While we cannot have the Church without having community, I have realized that a lot of my spirituality also depends on my own initiative and personal relationship with God. I am learning to see God everywhere in the world, but particularly in frequent mass, exercise, music, the Rosary, art and silence. As persons of faith in our society, it is important to have strong foundations that enable us spread the love of our work to those most in need.
Here are a few elements I find crucial:
1. Prayer - Prayer is the foundation of faith and spirituality. The beauty of prayer? There’s no right or wrong way to pray. While some of us turn to more traditional forms of prayer such as praying the Rosary or praying with Scripture, exercise, meditation, writing or service work can also be forms of prayer. Every morning, I like to say a prayer offering up everything I will do, think and feel up to God. This even includes my weaknesses and anxieties. The key is to set aside regular time for prayer in whatever way you most connect with. What kind of time do you have? Do you have 20 minutes? 10? Five? One? Whatever time you can, set that aside for regular prayer. See what happens.
Spiritual Tip: Have a smart phone? Check out the “pray as you go” section of the free Laudate app. It’s an Ignatian podcast of daily scripture, song and reflection that is only ten to fifteen minutes long and is great to listen to on your commute to work!
2. Silence - This one is often overlooked….or seemingly impossible. But silence enables us to truly think and to let those thoughts mature. Just like prayer, think about how much time you can set aside for some moments of silence, even if that just means closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths during your work day.
Spiritual Tip: “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
3. Spiritual direction - I like to think of a spiritual director as a type of faith-based therapist. I’ve learned that I can think and pray and meditate all I want, but it’s helpful to have an outside perspective that enables me to see outside of myself. This can be a priest, religious, trained spiritual director or leader in your community. It’s helpful to have a spiritual director you trust that isn’t necessarily a friend or family member. That way, this person can bring in a fresh, outside perspective to guide and direct you along your spiritual journey.
Spiritual Tip: Browse spiritual directors they way you would browse for shoes for an important occasion. Spiritual directors, like shoes, are not “one size fits all,” so be sure to have some preliminary discussions with several people before settling on one.
4. Retreats - It’s typically recommended that we do a retreat per year. Retreats are exactly what the name implies: a retreat from the world, from our lives or from our typical schedules. They are important in allowing us to focus our thoughts and energy on the divine in a way that our regular schedule hardly permits. The beauty of retreats is that they can vary greatly. There are silent retreats, community retreats, family retreats, staff retreats, yoga retreats, weekend retreats, day retreats—you name it. Think about what one may be right for you at a certain time.
Spiritual Tip: This once a year thing sounding impossible with your schedule? Try a daily three minute retreat from Loyola Press by clicking here.
5. Eat, sleep and exercise - Seriously. God gave us minds and bodies as well as spirits. So make sure to take care of all of you! We can’t be of much help to others if we ourselves are not being taken care of. Shut off your laptop or TV at least 30 minutes before getting to bed; studies show that the light from these screens can keep you up or leave you restless. Read a book instead. Take a ten or fifteen minute walk during lunch. Add some more green to your life. Recycle. Do whatever you need to feel rested and taken care of. Think of the phrase, “Behold God beholding you…and smiling.” Rest with that.
We are the Church. And we are called to support, love and stand with others. Our work as people of faith enables us to do this in unique and beautiful ways, but we need to make sure we are healthy and strong in our own spiritual lives in order to truly be living, breathing instruments of God.
How will you commit to living intentionally today?
Kate Flannery is a former Catholic Volunteer Network Communications intern.
This post was originally written and posted on the Catholic Volunteer Network Blog. For more Catholic Volunteer Blog Posts please visit the CVN Blog. The Catholic Apostolate Center is proud to partner with the Catholic Volunteer Network by developing faith formation resources for volunteers and alumni, assisting in its efforts to provide and advocate for faith-based volunteerism and collaborate in many additional ways.