You’re not the Christian you know you should be. You wish you prayed more (or at least prayed better), you wish you felt fireworks going off in your soul during mass, you wish you were more patient with your kids. Relate? If not, daaaaang, Gina! Teach me your ways!
If you’re a normal human Catholic who does have some room for growth, I’ve got some tips to share.
1-IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM
Here’s the truth: Before you can fix a problem, you have to first admit there even is a problem.
One of the things I’m really passionate about is truth telling, right? I’m passionate about it because secrets keep us from growth. You know you should be praying. You know the things you should be doing, but, for whatever reason, you’re not doing them. When you don’t spend time talking about where you’re falling short, you tend to forget that you’re even falling short in the first place.
Make it practical: Fill out the Faith Inventory below.
Hey. I know you’re busy. Do you ever go a whole day without praying? What about two days? What about (gasp) a week?! Why? Are you “too busy?”
Someone once told me, “Instead of saying ‘I don’t have time to pray,’ say, ‘I don’t love you, God.'” Dude. All the mic drop. We have time for whatever is important to us. If you don’t have time for prayer, it’s because prayer isn’t important to you.
So, let’s work on identifying what time of day works best for you to pray. What time is the calmest? Do you need to move anything around to make that time work? How can you commit to making (and keeping) a daily appointment with God?
Make it practical: Pencil in one week’s worth of prayer time in your calendar.
3- LISTENING TO GOD
Our world is loud. We have so much noise and distraction. When was the last time you sat in silence and did nothing? No background music, no phone scrolling, just you and the silence and God?
What if I told you the only way you can truly experience God is through silence? If you struggle with belief, if you’re not sure you’ve ever encountered God, answer this: Have you ever made the time to sit with Him in silence?
Saint Teresa of Calcutta said, “In the silence of the heart, God speaks.”
I know that sounds kind of frou-frou, but it’s important that we really get that. God’s first language is silence. Prayer shouldn’t be a monologue. If your prayer feels dry or immature, ask yourself this: Do I spend time in silence with the Father?
How can you block out some time to sit in silence with God?
Make it practical: Spend 11 minutes (either first thing in the morning or last thing at night) in silence with your Maker.
4- LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR
Remember when Jesus said that loving your neighbor as yourself is one of the two most important parts of this whole follower-thing? (I’m talking about Matt 22: 34-40 here.) It’s easy for us to forget our neighbor. We think being a Christian means showing up for mass, confession, prayer, making good choices and proclaiming that Jesus is our Savior. We remember to love God and to keep His commandments, but we forget to look out into the world and serve our neighbor.
So, how do we love and serve like we’re called to? By smiling at a stranger, feeding the hungry or volunteering. We work on focusing on others and loving those around us. Maybe that means holding a door open or sharing a hug.
Make it practical: call one person you haven’t talked to lately just to see how they are
5-START ENJOYING MASS
Even though it doesn’t make sense and we cannot fully understand it, Jesus is truly present (body, blood, soul and divinity) in both the Holy Chalice and the Sacred Host. We know this because He said it was true. (John 6.) So, either He is truly present or He is a liar. And, well, I’m not really about calling Jesus a liar, ya feel me?
Catholics get an opportunity every day to worship Jesus and to receive Him. Maybe you aren’t able to make daily mass, but, at the very least, you should be showing up every Sunday. When Sunday rolls around, it’s important that we make the most of it, especially if we feel like we don’t get anything out of mass. How? By bringing something to mass.
Make it practical: Read the gospel ahead of mass and jot down 3 things that stood out to you or that you didn’t understand.
6-SUFFER LIKE A SAINT
Bad things happen. Really terrible things and little annoying things. That’s just part of life, unfortunately. We are not called to comfort. No one said life would be bubbles and rainbows and hugs.
So, how can we use the hard, sucky parts of life to grow in holiness? By taking that suck and saying, “Lord, I want to offer you this sucky thing, I unite it to Jesus’ suffering on the cross. Please use this for (intention).”
Make it practical: Give something up. It doesn’t have to be something huge, just a small act of self denial (ex: meat, music in the car, that second glass of wine)
7- WORK ON YOUR SINS
“It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His Presence.” – C.S. Lewis
Do you ever walk into confession and feel like you have nothing to confess? I know I’ve been there. Unless you’re a perfect saint (and in that case, why in the heck are you reading my blog), when your sins are hidden from you, it usually means you have a lot of work to do.
Make it practical: Each night before bed, spend time writing down the sins of your day.
To learn more about these 7 steps, check out my book It’s only $8.99 right now on Amazon. By the way, in case you didn’t know, I’m basically Scott Hahn. Some how, some way it made the top 10 bestseller list on Amazon in Catholicism. All glory to God.