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8-step program aims to help men find their life path

05 PAGE 7.27.17_DavidClayton.2David Clayton is an artist and author who offers an eight-step program geared to finding a life path and a vocation.  (Photo courtesy David Clayton)

July 27, 2017
Valerie Schmalz

Do you ever pause and think: “Is this what I am supposed to be doing with my life?”

It’s a common enough question, and Catholic artist and author David Clayton is offering a Catholic way to navigate the journey of life in weekly “The Vision for You” meetings for men at St. Jerome Catholic Church in El Cerrito. The eight-step program is a combination of meetings, classes, vespers in the church, and work with an individual mentor. While Clayton has been working with others using this program for nearly 30 years, the group approach has just been underway for a year, he said.

“It is a process that helps me stay grateful for each day,” Clayton said. “In any day, you get caught up in the ups and downs of life. The program helps us deal with that.”

“It gives me the spiritual tools for enjoying life as it is,” Clayton said, noting with vespers the participants, read and listen to Scripture, chant and sing psalms and liturgical prayer in harmony with the Catholic Church.

The eight steps begin with Step 1, acknowledging “we are the cause of our own unhappiness through our self-centered behaviors, thoughts and feelings (otherwise known as sins); the cause is not other people or circumstances, no matter how unfortunate.” The steps include acknowledging the power of God, making amends for past injuries to others and concludes with Step 8, “the practice of a daily routine of prayer, reflection and good works.”

Clayton said the program developed organically from his own experience finding his way to his vocation, after a mentor in England many years ago asked him what he would like to do, in his wildest dreams. By following the pathway, Clayton found himself as an artist which was his wildest dream, left behind his atheism and joined the Catholic Church. Today he is an iconographer, lectures on art and is provost of online Pontifex University.

“You just move one step at a time. You don’t plan the whole journey. The reason you take a small step is that once you’ve taken on the premise – that there is a calling for you – you just do what you can without neglecting your duties in life – and then worry about the second step and what it’s meant to be,” said Clayton, who has written several books including “The Way of Beauty: Liturgy, Education and Inspiration for School and College” (Anglico Press, 2015) and “The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home’” (Sophia Institute Press, 2014) with Leila Marie Lawler.

“I think David’s program is poised to meet a huge need,” San Francisco physician Dr. Michel Accad said, noting he is personally benefiting from it and has recommended it to others. “It provides a process by which people may be able to overcome feelings that are commonly experienced by all of us living in today’s society – namely, anxiety and resentment.”

“David’s program of spiritual exercises combined with fellowship and peer support is unique and, in my opinion morally and spiritually sound,” Accad said.

The process draws on the Western monastic tradition of spirituality, similar to the Exercises of St. Ignatius, Clayton said, and includes an examination of life, much as St. Ignatius’ exercises do.

Although there is no requirement that participants be Catholic or Christian, Clayton said, “I believe the worship of God is important for people’s happiness. It really does enrich our lives and make us happier.”

What Clayton’s mentor said to him was “this goal you’re aiming for, you don’t know if it is actually going to be realized. What it really is, is a sort of homing signal – it is just giving you the next step you take in faith.”

“It is important that in striving for this that we don’t get too absorbed,” Clayton said. “We have to be happy in the day. If we are not happy now, if we are not joyful now, we won’t be when we get this goal. It’s the journey. We are living our personal vocation starting with that first step.”

Meetings at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, St. Jerome Catholic Church, church hall, 308 Carmel Ave., El Cerrito. To attend, contact David Clayton at davidicons@gmail.com and “come a few minutes early so we can welcome you,” Clayton said.


David Clayton’s  Eight Principles for Progress

I. Reflection - the Three Acknowledgements
1. We acknowledged that we are the cause of our own unhappiness through our self-centered behaviors, thoughts and feelings (otherwise known as sins); the cause is not other people or circumstances, no matter how unfortunate.

2. We acknowledged that we are unable to control our thoughts and actions perfectly and to rid ourselves of that unhappiness, which is in the form of resentment and fear.

3. We acknowledged that our sole hope for happiness is in God. We set ourselves this ideal for living: with God’s grace we can do his will, be free of resentment and fear and have a good, beautiful and joyful life. Once we have accepted this truth, then we do have a choice and we can say that misery is optional.

II. Action - the Five Spiritual Exercises:
1. We adopted a daily routine of prayer, reflection and good works.

2. When the daily routine had become habitual, we undertook a detailed written self-examination, looking at our past thoughts, feelings and behaviors in order to root out the resentments and fears arising from our self-centeredness. We admitted our shortcomings to God and to another trusted person.

3. We made amends for any harms done (provided that to do so would not cause more harm).

4. We discerned our personal vocation by consideration of what we would like to do in our wildest dreams, and then worked toward that goal.

5. We continued to deepen our spiritual lives through the practice of a daily routine of prayer, reflection and good works.

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