Despite the fact that many Christians attend services regularly, few understand how the spiritual life works. Catholics believe the spiritual life works a little bit differently than other Christian Churches, but there are many similarities.
The biggest similarity is that, like other Christian Churches, Catholics believe that Jesus is essential to the spiritual life. This is because of who we believe Jesus is. Catholics do not believe that Jesus was merely a nice man who travelled about the world saying some nice things about love. We believe that Jesus was actually God, who came down from heaven and became human.
Jesus was 100% God and 100% human. By experiencing ordinary human life, Jesus made all authentic aspects of human life holy. He took ordinary things like family, work, and friendship and gave them religious meanings. He even experienced suffering and made our own suffering an opportunity to encounter God.
Jesus also died, and because he died he made death a holy experience. By dying, Jesus himself embraced the loneliest and saddest part of human life and filled it with the presence of God. Then after lying in the tomb for three days, he rose from the dead and after appearing to his disciples he ascended into heaven. Because Jesus is 100% human and 100% God, he made it possible for our human nature to exist in heaven.
But that isn’t all. After he ascended into heaven, Jesus sent his own Spirit down into a group of people called the apostles. This spirit transformed the apostles and helped them live like Jesus. Take for example the way they experienced death. Jesus suffered a violent death called crucifixion, but despite the violence he remained peaceful. Likewise, the apostles also experienced violent deaths and because they had the spirit of Jesus in them, they were able to experience their own deaths peacefully.
Jesus gives his Spirit to people today in the Church by entering into communion with us. This ultimately means that we can experience trials and suffering like Jesus experienced his own trials and sufferings. Just as Jesus endured suffering with peace, we can endure our own suffering with a peace which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
Communion with Jesus is what defines the Catholic way of life. Everything that we do as Catholics, especially gathering on Sundays together at Church, is about drawing into communion with Jesus and learning to see, think, and live like he lived.