I thought my car sounded funny as I was pulling out of my driveway. There was a large truck barreling down the gravel road, so I thought maybe that noise was somehow bouncing off my car. I continued to town with my two kids in the car. I got through the stop sign that meets up to the highway without any problem. About a quarter of a mile later my car stopped working. It completely stopped. It wouldn’t start. It wouldn’t move. Que hysteria. Que ugly crying. I try to start it again and again. I panic. I have never panicked well. It’s ugly every time.
All of the panic-driven thoughts take over my mind: I am almost certain this will cost several thousand dollars, money that I don’t have. So I cry harder. It seems like the whole world is crashing on my shoulders. Maybe I should trade in this car. Maybe I should get a new one. How am I going to get it towed? How am I going to get my kids home? How am I going to get to work tomorrow? How am I going to get this stupid hunk of metal out of the road?!
So I did what every self-sufficient woman does, I called my daddy and I begged him for help. I cried some more and tried to tell him what the problem was except I had no idea why the car won’t start. He was about 35 minutes away, so he starts asking me to check things. “Look at the wires under the dash, has anything come loose?” I look and have no idea what he is talking about. I don’t see any wires, should I see wires? He starts asking more questions. “Are your lights working?” he asked. “Yes, I have my hazards on,” I answer, so he is pretty sure the battery is okay. He asks more questions, “Are there are any lights on the dash?” I clear off a picture on my dash to see if I missed anything. **GASP** I’m out of gas.
Immediately I feel the panic dissipate because I know what the problem is. I’ve been driving for 20 years and I know better than to forget the basic necessity of gas! Thankfully my dad was en route and bringing gas. The kind police officer that stopped to make sure we didn’t get hit by another vehicle while sitting in the middle of the road made things a little less stressful. He made it a little more embarrassing, but a lot more safe. Everything was fine and I was on the road again within the hour.
I started thinking that sometimes our spiritual lives are like this. Sometimes we think we need to bust out the big novenas and do some major demon slaying. Sometimes we convince ourselves that we need to be doing a big task for God and we are wasting opportunities in being moms or employees. Sometimes we feel like something is missing or “off” and we aren’t sure how to fix it. I think this is where the basics come in. If we aren’t participating in the basics, we might run out of gas in our spiritual life. With that in mind, I have made a list of basics.
Daily Basics: Most days I don’t get every single item checked off the list, but habits pick up pretty quickly. Don’t beat yourself if you aren’t doing these things, I’ve just found the more I do, the better I am. And I need all the help I can get.
- Pray! – Always and everywhere, every day and all the time.
- Morning Offering – Every day should start with that. Not familiar with this short prayer, find it here.
- Meal time prayers – Because of course we want Jesus to bless our food and our body.
- Daily readings – Even if you can’t go to mass every day, the readings are always available to us at the website for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (among other places).
- Daily rosary – Everything is better with a daily rosary. Even if the circumstances stink, we function better with it. There are lots of videos on youtube and an app available to make praying the Rosary super easy too.
- Divine Mercy Chaplet – This chaplet has brought me so much peace. It is beautifully presented in song on youtube and they also have an app.
- Angelus – Short and simple three times a day. There is even an app for this!
- Bedtime prayers and Daily Examen – Our final thoughts of the day should be focused on Jesus, it helps to calm the body. The Daily Examen also gives you a chance to review your day and find those areas of your life that you can work on. There are several apps and websites out there to help with a daily examen, also this article from Loyola Press provides an excellent outline.
- Watch your mouth! Try to never gossip and praise His Holy Name! Praise is a weapon against despair.
- Pray by name for those that irritate you. Instead of letting your mind wonder with irritation, ask the Lord to bless them and trust Jesus to deal with them.
Weekly Basics: Actively participating and encouraging my children to participate in mass and church activities has really helped me regulate my attendance and provided more structure to maintaining a close relationship with the church. There are so many roles in the church that need filled, some examples are altar server, usher, cantor, lector, Eucharistic minister, CCD Catechist, RCIA Catechist, cleaning, laundry, flowers, etc. Don’t be scared to get involved!
- Regular Eucharist – At minimum once a week, but that spiritual food should be taken as many times through the week as possible.
- Adoration – One on one time with Jesus. Not familiar with spending time in adoration? Check out these two recent articles from Catholic Sistas on the topic: The Beginners Guide to Eucharistic Adoration Part 1 and Part 2.
- Work to exchange vice for virtue – Be aware of sinfulness and work to correct it.
Monthly Basics (or more often if possible): I’ve found it so helpful to participate in confession more regularly. And I love to learn new things about this great faith, it keeps things interesting.
- Regular Confession – Keeps the soul clean and gives us grace to do better. If you need help with preparing look for a good examination of conscience, like this one here.
- Stations of the Cross – What an honor to be able to walk this road with our Lord. Lots of apps available for this as well, including this one.
- Novenas – I love novenas. Pray More Novenas helps me keep my novena life organized.
- Read a book about a saint. I love St. Faustina so my favorite to date is reading her diary.
- Visit a shrine or a holy place.
These are some of the basics that keep us functioning in our spiritual lives.
I laugh about the car thing today, but when it happened I was so upset. The basics, I forgot the basics. Let’s not forget the basics in our spiritual lives. It’s all the small things that build us to be saints. The important things are the small things, they are necessary for our growth and to keep us going.
What basics would you add to the list?