Hello again everyone!
I apologize for how long it's been since I've posted something (the pictures with the quotes don't really count, in my opinion)! I'll try very hard to make sure that doesn't happen again.
Last night, I read the third chapter in St. Francis de Sales's book An Introduction to the Devout Life. For anyone looking for a great spiritual/devotional type book, go buy a copy of this. The advice and spiritual direction has helped me so much, at all different times in my walk with God.
Anyway, Chapter Three was about how devotion is something everyone can strive towards and practice, but not in the same way. He talked about how the life of a poor monk would not work for a married couple with children, but that couple should have their own, more personalized way of growing in Christ. This is not the same, mind you, as deciding one doesn't need to go to Mass because they can pray at home. This is referring to the time one spends on his own, by himself, trying to cultivate a garden of good deeds and hopeful prayers to present to God.
When around nuns, monks, priests, or other very disciplined spiritual people, it's easy to feel like you're not doing enough. Seeing their hard work and selfless lifestyle, it's hard not to start feeling guilty because you have a closet full of clothes, spend time pursuing your own interests, and sometimes miss your Daily Rosary.
But, as St. Francis de Sales wants to remind all of us, we are not all called to the same lifestyle. Possessions are not evil in and of themselves; what is wrong is when they become our center, instead of Christ. Spending time golfing, sewing, surfing, gaming, etc. is not wrong, as long as you make sure those things do not replace or cut into your time for God.
Here's some tips for all of you.
- If you've tried saying a Rosary every day, and you find you just can't concentrate, buy Fr. Benedict Groeschel's "The Rosary is a Place" CDs. These are great! Fr. Benedict gives a reflection on each mystery, and meditatively prays the decades with a woman named Simonetta, who sings a little song in between each decade. It's so beautiful, and helps me get in a reflective mood. You're not going to have perfect concentration every time, but if you honestly try to keep your mind on God, He will understand.
- Start reading the Bible daily! If you already do, but are having trouble understanding it, start with the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament. It's full of amazing historical and spiritual commentary, essays, and word studies. Above everything, don't become overly worried about a time schedule. If trying to read a certain amount every day is becoming stressful, chances are it's not nourishing your soul very much. And always pray to the Holy Spirit before reading!
- Start trying to do a Morning and Night prayer, as soon as you wake up and before going to bed. These help the day start and end on the right note. Magnificat has great prayers in their monthly issues, but if you want even more, try the Divine Office. For something a little less daunting, buy a basic prayer book and choose one of the morning dedications to say every morning until memorized. Then move on to more in-depth reflections.
- Read good Catholic literature! If you like non-fiction, I suggest either The Story of a Soul by St. Therese of Lisieux or The Lamb's Supper by Dr. Scott Hahn. Both are fairly easy to read and offer great insight into living a more loving life and deepening one's devotion to the Mass. Fiction lovers, pick up any of Michael D. O'brien's books, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. (if you like sci-fi or other new concepts), The Great Divorce or The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, or Mr. Blue by Myles Connolly (for realistic fiction). These are all wonderful books that get one's mind and soul thinking!
- Pray! Anywhere and everywhere, just start doing it! An amazing prayer book is Jason Evert's Pure Faith. It says it's for teenagers, but anyone could appreciate it. He has a great prologue about how to start praying and some tips, along with a lovely collection of prayers and other devotions. If you're in a rush, whispering Christ's name is better than putting Him off entirely!
Don't forget, start slowly. Baby steps come before big ones. By easing into some of these things, your life will immediately begin to change for the better, and your soul will long even more ardently for Christ.
God bless you all!