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 | By Russell Hoyt

Five habits of a joyful disciple

As a Catholic family man, I have put together my share of IKEA furniture. It is a test of the strength of a marriage to put together a chest of drawers with your spouse. Countless times I have tried (and failed) to put  these things together without opening the instructions, not really knowing what it should look like in the end. Can it be done? Sure, but a lot of time and energy will be wasted in the process. 

I often feel similarly about the term “discipleship” in the church today. There is an institutional push to “form disciples,” with a lot being written and said without ever giving a clear and simple picture of what it looks like to live that out. How can we make disciples if we don’t have a simple explanation for what they are and what they do? 

Fortunately, the church has always had a clear image of “discipleship” given in Acts 2:42 that we can immediately practice in our daily lives. Leading up to these verses St. Peter is preaching to the crowds, and they are “cut to the heart.” They experience conversion, a deep desire to follow Jesus and live different lives. They are baptized and received into the Christian community. After that we see the new disciples practicing five holy habits found in verse 42: “They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to the communal life, to the breaking of the bread and to the prayers.” 

Through prayer (“the prayers”), the sacraments (“the breaking of the bread”), study (the apostle’s teaching), fellowship (“communal life”) and service (verses 44-47 describe how they lived out that fellowship through service), they committed their lives to Christ. The goal of practicing each of these disciplines is communion with God that leads to spiritual growth and the total transformation of the disciple from the inside out. Living as a disciple begins in the heart and should immediately bear fruit in action. So, what do these five holy habits look like for us today?


Loving daily conversation is the foundation of our relationship with the Lord. We cannot love someone we do not speak to or listen to. Did you know that 15 minutes a day is only 1% of a day? Can we give the Lord 1% of our day in prayer?


Specifically the Mass, confession and eucharistic devotion. Attending Mass every week is our surest way to be close to God, particularly by receiving him in Communion. Reconciling with God and the church through the sacrament of confession keeps us spiritually healthy and on the narrow path. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament guarantees us a share in God’s presence for which we long.


When we love someone, we learn about them. Reading sacred Scripture or a holy book, listening to a podcast, watching a YouTube video or attending a Bible study are all great ways to study God. We are never done growing in the knowledge of the One who loves us and who we love in return. 


We all need spiritual friendship, people with whom we can walk the way. As humans we are greatly affected by the people we spend time with, so we need to invest heavily in holy relationships that build us up as Catholic disciples. That might be in a small group, with a prayer partner, or a close friend with whom we have regular conversations about our walk with the Lord.


We see in verses 44-47 how the new disciples lived out their fellowship. Practicing the first four disciplines leads them to go out and serve the people in their community. They gave generously of their time, belongings and selves. God has given each of us a mission, and we have an obligation to find it.

Imagine what our lives might look like five weeks from now if each week we added one new discipline and practiced it daily. Imagine the spiritual fruit that will come from diving deeper into our discipleship!

Russell Hoyt serves as the diocesan director of Evangelization and Catechesis. He has been passionately involved in parish ministry and the New Evangelization since 2005. He lives in Georgetown with his wife and five children. Contact him at or (512) 949-2542.