Photo Courtesy of Sudipto Sarkar
Does your life revolve around God, or is religion one of those responsibilities that you try to fit in when you have extra time?
In other words, does your faith revolve around you?
Do you find yourself willing your own path in life, or prayerfully discerning God’s will?
Do you manage your schedule in such a way that you might attend Mass more frequently than Sundays and holy days of obligation?
If you are not entirely satisfied with your answers to these questions, perhaps the following suggestions will help you grow closer to God.
Think of the joy and satisfaction felt during Sunday Mass attendance and the glorious sense of duty fulfilled as you thank God and celebrate. Due to our fallen nature, this sense begins to lessen once we exit the church.
We unwittingly fall back into the routine of daily life with its worries and cares that quickly make us anxious for rest. Daily Mass can be a joyful starting point to our day and remind us that we must strive to be a clear image of God in every aspect of our lives.
The desire to draw others to God should temper our moods and actions and incline us toward tranquility and mercy in everything we face during the day. If you do not already attend daily Mass, begin by attending one day each week. Spend time meditating on the beauty and mystery you witness. Jesus willingly suffered and died to gain our redemption. Saint Padre Pio said, “If we only knew how God regards this sacrifice, we would risk our lives to be present at a single Mass.”
There are many ways to participate and volunteer in your parish. Take time to read through the bulletin for your parish or ask familiar faces about weekly and monthly activities.
At my parish there are opportunities to join the Knights of Columbus, join the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus, participate in the Life Chain, participate in the March for Life, join the Legion of Mary and volunteer to teach religious education among other things. If you do not already participate, then start small. Perhaps you are willing to donate your time to provide goods for a bake sale or assist during a soup supper.
Counting money, laying out vestments and ushering may also be needed in your parish. Choose something that suits you and will enable you to spend more time in the house of God and truly belong to your parish. Saint Padre Pio said, “Keep close to the Catholic Church at all times, for the Church alone can give you true peace since She alone possesses Jesus, the true Prince of Peace in the Blessed Sacrament.”
Complete obedience to God’s laws
In addition to the outer expression of faith we must also consider the state of the soul. Do you avail yourself of the sacrament of reconciliation frequently? The ability to examine your conscience and make a thorough confession is essential to growing in your faith.
If you find yourself rationalizing sins or thinking that there are offenses so small that they do not warrant confession, then ask yourself whether you are going by God’s laws or your own.
Do not despair or doubt the Lord’s mercy as you prepare to confess your sins. Saint Padre Pio said, “Like Our Lady, remain at the Cross of Jesus and you will never be deprived of comfort.” If you find yourself defending your actions or inactions with phrases like, “God knows I’m a good person”, “I don’t need to do this to show God that I love Him”, “I’m a modern Catholic”, etc. ask yourself whether you are following what Jesus taught us during His time on earth or taking from His teachings only what you find to be convenient.
These sophistries can keep us feeling a sense of complacency with our faith and leave us with little incentive to continue to grow in faith.
Education and Catholic Icons
Most of us don’t know everything there is to know about being Catholic. Continuing our education in our faith can be an important step in growing closer to God. Not only does this ensure we are spending more time thinking about our faith, it also increases true knowledge of our faith and introduces us to aspects we may not yet have breached.
Some ways to do this are volunteering to teach religious education, attending Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults classes and taking online courses at Catholic Distance University. Catholic education can also be self taught. Keep Catholic books handy such as Story of a Soul by Saint Thérèse, The Interior Castle by Teresa of Ávila, Pray, Hope, and Don’t Worry: True Stories of Padre Pio by Diane Allen or The Confessions of Saint Augustine by Augustine of Hippo. I use a Catholic curriculum to school my children. They have learned to read, write, spell, use proper grammar, perform mathematical operations and explore the science of the world we live in from a Catholic perspective. God truly is in everything and cannot be separated from any aspect of life.
To reinforce this, Catholic art and icons in the home are essential. Among family photos, we can display the Crucifix, paintings depicting guardian angels and saints, the Sacred Heart, the Divine Mercy, images of Our Lady and other Catholic imagery. These visuals are indispensable when we require a reminder of the meaning of life and our ultimate life goal.
Our parish family prays together each Sunday at Mass, but personal prayer and meditation each day help us maintain a close, personal relationship with God.
We must become entirely dependent on God. Talking to Him daily to ask for help and blessings, to give thanks and to glorify Him are just a few ways we can converse with our Father.
Saint Padre Pio said, “Those who pray have hope. Those who pray little are in great danger. Those who do not pray are lost.” Spend time meditating on the Lord’s Passion, His Divine Mercy, praying the rosary or studying the lives of the saints. Take time each evening to reflect on the day’s occurrences. Thank God for the grace He granted you to avoid the near occasion of sin and fortify yourself against making the mistakes of today again tomorrow. Maintain courage by remembering progress is being made, though it is gradual.
If you have a love, admiration or even fascination for a particular saint, nurture a devotion to that saint. Learn everything you can about your saint that you may imitate him or her and grow closer to God through this devotion. Some suggestions to foster a devotion are to attend Mass on the feast day of your patron saint, pray a novena or special prayer to your saint, carry holy cards or wear the medal of your saint. I have had several opportunities to offer the help of Saint Padre Pio to family, friends and acquaintances by proffering holy cards, pins, prayers and even books about the life of Padre Pio. By sharing my devotion to him, I have received pictures, social media posts and even a third class relic from friends who are happy to encourage and add to my devotion. Padre Pio was devoted to his guardian angel. He once said, “Turn to him in times of supreme anxiety and you will experience his beneficial help.” Thank God we are never alone in this life of exile. We need only believe and ask for help and we shall receive it.
These suggestions are a mere sampling of the multifarious opportunities we might avail ourselves of to grow in faith and truly make God the center of our lives. If we have even the smallest desire to live for God, we can begin at any moment one step at a time. Daily Mass attendance, parish participation, complete obedience to God, personal prayer, Catholic icons and devotions provide a few starting points. Adherence to and deep exploration of these or similar points will bring you ever closer to the Lord and prevent becoming lukewarm in faith, which easily happens when it is relegated to something we do for one hour on Sundays.