11 New Interesting Ways to Practice Your Faith
Most of us are accustomed to the rote routine of attending Sunday Mass with our families. We might even pray a Rosary now and then or participate in a Bible study. But sometimes our faith becomes stagnant, and we aren’t sure how to kick-start it. Maybe we’ve gotten too busy and have neglected a certain area of our spiritual development. The point is that we often need some inspiration on how to begin or include new ways of revitalizing our faith so that we can grow rather than recede in our zeal. Here are some ideas on how you can prevent lackluster spiritual monotony and rejuvenate your relationship with God.
Do an At-Home Retreat
Sometimes carving out a weekend or several days for a retreat in your local parish or retreat center isn’t possible. Everyone has busy schedules, and committing an entire weekend may not fit into your current lifestyle. Even so, it is possible to recreate a similar atmosphere in your own home by using one of several phenomenal programs that include study guides, group study, books, and audio or video supplements.
I’ve done a few of these at-home retreats on occasion. Granted, they don’t quite compare to the power of spending time outside of your home and entering into a specific sacred space that has been set aside for quiet contemplation, but it’s a fairly good substitute if you need some spiritual refreshment and rejuvenation.
One at-home retreat I’ve done was very basic and included reading a book called 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Augustine by Jaime Garcia. The book included poignant reflections by St. Augustine of Hippo that related to specific themes per chapter, as well as questions for meditation and journaling. I found it to be very powerful and insightful.
Another suggestion is completing the Consoling the Heart of Jesus retreat by Fr. Michael Gaitley. This can be done at home or on a short weekend with some friends. Fr. Gaitley formats the book so that it can be a private retreat or done in a group setting. Either way, I am immersed in this program by taking tidbits of the chapters each night when I am awake feeding our newborn daughter, and I always find inspiration for spontaneous prayer and further reflection in my prayer journal.
Pretty much every Catholic has heard of Marian consecration, and for good reason. The epitome of Marian experts, St. Louis Marie de Montfort, expressed in his anthology, True Devotion to Mary that there is no shorter, surer way to heaven than by way of consecrating oneself to Our Lady.
Different types of Marian consecrations exist that are suitable for everyone’s individual preferences. I have tried both the de Montfort format and the 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley, and personally I love the litanies and traditional feel of de Montfort’s consecration. No matter, Marian consecration will draw you into a deeper understanding of how you can love Our Lady with deeper fervor, and she will always draw you closer to her Son.
We discovered this to be true this year as our family renewed our Marian consecration. In the midst of our renewal, we were led quite providentially to an enthronement ceremony to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Plan a Family Enthronement Ceremony to the Sacred Heart
In May, Ben and I were in the thick of our annual Marian consecration renewal, which we devotedly read together every night before the girls went to bed. We had recently moved and decided to invite our new associate pastor to bless our house and share a meal with us. He eagerly agreed and added, “Do you want to do a Sacred Heart enthronement for your home and family?”
I’d never thought of it before, yet we had taken all of our sacred images, icons, and statues and placed them in a prominent part of our home that was intended to be reserved for prayer and quiet reflection. At the center of them all was a framed image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Underneath was a holy water font with the image of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception.
I knew instantly that Our Lady had orchestrated this enthronement, something we had not consciously considered before the question was posed. You, too, can enthrone your home and dedicate your family to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which involves a short ceremony with a priest and Sacred Heart image. The family then dedicates themselves to any number of practices related to the Sacred Heart, which are given after the enthronement ends.
To further your devotion, enroll in the Sacred Heart Society and read Anne Costa’s book, Healing Promises: The Essential Guide to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Build a Backyard Shrine
Sometimes the most refreshing place to retreat is in our own domain. The outdoors is a perfect location conducive to meditation and prayer if we make it into a sort of outside sanctuary. In order to do this, you can discern what kind of shrine you’d like to recreate or conjure from your own creativity. Most common shrines include Marian or Franciscan statues surrounded by a bed of flowers, some of which have spiritual significance.
The purpose of such a shrine is to create a space that invites you and your family into reflection and holy conversation. Somehow being among God’s creation – the open skies surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant colors of flowers – really aids us in opening our hearts to the Lord, too.
Try reading Margaret Rose Realy’s book, The Catholic Gardener’s Spiritual Almanac, for inspiration and ideas.
House Blessing and Mass
If you haven’t thought of this yet, getting your house blessed by your pastor is one way to really liven up the space in which you dwell to make it more holy, more sacrosanct, and spiritually inviting.
House blessings can be very simple or incredibly involved. For one, you may opt to have an additional exorcism with blessed salts scattered in the corners of each room. This is not to suggest that every home harbors some clandestine evil spirits; rather, it is for protection against evil upon the home and those who dwell in it.
You might want to tack on Mass in your home following the house blessing if your priest permits this. Invite neighbors, extended family, and friends from church to make this a community-oriented affair. You can renew this particular practice periodically, too.
Join a Men’s or Women’s Online Study Group
Social media, while it has its disadvantages, can truly open up an entire world of community that may not otherwise be available to all. If you live in a fairly remote area or are homebound or maybe (like me) on maternity leave from your job to raise a wee one, then you might look into men’s or women’s Bible study groups through websites or Facebook.
I was recently invited to join an online group such as this called W.I.N.E. – Women In the New Evangelization. It’s a Facebook group that includes women all over the country who can engage in thoughtful and heartening conversations about their particular struggles, hopes, and fears pertaining to reflection questions that administrators post on a regular basis. It’s one way to get out of the rut of ordinary life and rediscover ways to make social media less of a spiritual drag and more engaging.
Take a Day Pilgrimage
For the more creative types, look up local pilgrimage sites that you and your family could visit on a random Sunday afternoon. I was personally surprised to learn of a St. John, Indiana, where there are life-sized statues of the Stations of the Cross on an outdoor pathway. It’s literally a couple of hours of driving from my house. Our former parish, St. John the Evangelist, sponsored a day trip for parishioners to patronize the site and spend an entire day browsing the grounds and perusing the gift shop.
Plan a ‘Picnic and Prayer’ Day in the Park
What’s your favorite park? Maybe it’s a kids’ playground area. Maybe it’s a formal botanical conservatory. Or maybe it’s a state park with hiking trails and fishing ponds. No matter, find a place that renews your soul and plan a day trip – maybe solo, maybe with friends or family. You could bring along a certain devotional that you enjoy reading or maybe your Bible. Whatever it is, make sure it is something that inspires you or gives you encouragement and leads you to converse with God while enjoying a leisurely day among the flora and fauna. Bring a sack lunch along in case you get lost in your musings and lose track of time.
Invite an Ambassador to Bring an Our Lady of Fatima Statue into Your Home
America Needs Fatima is a national non-profit organization that sponsors volunteers who travel across the country, bringing Our Lady of Fatima into lay people’s homes. My mom received a phone call from ANF a few years ago when I was pregnant with my middle daughter, Sarah. The company invited my mom to host an evening of prayer with one of their ambassadors, who would bring a large statue of Our Lady of Fatima into her house. In turn, my mother prepared a simple meal and invited friends and family to join us in praying a rosary together. It was a wonderful way to celebrate a popular and pious devotion in a communal setting.
Create a Blessings Jar
Several years ago, I read about a practice that my family has made part of our everyday lives. The article described a family who created a blessings jar in order to temper their otherwise grumpy attitudes surrounding a spirit of constant complaining. I wanted to foster a sense of gratitude in our young kids, too, so we all chipped in with some ephemera and decoupage, decorating and personalizing our jar. The point is to keep small slips of paper near the jar and keep both in a central location where you will see it on a daily basis. As events occur, spontaneously jot down small or large blessings on the papers and place inside the jar. As the calendar year concludes, dump out all of the papers and read the blessings together.
It’s incredible what you will discover about how God provides for your needs when you do this. One year most of our slips of paper were about unexpected financial blessings, most of which I had forgotten until we started reading about them from the jar. I saw how much God provided for us in that particular way, which was both humbling and gratifying. It’s a way to instill a sense of prayer, too, and to allow your children to recognize that God indeed cares for every detail of our lives.
Start a Prayer Journal
This is one of my favorite prayer practices. At a young age, I started keeping a diary. I remember receiving a Hello Kitty diary, complete with a lock and key, for a birthday gift when I was in the third grade. I cherished that diary, but I knew it was supposed to hold my deepest secrets. At first, I didn’t know what to write in it, but then the words began to flow. And this began a decades-long practice of journaling for me.
Eventually, as I transitioned from a child to a teen and then into young adulthood, my diaries took on a different form – a prayer journal. I realized that it was important for me to record my thoughts, prayers, poems, and inspirations in a book of sorts that I could refer to when I began to get discouraged or doubt something. I even wrote down spiritual dreams that seemed to be significant in some way.
Prayer journals can be incorporated into your daily spiritual habits. I use mine while I am poring over the daily readings in my favorite liturgical companion. I jot down verses from Scripture that really speak to me or those that I feel I need to go back to and pray about some more. I include quotes from saints that speak to my heart, dreams I’ve had, and ideas for articles I’d like to write. But most of all, I pour my heart out to God. I write down my thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, and questions. I allow that space to be a private place where God and I encounter each other in holy conversation. Prayer journals, then, are perfect ways to organize, collect, and present our deepest needs to the One who hears and answers all.