Magazines are always telling you ways to improve your budget, increase your energy, lose weight, clean anything, spend less and look fabulous. Usually, the tips involve such automatic things as "Get 8 hours of rest" and "exercise daily" which are great and true means of getting in shape, but are often hard to squeeze into a day of any person that hasn’t also already adopted the ten tips for time management. Improving one’s relationship with God is far easier than going on a radical budget, managing a food diary or learning how to roll towels so you can fit ten where you could only fit eight before. The benefits are life long and life altering long before one finds any results from enacting the suggestions of the other types of improvement lists.
10) Go to Sunday weekly mass. On time. Stay until the last song is over. It’s a start, and it’s a sublimation of sorts albeit a small one. A relationship with Christ is best understood, best grown through Christ’s own words and Christ himself. Turn off the pragmatic Martha lists in your head, because we all have ten things we could be doing and that will have to get done later in the day because of going to mass. Turn off the music critic and sing, ignore the "Who is here and who isn’t curiosity" and the comparative shopper of Churches who thinks about how this priest is better than that one and be still and know He is there. The Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist are the surest path to growing one’s soul. Go. Listen. Allow ears to be opened and the heart to be fed.
9) Enlist the help of a specialist. Gyms have trainers, banks have financial advisors, there are closet organizers, whole industries devoted to helping anyone get themselves from point a to point b with respect to self or home improvement and they all cost money. The Church is replete with devotions and saints with wisdom on how to become Translucent for Christ; they all have sure counsel and they are all free. Pick a Saint and learn about his or her life, prayers, the stories, the way they manifested Christ’s love here on earth or pick up a daily devotional from our current very gently poetic but strongly faithful Pope Benedict the XVI.
8) Garner support from family. Tell them you are working on improving your relationship with God, that you need 15 minutes to pray, or invite them to be a part of your process by having a family rosary or daily recitation of the readings for the day. It might be a way of starting the evening meal or turning prime fight time in the car after school into something more productive.
(One resource I highly recommend is the Magnificat. The Magnificat is a monthly periodical, readily portable for busy families; for any person who doesn’t have a lot of down time but does want to strengthen and grow his or her faith life. It contains the readings for each day, reflections and brief stories about the saints being acknowledged for any given day. I keep it in my car in my bag o’stuff for when I’m sitting in a parking lot waiting for someone).
7) Seek forgiveness. Frequent reverent reflective participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation is critical for the ongoing strengthening and nourishing of one’s soul. Sin damages our relationship with God and others. Absolution from that sin helps us to avoid it in the future and to retool our relationships to be as God would have them, not as we would orchestrate.
6) Serve. Look around your parish. There is something that needs doing. Someone that needs help. Ask the Holy Spirit to place you, let yourself say yes to something you see or are asked to do and get involved.
5) Pray daily a formal prayer. I find having a set devotional helps me to remember to do it, just as having a set time to exercise helps one to make sure that chore gets done. Often in the course of the route prayer, I find I have a lot of people to pray for, and that in turn reminds me to be mindful of the blessings of others in my life, and to consider the trials and tribulations that many I love face. Commuting is often a good time to use in this manner, it is certainly less stress inducing than listening to the news and more uplifting. But the prayer doesn’t have to be long, just a prayer for the day, for those you love and for the grace to live today for God. It does however, have to be daily.
4) Try a little fast. Give up something once a week. Maybe it’s a food, maybe it’s the computer, maybe it’s the television. But abstain for a day, a set day each week. Allow yourself to practice the discipline of denial as a form of obedient free will for God. It’s amazing how important that thing becomes on that one day you give it up. I know I still struggle with the Sunday fast from the computer.
3) Study up on your Catechism. Everyone thinks they know what the Church says, but few avail themselves of the wealth of wisdom, thinking, writing and reflections preserved in 2000 years of seeking to follow Christ. Read a bit every day and see where you are pulled and pushed beyond your perceived understanding of this Catholic Faith.
2) Create a bit of deliberate beauty. Deliberate acts of kindness, charity, mercy and beauty are examples of our attempt to imitate God’s love. God created this beautiful Earth with its seasons and creatures and flora and fauna, with its abundance and startling beauty at all times of day and in all types of weather. Giving flowers, making a cake, surprise visits to family and friends, cards and phone calls, all of these types of giving are little things with great love, and they grow love, which is to say, they reveal God.
1) Visit the Blessed Sacrament and ask for that mustard seed sized faith. Make a conscious effort to go to a parish where this devotion is possible and make it part of your week. Everything will follow and you will be fed and strengthened by the visit in ways you cannot as of yet imagine.
The most important part of all of this process is the willing heart of the prodigal soul to turn back towards Our Father’s house. The process of growing one's relationship with God starts the instant we feel that tug to move forward. And we know, there will be a great feast set in anticipation before we get even halfway close. Let’s start our great walk to Home.
Copyright 2010 Sherry Antonetti