For the first time in recent memory, I ended a year on a Spiritual high note. I wasn’t running on fumes through Advent, I’ve enjoyed Christmas, and I’m excited to start 2012 and grow in our beautiful faith even more. So, as we’re less than a week into a new year, I thought I would share some ways to keep our spiritual “endurance” throughout the year.
What came to mind was a Homily that my husband and I heard while attending Saint William of York (Stafford, Virginia) in August. Father made some remarks about “Lapsed” Catholics, also called “C&E’s” (Christmas and Easter) sometimes. This (very large) group of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ are not the ones that we see every Sunday. We likely won’t see them while they’re vacationing, and we also most likely won’t have many conversations with them about our Catholic faith. However, it never fails that come Christmas and Easter, they all show up. The parking lot is full, the pews are full, the Church is very warm. Father Magot made us all chuckle when he said, “why choose the busiest Masses of the year to go to? I’d rather go in August. There’s plenty of parking spaces, room to sit. Communion lines are shorter.”
Obviously the point he was trying to drive home is that EVERY Sunday Mass and Holy Day of Obligation are important. We are obligated to attend them all. And without a serious excuse, we are committing a mortal sin if we do not go.
And so we have begun 2012.
About ten years ago, I had a gym membership. It was a 24 hour gym and my regular workouts began around 10 PM. The following January, I think I witnessed fifty “New Years resolutions” happen before my eyes. Tredmills were all of a sudden full, weight machines had lines, and the classes in the room off to the side were full of energy. To be honest, the sudden surge of people was someone of a distraction as well as annoying. Not because I didn’t want these people to get into shape or to be healthy, it was because they didn’t stick around.
Come February and March, the New Years resolution crowd dwindled out in numbers. Few were left to continue on their mission. The rest had given up.
And after sharing these two stories, I can’t help but think of the similarities between the two. Just as a journey towards becoming physically fit and healthy takes a lot of work and dedication, so does growth,in our faith. It cannot and does not happen overnight. Any surge in energy or bursts of the Holy Spirit may only seem temporary, unless they are nourished.
Through,our Baptism, we are initiated into the Church and given the gift of the Holy Spirit. Through the Eucharist, we are nourished and strengthened, and through our Confirmation, we are sealed in the gift of the Holy Spirit, thus completing our initiation into the Church.
As we continue in this year, let us keep in mind the promises we made through our Confirmation, to grow in our faith and to share our faith with others.
I would like to end with some suggestions to keep the flame burning:
1. Make it a duty to attend Mass regularly. Every Sunday and every Holy Day of Obligation. While daily Mass is not an obligation, attending regularly can only help us grow in our faith.
2. Make time for prayer. I was recently gifted a book on The Family Rosary. How cliche to hear, “A family that prays together, stays together.” Say bedtime prayers with your children. Say a prayer at meal times. Pray when you wake up. Prayer is simply conversation with God, and the more we’re talking to him, the less likely we are to fall into sinful behavior. Also, drive around with a CD of the Rosary being recited, or religious music playing. It’s hard to be in a bad mood while listening to “How Great thou Art.”
3. Go to Confession regularly. If you haven’t been in a while- go! It will give you,the grace to sustain you and keep your soul in good shape.
4. Join a Catholic group or look for a Spiritual Advisor. Having someone to guide us along the journey is imperative to our growth. For me, I have a lovely group of women who I have become very close to. We talk every day. All things Catholic, and sometimes not.
5. Do something within your parish. Whether it’s volunteering as a CCD teacher or singing in the choir, assisting in a number of ministries or on the parish board….. whichever interests you. When you’re accountable to others for something, you’re more likely to follow through.
6. Wear our beautiful faith on your sleeve, figuratively speaking. Mention to others in conversation that you are Catholic. Invite friends to go to Mass. Find or answer questions friends may have about our faith.
We have a whole long year ahead of us. There is no doubt that it will fly by. But our job is to come out on the other end stronger in our faith than when we started last week. So, I challenge you all. Make it count!