Stepping Into Virtue

WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD: Simple Steps to a Virtuous Life

by Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR

Servant, 2006

184 pages, $12.99

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(800) 488-0488

At a retreat led by Franciscan Father Andrew Apostoli some time ago, a woman in my lunch group said, “The Christian life would be easy if I had Father Apostoli at my side all day, every day.”

Wherever that lady is now, I hope she’s reading Walk Humbly with Your God. It’s like having the friar with you wherever you read.

Author, retreat leader and EWTN host, Father Apostoli is also vice postulator for the canonization cause of Archbishop Fulton Sheen. While no book — or priest — can ensure a fast track to sainthood, Father Apostoli’s “simple steps” can ease the climb to a higher plane of virtue.

He began writing the essays in this book after ministering at the Ground Zero morgue following the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Moved by courageous firefighters and police officers who formed honor guards for each of their dead comrades, he writes, “The looks on their faces reflected a combination of sorrow at carrying out one of their own, and a deep sense of respect and admiration for one of their fallen heroic comrades. The words of Jesus came instinctively to mind: ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’” (John 15:13).

Father Apostoli believes that, like those 9/11 heroes whose training enabled their selfless response, Catholics too can train for whatever may come.

Anchored in Scripture, his manual includes both personal anecdotes and material from such diverse sources as Vince Lombardi, John Henry Newman, St. John Chrysostom, St. Teresa of Avila, G.K. Chesterton, St. Francis de Sales, Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. Padre Pio.

Beginning with a discussion of prayer, the bedrock of a holy life, Father Apostoli makes clear that he’s not one to pull punches. “Lack of prayer,” he writes, “will inevitably bring disastrous consequences for anyone claiming to be a follower of Christ.”

Regarding the practice of virtue, he likens the Christian’s struggle with trials and temptations to riding a bicycle: Gliding downhill requires almost no effort. Riding along a smooth, level surface takes a little more but still doesn’t challenge you much. But proceeding uphill — the work of “dedicated Catholics who strive to live their faith ardently” — is a lot of work.

Next Father Apostoli tackles judgmental thoughts, uncharitable speech and gossip.

The last section of Walk Humbly extols suffering as both necessary and salutary for those seeking to lead a life of virtue.

In the final chapter, “Joy: An Important Safeguard for Our Spiritual Lives,” the author cautions, “If this essential ingredient is missing in our lives, we will fall short of all that God has for us.”

Father Apostoli ends with a prayer. “May God’s church be filled with prayerful, virtuous Christians who carry their crosses joyfully in union with Jesus. Through their faithful witness may all … come to know the love and mercy of God!”

Here’s hoping this light-reading, yet surprisingly profound, book sends many souls into the new year with a wise friar at their side.

Ann Applegarth writes from

Roswell, New Mexico.