us to return to Confession, and frequently!  He reminds us that sin not only weakens the soul, but the body, the will, and the mind as well.  With sin clouding our thinking and distorting the truth, we are easily persuaded to believe the cleverly-packaged lies our culture is selling.  (The first of which is that there's no real right or wrong anymore - it's all relative!  Quick!  Get thee to the confessional!  Run!)

Fr. James then tackles perhaps the biggest sin of our times - sexual sin.  From contraception to the smut that passes for entertainment on TV, to pornography on the Internet, it's hard to escape the temptation of sexual sin.  Without discipline and self-mastery, we end up being enslaved by our passions.  Freedom comes to those who persevere in the struggle for purity, and here again, the sacrament of Penance is our great ally.

The fifth chapter in the book is my favorite.  It is the bottom line; the whole point; the thing that matters most; the one thing that could change everything.  It's what makes us Catholic.  It's the miracle of the Eucharist.

Fr. James walks us through the doctrine of Transubstantiation and through the writings of the early Church Fathers on the Real Presence, then implores us to evaluate our own hearts regarding this Sacred Food.  Do we really believe it or not?  Many - maybe even most - Catholics today no longer believe in the Real Presence.  Is it any wonder, then, that we are anemic in our spiritual efforts?  We're starving to death.

"Each time we come to the Eucharist, it is Jesus himself who not only shows us how to live our lives, but who also provides us with the divine grace to live out the gospel teachings in our daily existence.  This is why we must have a daily Eucharistic life.I urge you to center your life on the Eucharist."

Finally, Father tells us quite simply, "Don't get discouraged!"  Yep, times are volatile.  Life is scary and the struggle for holiness never ends.  It seems like we fail a hundred times for every one small victory.  There's a new scandal every day.  All of that is true.  So what?  All the more reason we need to get serious and stay serious.  We're asked to be faithful, not successful.

This happy priest says we need a healthy detachment from the world in order to hold on to the peace of Christ.  "What is detachment?  Without getting too complicated and too theological, detachment basically means that we love God more than we love people, places and things."  It doesn't mean we get to run away and hide, however.  "We are to immerse ourselves into the world and attempt to make it a better place for everyone."

"Jesus does not tell us to only love God, he tells us to love God first.  All other loves must be subordinated to our first love.  To love God first requires a profound spiritual life and a lot of mortification."


Part two of our detachment is silence and solitude.  "Getting away from everything for a day, a weekend or a week or two is necessary."  Lastly, we need rest.  We need to keep the Sabbath!  Sundays must be for Mass and rest only - no work!  Father warns us not to get sucked into mere distraction and laziness, but to rediscover true leisure.  Be with your loved ones; enjoy your life!  Laugh!  Play!   Turn off everything electronic and get some rest.

As wonderful and helpful as this book is, it will not be a magic pill that changes your life.  Only the power of God can do that, and He only does that when we run after Him with our whole heart. The point is, it's up to you to decide to strive for holiness or not.  How serious are you?

There's no one else to live the Faith but you.  There's no one else to be a witness to Christ in your world but you.  Fr. James is reminding all of us that the clock is ticking, and the time is now.  Don't leave sainthood to someone else.  Pursue it yourself.