By Christine Bordelon
“We have to feed our souls, just like we feed our bodies, in order to grow in our relationship with God,” says Deacon Rich Eason, author of “Spiritual Excellence: The Path to Happiness, Holiness and Heaven,” recently published by EWTN Publishing, Inc.
Deacon Eason – a husband, father, grandfather, lawyer and deacon at Good Shepherd Parish in the Archdiocese of New Orleans since 2012 – shares how he strengthened the rich Catholic legacy inherited from his parents, Mary and Rudy Eason.
As a young lawyer in his 30s and overwhelmed with life’s challenges in work and his personal life, Deacon Eason, a graduate of De La Salle, had an overwhelming inspiration from the Holy Spirit to outline the New Testament.
He said it took him a while to do, but as the Holy Spirit crept into his life, he gained “a repertoire of spiritual knowledge,” and his heart began opening to hear Jesus’ voice through the words, and life’s decisions weren’t as hard.
A path was unfolding to happiness, holiness and heaven.
“When you spiritually read, you develop a knowledge that helps you in your life,” Deacon Eason said. “Jesus speaks to you. That became a way of life for me and helped me navigate all my issues.”
Book came to fruition
Over the years as Deacon Eason devoured St. Paul and his letters to the Corinthians and Philippians, the idea of spiritual excellence became clear.
The book’s content surfaced about five years ago when he repeatedly heard athletes, politicians and others discuss leaving a human legacy of attaining success and power.
Often hearing so many sad stories from others about their disillusionment with faith, dealing with temptation and sin, and being challenged by fear, stress, worry, the economy, politics and crime and suffering, he thought it would be helpful to convey a spiritual- improvement legacy detailing his faith growth through spiritual excellence.
St. Paul’s words about spiritual excellence might help others as well, he thought. As he prayed on the writings of St. Paul, “I began to realize that my journey is about serving Jesus and not myself.”
Deacon Eason knew that, after the sacrament of confirmation, many Catholics receive little spiritual education outside of Mass. He sees “Spiritual Excellence” as a source of furthering the Catholic faith.
Continuing education is required in the fields of medicine, education and law to maintain excellence, but “we never really think about excellence in a spiritual context,” he said.
Deacon Eason incorporates more than 160 Scriptural quotes, teachings from 24 saints and spiritual authors and the “Catechism of the Catholic Church.” Many are go-to Bible verses and saints he uses for guidance.
The book is divided into four parts: “Why Am I the Way that I Am?” and what robs us of happiness; “Doing a Spiritual Self Audit (SSA)” by developing an individual spiritual plan (ISP) that encourages reliance on the Holy Spirit; the remedies to overcome challenges; and four saints who exemplify spiritual excellence (Saints Therese of Lisieux, Teresa of Calcutta, Padre Pio and Maria Faustina Kowalska). At the end of each short chapter, there is a “spiritual treasure” for reflection and room for notes.
An invaluable tool in the book is the self-audit, he says, to identify our weaknesses and begin to open a path that God places at the forefront of decisions. Since we can’t worship more than one God, Deacon Eason lists the 13 most common faith challenges – culled from hundreds of conversations with others over the years – that prevent us from seeing God’s plan for us.
Fear, stress and worry were Deacon Eason’s vices in his early 30s. He said practicing unwavering faith in the Lord, using the Holy Spirit’s gifts and fruits – including courage and wisdom, learning spiritual self-discipline and time management, following the saints as role models and surrendering and trusting God’s will – overcame being sidetracked by the world’s loud voices.
God bestows what we need
Before his work was published, Deacon Eason presented “Spiritual Excellence” as a series at St. Ann, Good Shepherd and St. Peter parishes, and at Notre Dame Seminary with Father Joe Krafft’s prayer group.
Deacon Eason has discussed the book on EWTN’s “Live with Father Mitch Pacwa,” “The World Over with Raymond Arroyo” and “Bookmark” with EWTN President Doug Keck and is currently working on a second book.
“Once you have truly experienced divine peace, you will never go back to earthly ways,” he said.