If you are like most people, it is very likely you have made at least one New Year’s resolution to kick off 2010. The typical list may include losing weight, quitting smoking, drinking less and exercising more. Sound familiar? But, how often do we make firm resolutions to help us become better Catholics? What can we do differently in the coming year to attain this goal?
I recommend focusing on the themes of Prayer, Apologetics, Reading and Devotion in 2010. This list is by no means complete and may not appeal to everyone, but here are some suggestions for making significant progress this year in deepening our Catholic faith:
Work on developing a daily prayer routine with the goal of at least an hour a day devoted to prayer. Sound difficult? Think about how much TV we watch a day. Consider how much time we spend in our cars each day and how much time we devote to exercise. We have more than enough time for prayer if we plan for it, schedule it and commit to it. Here are 4 suggestions to achieve an hour of prayer a day:
- Pray a daily Rosary. Pray the Rosary in your car either on your way to work or on the way home. Pray the Rosary while you exercise on the treadmill or go for a walk. This is 20 minutes of focused daily prayer that will change your life. For a link to an easy way to pray the Rosary, please click here: http://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/Prayers/rosary/how_to.htm
- Do the Jesuit Daily Examen. Incorporate into your calendar this practical and helpful tool for reflection and prayer throughout your busy day. It requires 5 very short periods of focused reflection and prayer. For a link to the Examen, please click here: http://integratedlife.catholicexchange.com/2009/11/03/29437/
- Pray over every meal. This should be a given, but say a blessing over every meal regardless if you are alone or with companions. We some times forget this basic act of faith.
- Pray with our families. Praying with our children at night is incredibly rewarding, sets the right example and gets them started on developing their prayer lives at an early age. Prayer with our spouses (do a Rosary together!) brings us closer together, enhances our faith and helps our marriages.
HELPFUL TIP: It is less important to count the minutes that lead to an hour of daily prayer than it is to fill up your day with more focused awareness of making time to pray and appropriate tools to guide your prayers. Also, get in the habit of reading a devotional book or the Bible each day and reflect on what you have read in your prayers. The Magnificat, The Word Among Us, In Conversation with God by Frances Fernandez and The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis are all outstanding choices.
How well do we know our Catholic Faith? Can we explain it to others? Can we defend it from attack? We all may fall short in this area. This year, let’s make an effort to better understand the Truth and Beauty of our Faith and why we believe that we have the “fullness of the Faith.” Here are 4 suggestions:
- Read Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth-This an excellent resource which gives a very good overview of what we believe as Catholics and will equip you to respond to challenges to our Faith. For a link to this easy to read document, visit Catholic Answers by clicking here: http://www.catholic.com/library/pillar.asp
- Visit the St. Peter Chanel Catholic Faith Resources webpage-Kudos to Deacon Mike Bickerstaff, head of Adult Education for St. Peter Chanel Parish in Roswell, GA! This is a great resource filled with articles on our Faith, downloadable audio from renowned Catholic Speakers and a Catholic website links page which will direct you to safe and helpful Catholic websites. This website is updated frequently, so visit often. To visit this great resource, please click here: http://www.stpeterchanel.org/AdultEd/resources/index.html
- Visit Catholics Come Home ( www.CatholicsComeHome.org )-Tom Peterson leads this amazing ministry which helps fallen away Catholics come back to the Church and non-Catholics learn how they can become Catholic. There is also a resource-rich section about the Catholic Church that is very comprehensive and I encourage you to visit this link: http://www.catholicscomehome.org/answers-teachings.php
- Read Dr. Peter Kreeft’s work-Kreeft is one of the greatest Catholic writers of our time and the author of over 50 books. To access his articles, essays and hear downloadable audio of his lectures as well as learn more about his books, please visit his website at www.peterkreeft.com.
HELPFUL TIP: Great websites alone are not the answer to a deeper understanding of the Faith. Parish approved bible studies, apologetics classes, Parish Adult Education programs, reading the Bible and studying the Catechism are all vitally important for our journey!
I love reading about our Catholic Faith and get inspiration, direction, knowledge and understanding from the countless wonderful books we have available to us. This year, I encourage you to read (at least) these 3 great books which have made a profound difference in my life.
- Jesus-Shock by Dr. Peter Kreeft Jesus Shock is the second in a series of short works on seminal concerns of the impact that Jesus Christ made in the world. The first work, The Philosophy of Jesus, explored philosophy in light of Jesus, rather than the other way around. The present work investigates the reception Jesus received both in His lifetime and continuously to the present time, not only from His enemies, but from His friends, a reception of shock, astonishment, even disgust.” Jesus-Shock shows the reasons why to this day the name of “Jesus” stirs up controversy, even revulsion, in polite society. In the true spirit of ecumenism, it also points the way toward a true rapprochement among His modern-day disciples.
- Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer by Father Thomas Dubay S.M. Fr. Thomas Dubay is one of the most popular and respected retreat masters and spiritual directors in the USA. He is the author of the perennial best-selling book on prayer and contemplation, Fire Within. In this book, he responds to the call to priests by both Pope John Paul II and Benedict XVI to help believers and all those interested in spirituality to develop a deeper prayer life and union with God. As in his other popular writings, Dubay’s style is profound and meditative yet clear and readable. He gives an overview of the spiritual life and journey for anyone seeking to grow in the love of God and neighbor. An expert on the teachings and writings of the two great mystical doctors of prayer and the spiritual life, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, Dubay gives solid practical advice for a deepening moral and spiritual conversion, and a radical growth in holiness.
- Living the Catholic Faith by Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M., Cap. Addressing the difficult question of what it means to be a Catholic in the twenty-first century, Archbishop Charles Chaput offers a sound, contemporary vision for understanding the teachings of the Church and shows how you live them out with a spirit of love and obedience. How can you experience a fresh, active spiritual life? Find out as you rediscover the vital basics of Living the Catholic Faith.
- Notable Mentions: How to Win the Culture War by Dr. Peter Kreeft, He Leadeth Me by Fr. Walter Ciszek, Signs of Life by Scott Hahn, Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life by Fr. Robert Spitzer and St. Paul by Pope Benedict XVI.
HELPFUL TIP: Stick to books which come from trusted Catholic sources! Do your homework, ask your Priests and Deacons for recommendations, buy from established Catholic publishers and use the Magisterium as your filter: Is what I am reading consistent with the teachings of the Church?
There are many ways we can show devotion to our Faith and I can’t begin to list all of them here. Here are 3 simple suggestions for staying focused on Christ, showing deeper devotion and living out our Catholic Faith in the coming year:
- Become passionate about the Eucharist-Want to fully experience Christ and be closer to Him? Seek out the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in daily Mass when possible and spend quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration every week. St. Francis de Sales once said: “When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.”
- Go to Reconciliation more frequently-OK, we are likely praying and asking for God’s help with our burdens, but we are still saddled with the sins we commit daily. Go to your Priest and partake of this wonderful gift we Catholics enjoy, but may not utilize enough-the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Commit to going once a month. A thorough examination of conscience and honest confession will lift your spirit and keep you on the right path!
- Share our Joy-What does this have to do with devotion? Being devoted in our Faith is also about our actions and how we relate to one another. The first Christians had the good fortune to be the first to share the Good News. Imagine the joy they felt in sharing Christ’s message of love to everyone. They stood out as happy in a suffering world, just as Christians have an opportunity to do today. Jesus promised them (and us) this joy at the Last Supper when he said in John 16:22: “So you also are now in anguish. But I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.” Do we reflect joy at home, at work, with friends? We have so much to be truly thankful for in our relationship with Christ, His divine grace, our families and countless other wonderful things. But, being joyful must lead to sharing that joy and the ability to express the truths of our faith in a way that shows the depth of our belief and love. Fernandez, in In Conversation With God, quotes the writer C. Burke: “Only convinced Christians have any chance of convincing others. Half-convinced Christians won’t even half-convince anybody. They won’t convince at all.”
HELPFUL TIP: Living a life of devotion to Christ and our beautiful Catholic Faith is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We will often get sidetracked and misdirected, but praying, having courage and being committed to pursuing lives of holiness will help us stay on track and share our joy with others.
I pray and hope that this road map for 2010, which I sincerely intend to follow, is helpful to you. The Church and her teachings can appear overwhelming at times, but we must move forward with faith and our focus on Christ, knowing that we are truly blessed to be in His Church. As Catholics, we are part of 2,000+ years of history, tradition and uncompromising adherence to the teachings of Christ-we are truly blessed!
I pray that 2010 will be a joyful, peaceful and uplifting year for all of us.