Confession: I’m a spiritual slacker. No, really I am. I don’t want to be that way but no matter how much I’ve tried to increase devotion of any kind, I have failed. It wasn’t until recently I discovered where I was going wrong.
Just over a year ago, I took a weekly 1-hour slot of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament in our parish. I’d love to say my prayer life was immediately fruitful and I quickly drew closer to the Lord, but it was a more subtle deepening of my prayer life, which sometimes felt more like a chore than a blessing. Slowly, over a period of a few months, I began to truly look forward to this serenely quiet hour with Jesus and began to realize I needed to spend more time in prayer every day. Sure, I prayed every day (grace before meals, short intercessory prayers for friends’ intentions, family rosary) but I was keenly aware I needed to deepen my prayer life and make it more constant and habitual. I resolved countless times to do just that only to have my efforts quickly fall flat. The repeated failures were disheartening.
This past Lent, a friend recommended Ralph Martin’s book The Fulfillment of All Desire. I’m reading this work slowly, deliberately, and prayerfully and as of this post, I’ve not even finished half of the book. Obviously, this post cannot be a review of this book, but possibly once I’ve finished, I will review the book in full. Within just a few chapters I was profoundly convicted in a couple key ways.
First, for too long I’d been attempting to enrich my spiritual life by my own force of will. No good deed, no holiness can be achieved solely by our own efforts or merits. Many Saints have repeatedly been clear in this regard. Richer, deeper communion with God begins with our desire for it, of course, but then we need the gift of God’s grace before any progress in spiritual growth can occur. We must recognize it is God alone who can make us holy. It is impossible for us to do it alone.
The second lesson I gleaned was I needed to ask for the Holy Spirit to prompt and guide me in my prayer life and when he did whisper that call, I needed to answer it wherever I was, whatever I was doing. When Saint Francis of Assisi felt a call to pray he would stop wherever he was and began praying without hesitation. I was painfully reminded in this admonition of all the times I’d been prompted only to say to myself, “I’m busy right now but I’ll do it later.” Many times, later never came.
Armed with just these two initial inspirations from Martin’s work, I begged the Holy Spirit for the graces I need to draw closer to God, for prompting to pray on a more regular basis throughout my day, and for the gift of obedience when I am called. The results have been a real blessing. Just days after pleading for a deeper, stronger communion with God the call came in a surprising and beautiful way.
Chris and I had hiked into the hills to do a little turkey hunting one evening. Turkey hunting is an exercise in patience and silence and can be quite boring as you sit listening and waiting for hours on end for turkeys to be enticed toward your position. As I sat there covered head to toe in hunting camo in the brambles and scrub, Chris handed a rosary to me. “Meh,” I thought, “I’m not really in the mood to pray a rosary.” Then it hit me, this was the inspiration I’d been asking for. How could I turn down such an opportunity? I took the rosary in my hand and I prayed first in thanksgiving for the gift of my husband and his being the instrument used by the Holy Spirit to speak to my spirit. I then began silently to pray.
Have you ever experienced a moment in prayer so deeply connected to Heaven it made your heart soar and brought tears of gratitude and joy to your eyes? This was exactly like that and exactly what I’d been desiring for months. As I prayed I became hyper-aware of the grandeur of God’s creation all about me. I was surrounded by the beauty of delicate wildflowers, snow peaked mountains, and the beginnings of a spectacular sunset. The air was perfumed with flowers, newly budding leaves, and damp earthy delights. Birds began to serenade us as the stream, fed by melting mountain snow babbled at the base of the hillside. I was intensely moved.
I praised God for His glorious creation. I gave Him thanks for the abundance of snow we received this winter, delivering us from several years of drought. My neck became stiff from sitting still in a cramped position for so long, and I shivered from the creeping chill setting in. I offered up my discomfort for the conversion of all the fallen away young Catholics in our lives. In all my 23 years as a Catholic, I’d not experienced that depth of intimacy with God before and it left me desiring more.
It gave me the smallest taste of the fulfillment of all desire
and it was an uplifting experience I hope to never forget.