Living the Spiritual Life
Every human being was created by God for union with him. Moving toward perfect union with God is what the spiritual life is all about. Sometimes the process feels great - energizing, peaceful, and immensely rewarding. But at other times, things don't go so well. If you are going through a difficult time in your prayer life or are feeling discouraged, please click here for more information or call the parish office at (301) 373-2281 to make an appointment with the pastor or to talk to a member of the pastoral staff.
"God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family, the Church. To accomplish this, when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son as Redeemer and Savior. In his Son and through him, he invites men to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life." (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1)
This being the case, we should strive to live our lives as an offering of love to the Father, through his Son and by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We offer below twelve steps that everyone can (and should!) take to do more for God in his or her daily life. You can move at your own speed and perform the steps in any order (although we suggest implementing no more than one step at a time - patience and humility are key to this process). The main thing is to strive to eventually make each of these steps a permanent feature of your life.
Step 1: START EVERY DAY BY OFFERING YOUR DAY TO GOD.
Devote one or two minutes to God first thing each morning by making a daily offering, such as one of the ones found here. Or use your own words to consecrate your day to God's service.
Step 2: PRAY THE ANGELUS EVERY DAY AT NOON.
Wherever you are, stop and take a couple of minutes at noon each day to pray the Angelus, a short prayer that honors our Blessed Mother and her total obedience to God's will.
Step 3: PERFORM AN EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE EVERY NIGHT BEFORE GOING TO BED.
Examining your conscience means taking time at the end of the day to look back on what you have done during the day, what you have done well and where you have sinned and fallen short. It doesn't take long - perhaps five minutes. When you are finished, tell God you are sorry for your sins, resolve to do better tomorrow, and make a resolution to confess any grave sins you have committed. You can find good guides for examining your conscience here and here.
Step 4: MAKE TIME TO PRAY SILENTLY FOR THIRTY MINUTES BEFORE CHRIST IN THE TABERNACLE EACH WEEK.
If you can be there while the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, even better! You can bring a book or a copy of the Bible to help get your prayer time started, but ultimately, this time should be spent as a quiet conversation between you and God. You don't have to do anything special during this time: just talk to God, praise him, thank him for his blessings, ask for his help or healing for yourself or for others, tell him about the things you are excited about or the things that are bothering you. You will be amazed at how quickly you will start to hear him answer. He may not speak to you in a physical voice, but his Spirit will speak to you in the depth of your heart, and in this time of silent prayer, if you are attentively listening, you will be able to hear him.
Step 5: GIVE UP ONE MEAL EACH WEEK (PREFERABLY ON FRIDAY).
Because Christ suffered and died on a Friday, offering a penance such as fasting on a Friday is particularly meaningful. You can even offer your meal for the sake of a special intention: for a relative or friend who is ill, or for a soul suffering in Purgatory.
Step 6: UNPLUG FOR A WHILE EVERY DAY.
Get away from your TV, computer, or phone for at least an hour each day and intentionally offer this time to God and neighbor. Perform an act of kindness for someone; pray as a family; check on an elderly neighbor; spend some time conversing with a friend; read Scripture or a good spiritual book (click here, or check our Lending Library for ideas). What you do with this time is up to you, but spend it making a meaningful connection with God or with another person. At first, this might be difficult, but eventually, you will find yourself looking forward to and cherishing this "unwired" time.
Step 7: START PRAYING THE ROSARY ONCE EACH WEEK (OR EVEN EVERY DAY).
If you aren't sure how, check here.
Step 8: LEARN ABOUT THE CATHOLIC FAITH.
This is an ongoing, lifelong process - it doesn't stop when you are confirmed or graduate from a Catholic school or college. Commit to attending an adult religious education class, Bible study, or discipleship group (we offer several here at St. John's, or you can check what is being offered at other parishes in St. Mary's County by clicking here). Tune in to Catholic radio (our local station is WMET 1160 AM in Washington, DC). Follow websites like Catholic Answers, Big Pulpit, or New Advent that provide interesting, fun, orthodox Catholic information for free, or consider subscribing to a good Catholic magazine such as Catholic Answers. You might also consider creating an account at Formed, a wonderful online resource for adult faith formation featuring video downloads, audio talks, and much more. If you are a St. John's parishioner, contact Lacy at (301) 373-2281 or firstname.lastname@example.org for our parish access code to access Formed content for free.
Step 9: FREQUENT THE SACRAMENTS.
Are you currently attending Mass once per month? Work toward attending every Sunday. Do you confess once per year? Gradually work toward a goal of once per month. Furthermore, make an honest effort to examine your conscience every day (see above) and refrain from receiving Communion at Mass if you have committed a serious sin that you have not yet confessed. Receiving the sacrament in a state of mortal sin will not help you - the graces that normally flow from the sacrament will be "tied up" because of the unconfessed sin - and may actually do you serious harm instead: knowingly receiving Communion in a state of mortal sin is itself a mortal sin (the sin of sacrilege) and puts you in a worse position than where you started. If you make things right with God first by confessing, then receiving Holy Communion will actually do what it is supposed to do - unite you more closely to Christ and strengthen you to live the Christian life. Then watch and see what amazing things God will do in your life!
Step 10: STOP COMPLAINING.
Practice suffering through your daily trials without complaining. When you feel tempted to gripe, think about Christ's suffering on the cross instead and ask him to let you stand alongside him as you suffer, too. Imitate him by offering your everyday annoyances and worries to the Father in prayer. This simple practice will teach you many of the most basic virtues of the Christian life: patience, humility, longanimity, etc.
Step 11: INCREASE YOUR GIVING.
The tithe is the biblical model of giving, and it is the goal toward which we should all be striving, even if we never get there. Look over your budget and see if there are some non-essential areas where you can cut back in order to increase your giving, then gradually work to increase the percentage of your income that you are offering. Your gift should be sacrificial - meaning, it should hurt! That is the point. Sacrificial giving teaches us to trust God and to put other's needs and wants ahead of our own.
Step 12: SEEK SPIRITUAL DIRECTION.
A spiritual director is someone you can meet with regularly to discuss your spiritual life and relationship with God. Your director will help you to identify areas where you are doing well and other areas where you need to do some work. He/she can also help you to see how God is working in your life and where he might be leading you. A spiritual director can be a priest, a religious brother or sister, or a layperson, but it needs to be someone you trust and who is striving to live a holy life. If you are unsure who to ask, start by talking to your pastor to see if he has any advice. You can also find out more here.