5 devotions to help keep the faith in times of trial

Mount Calvary Santa Barbara Fire Damage

Courtesy Randy OHC

“Whoever perseveres to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13) is one of the sayings of Jesus which suggests that the spiritual journey isn’t all plain sailing.

Let’s face it we know it for a fact from bitter experience. These experiences can also be times when our staple spiritual routines such as the reading of scripture or reciting the rosary seem beyond us for a moment, so it is good to have something to fall back on.

We have the benefit of so many varied devotions in our Catholic faith. Although it would be impossible to use them all there may be times on our journey when a bit of variety may be the spice of our spiritual life. So trusting in God’s mercy and fully aware that no particular devotion in itself is a magic charm, be prepared to embrace change even for a single day.

Here are just a few suggestions;

1. Learn a psalm by heart: It might be surprising how few psalms any of us actually know in full by heart. Some are familiar to us, such as Psalm 22 (23) “The Lord is my shepherd”, but if asked to recite it in full we might discover not as familiar as we thought. Being able to recite a Psalm by heart is a good back up for a period of dryness in prayer routine.

There are psalms for every occasion and state of mind and psalms Catholics could learn by heart include Psalm 129 (130) De Profundis. “Out of the depths I cry to thee O Lord” and how appropriate that can seem at times. The more hopeful Psalm 66 (67) “May God be gracious and bless us” is the opening Psalm at Lauds in the monastic office. “And may his face shine upon us.” it continues – it doesn’t get more hopeful and encouraging than that. If you want to really go for it, a bit longer is the penitential psalm par excellence – Psalm 50 (51) Miserere Mei “Have mercy on me O God “. Even, learning it in Latin to enable greater appreciation of Allegri’s musical masterpiece version isn’t beyond us!

2. Learn some Latin prayers: Why not learn to read prayers you may already recite regularly, in Latin? If you don’t know them in Latin already the threefold Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be are an easy start. The Benedictus (Song of Zechariah, Luke 1 68-79) or the Magnificat (Canticle of Mary, Luke 1 46-55) are also both relatively easy to recite in Latin and the translations from English easily followed. Or you may prefer the antiphons to our Lady such as the Angelus, Regina Caeli, Salve Regina. Something as subtle as a change of language (any language) can help you focus on the content again afresh during dry periods but there is something especially edifying about an even minimal use the official language of the Church and of so many saints from ages past. If you are fortunate enough to have an alternate second language that you are familiar with then that is also worth considering.

3. Meditate with a favourite icon or sacred image. Catholic use of statues seems to have eclipsed the use of iconography in terms of popularity. The use of images for contemplation can be well worth the effort and there can be few more personal and peaceful devotions. No need to spend a fortune, in fact replicas of most icons are easily downloaded onto devices for personal devotion. No need to recite prayers either, except silently from the heart with love, in the hope of experiencing the consolation of it coming back at you through the timeless beauty of Christian art. Little wonder Pope Benedict once remarked that Christian art and the saints were the greatest apologetic for our faith.

4. Adopt an arrow prayer: Arrow prayers such as The Jesus Prayer “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner” are short prayers which can be said randomly but also repeated over and over until an “appropriate time”. Only you will know when that time is. It may be when you are interrupted! Hopefully, it will be when they have brought you some consolation in your time of need. They can be recited with rosary beads for those who like that. As with the Divine Mercy devotion, there are whole conferences on The Jesus Prayer such is the depth of the twelve short words and the profound effect they can have on those who use them. Little wonder, the origin of The Jesus Prayer is said to go back to the Desert Fathers.

5. Finally and more obviously in time of need, find out where the nearest tabernacle is and remember, the tabernacles with welcoming confessionals nearby are the best! The grace to persevere which inevitably involves having to pick up and start again whatever stage of our spiritual life we are in, should always takes us back to the confessional at some point.

All of the above might take a bit of preparation and research which can be looked upon as an opportunity for devotion in itself. Learning a psalm or a prayer by heart in any language can be a rewarding experience. Similarly searching through iconography for a favourite or most suitable for us personally is hardly the most onerous or unedifying of tasks. With our faith so rich in devotions and aids to our spiritual life there is no reason to have complete time out. Try a very little something new when times are tough. Even for a day. Definitely better than nothing!

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