5 Ways To Nourish Your Spiritual Life Today
In our post-modern Information Age, even those of us with fairly subdued lifestyles increasingly find ourselves wondering, How can I grow in my faith? How can I hear God’s voice? Why is life so chaotic? We dance in this sort of catatonic flurry of activity and yet, at the end of the day, we have no idea what we accomplished, much less feel truly grounded and centered on the One who is unchanging.
Without presenting a fluffy treatise on simple ways you can possibly add more time to your prayer life and grow in your faith, I’d like to offer something rather substantial. And, yes, it will take a lot of time, practice, and self-discipline. It’s difficult – even cumbersome at times – but the fruits of a life deeply rooted in our Catholic faith will multiply exponentially.
1. Add 5 more minutes to your daily prayer time this week.
I suggest continuing this pattern until you reach at least thirty minutes, but preferably a full hour each day. I love what Fr. Larry Richards reiterates in his parish talks, “Spend thirty minutes a day in prayer, unless you are really busy. Then spend an hour.”
There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement. If we become flustered at the thought of spending a whole hour per day with the Lord, because we are “just too busy,” that’s errant thinking.
Does this mean you may have to get up an hour earlier? Possibly. Sacrifice your lunch hour? It could. Go to bed a bit later? Yes. There are countless possibilities of how you can tailor this principle to your life, but the point is that you start somewhere and you begin today.
2. Put down your fiction book or magazine and spend that time reading something spiritually enriching.
I’m not saying all of life should entail dense, intense reading and thought, but let’s face it: We have become a superficial society, striving for self-sustainability, independence rather than interdependence or – heaven forbid, total dependence on God, and so on. Swapping our fluffy, entertaining books or periodicals for life-changing literary works by great philosophers, saints, theologians will make a significant impact on your worldview and lifestyle.
About ten years ago I chose to end my subscriptions to secular magazines, with the exception of a home-and-garden variety, which was very difficult and sacrificial at the time. But I felt a call to something more, as if God were tugging at my heart, beckoning me to grow closer to Him. In turn, I discovered that classic spiritual books completely changed me. I found myself thinking about the world, my life, and eternity differently.
3. Take a 10-minute walk in a natural environment.
This means somewhere without concrete (unless it is a walking path through a nature preserve), without noise and the buzz of city life. It also means without any technology, so put down the smartphone, tablet, and mp3 players.
I cannot overemphasize how healing a nature walk can be. When I take that ten minutes (or more) to step outside of my hectic routine and just listen to the evensong of our local birds, observe the vast array of deciduous trees and myriad colors of the flowers surrounding me, I feel as if God has reached down from Heaven to offer me an embrace.
However brief it may be, a simple, solitary walk in the midst of trees, flowers, birds, and water easily brings us back to the Creator. I believe it is because creation reflects God in all His wonders and glory, so we are naturally drawn to praise and thank Him for the gift that nature provides to spiritually nourish us.
4. Sit in silence.
God does not typically speak to us in thunder or flashy acts of grandiosity. Rather, He whispers to us in the silence of our hearts, where He resides. How many of us who are lay people (and perhaps even consecrated religious) find that sitting in silence is nearly an impossibility on a daily basis? Yet how will we hear God speak to our hearts? How else will we permit Him to heal us, clarify and guide us, strengthen our resolve?
Perhaps you will find that sitting in silence will work best at the beginning of your day if you are an early riser. I find that sitting in silence for a few minutes before I begin my reading of Scripture from the daily readings works well for me. But spending time in silence can also happen in the middle of a busy day or to wind down in the evening and close our day. For some of us, we may be privileged to live or work near a Eucharistic Adoration chapel or Catholic Church that is open to the public during the day. If so, use this sacred space for your time of silence.
The point is not when or how we carve out this time for silence, but instead it is that we discipline ourselves to simply be with God. All He asks of us is our time, our thoughts, our hearts. How can we offer these to God if we are incessantly distracted by everything else?
5. Swap your daily television or gaming time for holy conversation.
Sometimes we are blinded to what matters most in life and our priorities become skewed, then softly fade away over time. We become creatures of habit, and because everyone is too busy and overly stressed, mindless entertainment becomes an easy time filler for us to decompress and unwind.
Have you ever considered the people with whom you have lost contact? What about a long-lost friend or perhaps a homebound relative? We all know people who are convalescing in nursing homes, group homes, and rehabilitation facilities. These are people who are lonely and hurting. Consider, then, the spiritual treasure that a handwritten letter or brief phone call to someone who feels as if no one cares for them.
If you swap that half an hour or hour of television, internet gaming or social media browsing for writing a heartfelt letter, you will enrich your spiritual life, because you are extending yourself in an act of mercy.
Review the corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. Pray about the ones you feel called to grow in your life right now. Perhaps that would mean spending your free time volunteering with a prison ministry or calling the people you know who are caregivers to offer them a meal or some time away from their daily responsibilities.
God asks us to stretch ourselves beyond what is comfortable, convenient, and familiar. He wants us to say yes to the daily call in our lives that will draw us nearer to Him in Word and Sacrament so that we can be equipped to make a life that matters. We are called to a life of purpose and meaning, yet many of us live a life devoid of true character and connection.
If you sincerely implement these principles on a daily, then weekly and hopefully permanent basis, then you will realize how much the desires of your heart shift from self-focused and distracted goals to other-focused and intentional goals. No matter what your state in life may be and irrespective of your primary vocation, you – and I – are called to live in community and to help each other through encouragement and sacrificial love. Begin that journey by offering more of yourself and your time to God so that He may fortify you for the joy-filled journey ahead.