Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Exercising Your Prayer Life

Every time I workout, I try to add a little extra oomph to my routine. Maybe I tread a little longer, run a little harder or do a few more reps with my stretchy band.

It is really a psychological battle, as well as a physical one, as I tell myself I can push myself a little more.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that some of us see our prayer life as a psychological battle, or a challenge of our will to try to empty ourselves mentally. But, this spiritual battle that we have with ourselves over prayer shouldn't really be either of those.

Perhaps, as you are striving for a more peaceful Advent, you have tried to incorporate prayer into your life, only to find you are always distracted by the things you have on your "to do" list. The Catechism reminds us that rather than trying to hunt down those distractions to do away with them, we should use them.

How do we use them?

Well, for starters, we need to realize that "our distraction reveals to us what we are attached to, and this humble awareness before the Lord should awaken our preferential love for him and lead us resolutely to offer him our heart to be purified." (CCC 2729)

In plain English . . .

When we realize that we are distracted by things, it should draw us closer to God as we realize that we have not fully given our heart over to him. This should inspire us to resolutely turn more faithfully toward him.

So the next time your thoughts are rambling terribly during prayer, consider what you are focused on and ask yourself, "Should this be distracting me from God?"

Happy Advent!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Are You a Modern Day Martyr?

The first line in the Psalm-prayer I was reading, went like this:

"Father in heaven, when your strength takes possession of us we no longer say: Why are you cast down, my soul?"

It was very timely for me as it seemed that on this particular morning, I was a bit saddened by the lack of understanding many people hold for Advent and Christmas.

I was sort of "downcast" by the term "holiday" that is tightening its grip on our nation. I was frustrated by how Christmas is dangerously close to becoming a secular shopping season, and I was pained by someone laughing at the practices of my good and faithful friends.

And then it occurred to me. This is a sort of martyrdom. I've come to believe that martyrdom comes in spiritual, as well as physical forms.

The emotional dying, for instance, that Mother Teresa must have gone through was surely a marytrdom of sorts. How would it be, do you suppose, to have no other living person on this planet (except maybe one, JPII), understand through their own personal experience, the depth of your relationship with Jesus, your suffering and your longing?

When you re-read the line from the above prayer, it is so uplifting!

If you find you are "downcast" in your modern-day martyrdom, take note: If you are "possessed" by God's strength, there is simply no reason to be saddened, for we can always count on the power of God to overcome whatever is troubling us today!

Thursday, December 6, 2007


I hate to admit it, but honestly, I am a fan of The Biggest Loser, the television show about significantly overweight people who live at a camp and workout--endlessly--to lose huge amounts of weight.

Personally, I can't stand it when reality shows get into scheming and all that, and I also don't think its healthy or reasonable to lose that much weight that fast, but, I absolutely adore the transformation stories and pictures.

As unreal as any of those types of shows are, the life-altering changes that you see on this show truly inspire me. Confidently, I tread just a little bit harder, pull my resistance cords just a little bit tighter, and definitively, continuously, recommit myself to fitness.

I love to see the new people that emerge, so dramatically re-gaining their vigor for life.

I've noticed that this love of transformation carries over into the spiritual life as well. I am inspired by people, like Mother Teresa, who were notably transformed by a simple Yes! to God. I, too, want to say Yes! to anything God asks of me and she makes me believe I can. That is incredibly powerful.

Spiritual transformations in people are just as remarkable as physical transformations. When you say Yes! to God--and mean it--it changes the way you think, the way you act, the way you feel and the way you relate to God and just about everyone you know.

This is a good thing, but it can be dangerous if you are not under the guidance of a wise director. Your Yes! to God doesn't require you to walk away from a healthy, vibrant life--as many people believe.

A Yes! to God may cause you to refocus your priorities and such, it's true, but mostly He prompts us through interior conversion. That interior conversion eventually may bring about external changes in your life, but that doesn't mean you have to quit your job or sell your house!

We think dramatically, but God often moves less so.

Are you experiencing the hand of God transforming you? Let God create in you a beautiful picture.