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"5-5-5" spirituality can help every Catholic

Allyson Kenny

September 10, 2019
The spiritual life is a marathon, not a sprint. Deep in the belly of Ordinary Time, it can be easy to fall out of the habits that nourish our faith and into spiritual complacency. To combat this kind of sloth, I’ve been learning about a style of relating to God and the world that is easy to put into practice. It’s home-grown, having originated with a French-Canadian priest, and can help you feel connected to your faith on a daily basis.
Check out the elements of “5-5-5 Spirituality” below.
 

Origins

Fr. Louis-Marie Parent, OMI, was the founder of the Secular Institute of Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate. As a long-time preacher and retreat leader, his travels exposed him to many different religious orders and their ways of community life. According to the official history of the Institute, Fr. Parent began to notice a pattern: “in some religious communities the important virtues were practiced quite well but … the ‘little virtues’ were less so.”
Parent’s spirituality reminds me of Luke 16:10: “The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones.” For him, little virtues form best within those people who consciously practice the presence of God, the first of 5 key attitudes of life. These attitudes then help one to cultivate 5 periods of prayer and do 5 concrete actions every day. Each of the three elements of “5-5-5” spirituality is therefore part of a positive feedback cycle, with one part reinforcing each of the two others; the attitudes help you take action, prayer improves your attitude, the actions make you more prayerful, and so on.

5 Attitudes of Life

The Book of Proverbs says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue; those who choose one shall eat its fruits” (18:21). For Fr. Louis-Marie, our spiritual lives can only grow and flourish when we:
  1. Attend to the presence of God in the present moment, being mindful of his loving care for us and all others we meet throughout our day.
  2. Use words (both in thoughts and speech) to build ourselves and others up, instead of criticizing them or putting them down.
  3. Refrain from complaining about one’s circumstances, instead striving to have an “attitude of gratitude”, welcoming everything as part of God’s will.
  4. Direct our lives towards the service of others, not primarily towards ourselves.
  5. Become a force for good in the world through cultivating peace.
 

5 Periods of Prayer

Living the “5 attitudes” provides a solid foundation for your spiritual “house”. If we want to build this house by learning to pray – and pray well - Fr. Parent encourages us to incorporate 5 key periods of prayer in our life. For the busy person, incorporating one type of prayer per day might be useful. Or maybe you’d prefer to set a goal of engaging in all five at least once per week, each on a different day:
  1. Celebrating the Eucharist (Holy Mass)
  2. Mental Prayer (also called “meditation”)
  3. The Divine Office (perhaps starting just with Matins, aka morning prayer)
  4. The Rosary
  5. Review of Day (commonly referred to as the “Examen” or “Examination of Consciousness”)
The “review of day” is an essential element in any spiritual program, and one that comes highly recommended by many saints. For example, St. Ignatius of Loyola is known to have told members of the Society of Jesus that even if they neglected all other forms of prayer, it was the Examen to which they should remain faithful above all.
 

5 Acts of Charity

The “5-5-5” style of spirituality encourages us to do “small things with great love,” as St. Teresa of Kolkata was fond of saying.  It’s also highly compatible with the little way of St. Therese of Lisieux, as they both have a focus on making small and deliberately intended acts of love, kindness, and mercy part of our daily lives. As Pope Francis reminds us, it’s the little things that show God’s love best, as exemplified by how Jesus showed us the Father’s love.
If you want to make this spiritual style part of your own practice, you might like to check out this list of “50 Corporal Works of Mercy for Your Summer Bucket List” to inspire your own charitable actions.
 
 
Overall, the Institute describes this ‘targeted’ spirituality as having the goal of acquiring Christ's mentality to live and be a witness of his charity in all the places where he [has] rights”.  I hope that this short overview inspires you to go deeper in your spiritual journey using the rule of “5-5-5” as your guide.