Have you ever had an encounter with God that left you in tears because you understood the power of His goodness? I will never forget the first time I watched Passion of the Christ a few years ago and how it brought me into the life of Christ in such a powerful way. I watched Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem to accomplish the Paschal Mystery, His passion and resurrection with fresh eyes. Seeing Jesus portrayed in His humanity and divinity brought home for me the magnitude of suffering, rejection, and betrayal He faced. I may start my Spiritual Director’s practice of watching this movie on Good Friday. Will you join us?Continue reading “Palm Sunday – Encountering God’s Goodness”
In last week’s blog, I talked about growing in good works through prayer, fasting and service and how they unite us to Christ. These are the three tools we have in our spiritual toolbox to resist sin and follow the path of true love. I find Lent is a perfect time to examine my choices and search the desert within me to evaluate my motivations. I can learn, with God’s grace, where I am flirting with darkness and then make a conscious decision to snuggle up with my Creator instead of turning to the fleeting relief the world provides. Prayer helps me see my life as God sees it and assures me I am loved.
Over this past year, I have learned a lot about prayer. It has shifted my perspective, broadened my mind, and softened my heart. Most of my life has been focused on the realm of petitionary prayer, asking God for what I think I need. God has such an interesting sense of humor as rarely what I think I need is what He thinks I need. Does God ever say to you, can you just shut up and let me love you? This is the heart of prayer. How much time are you allowing god to love you, to embrace you?
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.Focus on His truth James 4:8
Ultimately prayer is the key to our relationship with God. Our level of humility, the foundation of prayer, correlates to our ability to receive the gifts and fruits of its goodness. Upon reflection, my prayer life shifted after I learned what it truly means to be humble after praying this Litany of Humility with regularity a few years ago – whoa!
There are so many ways God invites us into a relationship with Him that is both personal and communal. He speaks to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word-made-flesh. Prayer is our invitation and response to God who is waiting to reveal Himself to us. In the Catholic Christian tradition, prayer engages our whole person in a relationship with God the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.
Many of us think of prayer as the expression of spontaneous or reflective thoughts or feelings expressed in words but there are three types of prayer: vocal prayer, meditation, and contemplative prayer. They have in common the recollection of the heart. (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) 2721)
Keep in mind that the biggest obstacle to prayer is just doing it.
If you are resisting the habit of prayer, perhaps a good place to start is to tell Him why and ask for His help in cultivating this habit in your life. After all, we are given the gift of self-discipline we just need to own it! With my growing humble heart, I look at prayer as a commitment to spend time with the most important relationship in my life.
The rest of this post synthesizes the three different types of prayer. It’s a bit lengthy but I hope you find it a good resource to use to allow God to love you through prayer. Let me know what you think in the comments and how you deepen your prayer life.
There are so many treasures available to us to align our heart with God. This month, I have started using the Praying from the Heart guided prayer journal – it is an amazing resource to unravel the thoughts in my heart and mind and learn how to “abide in Him” (John 15:5).
Vocal prayer is based on the union of body and soul in our human nature and associates the body with the interior prayer of the heart. An example is Christ praying to his Father and teaching the Our Father to his disciples. I was fascinated to learn that there are five methods of vocal prayer:
- Blessing or adoration – This is where we exalt the greatness of God and acknowledge our dependence on Him in all things. Because God blesses our heart, our hearts yearn to return to Him and bless Him. The Mass and other liturgies of the Church are full of prayers of adoration or worship.
- Petition – This is when we ask God for what we need – primarily spiritual needs, but physical as well. Our prayer should always include a statement of our willingness to accept God’s will whether He directly answers our prayer or not. Forgiveness and every true need are the objects of the prayer of petition.
- Intercession – Praying for others is an important part of prayer as this leads us to pray as Jesus did where we are not concerned with our needs but with the needs of others. This prayer knows no boundaries and must even extend to our enemies.
- Thanksgiving – It is crazy, but prayers of gratitude or Thanksgiving are the most neglected type of prayer. We are strengthened when we stop throughout our day and thank God for all the good things that happen to us and to others. Recognizing the seeds of goodness being sown in our world. Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess 5:18) When I wake up, I find offering my thoughts, my words, and my heart to God for His purpose help order my day.
- Praise – Prayers of praise acknowledge God, give him glory for his own sake beyond what he has done but simply because HE IS – This is being Smitten With Goodness! These prayers reflect to him His goodness as David does in the Psalms.
Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. Its goal is to make our own faith the subject considered, by confronting it with the reality of our own life. It is a Christian practice of prayer dating back to the early Church.
Meditation is above all a quest. The mind seeks to understand the why and how of the Christian life, in order to adhere and respond to what the Lord is asking. By meditating on the Gospels, holy icons, liturgical texts, spiritual writings, or “the great book of creation,” we come to make our own that which is God’s. To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart, and we are able to discern them. It is a question of acting truthfully in order to come into the light: Lord, what do you want me to do? (CCC 2705-2706).
An essential form of Christian prayer, meditation is especially for those who are seeking to answer the vocational question, Lord, what do you want me to do? and how can I be the best version of myself?
- The Rosary is a beautiful tool for meditation. As a convert, I never understood the fascination Catholics had with the Rosary. Now I get it. A few years ago, I became curious and took a 30-day Rosary challenge. That led to saying a daily Rosary for lent. Now it is a daily habit and gift I give to myself. By meditating on the mysteries of the Rosary, I get to know Jesus through his mother’s eyes, seek the promises of the mysteries and obtain their fruits. It is an antidote for anxiety and keeps my gaze and heart firmly planted where it should be. If you are new to the Rosary, you might join a community like ManyHailMarysAtATime to learn and pray daily with over 3,000 people online.
- Lectio Divina is a method of praying the Scriptures. What better way to get to know God than by spending time in His spoken word? St Benedict made it a regular practice in his monasteries. This is different from a bible study which can be valuable as well. There are many forms of Lectio Divina but they incorporate the following elements:
- Read. The first element of this type of prayer is reading (lectio): you take a short passage from the Bible, preferably a Gospel passage and read it carefully, perhaps three or more times. Let it really soak-in.
- Reflect. The second element is meditation (meditatio). By using your imagination enter into the Biblical scene in order to “see” the setting, the people, and the unfolding action. It is through this meditation that you encounter the text and discover its meaning for your life.
- Respond. The next element is prayer (oratio) or your personal response to the text: asking for graces, offering praise or thanksgiving, seeking healing or forgiveness. In this prayerful engagement with the text, you open yourself up to the possibility of contemplation.
- Rest. Contemplation (contemplatio) is a gaze turned toward Christ and the things of God. By God’s action of grace, you may be raised above meditation to a state of seeing or experiencing the text as mystery and reality. In contemplation, you come into an experiential contact with the One behind and beyond the text.
Contemplative prayer is the simple expression of the mystery of prayer. It is a gaze of faith fixed on Jesus, an attentiveness to the Word of God, a silent love. It achieves real union with the prayer of Christ to the extent that it makes us share in his mystery. (CCC 2724)
Centering prayer is a receptive method of Christian silent prayer that prepares us to receive the gift of contemplative prayer, prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, closer than thinking, closer than consciousness itself. It is a relationship with God and a discipline to deepen that relationship. You can learn more about this type of prayer and join a community to practice this discipline.
Nature can be a mirror for God. Going on a nature walk and noticing my surroundings can be a form of contemplation. I enjoy noticing and contemplating birds when I can be in nature at our Peace of Heaven. When I’m in the city, I am able to notice and contemplate God’s wonderful nature through Whoop Jenny and the beautiful birds she meets.
When was the last time you really sat with the Lord in prayer?
If you sense something is missing in your life, even though you think about your faith often, perhaps it is time to get quiet and lean into the one who created you! We can consume resources about prayer, read devotionals, and learn about our faith without ever coming to Him. We can depend on self-care, as defined by our culture, to refresh our soul when all we need to do is shut up and let God love us! If you need support, please let me know as I would like to assist.
Praying for our Smitten With Goodness community,
Do you need more time like I do to bask in the spirit and joy of Christmas? To invite Christ to be your center and North star? After the year we have had, I really want this gift of goodness to continue, especially to influence the new year. Goodness is about tapping into Christ born in us. It is created by God’s grace and my response to it. When I respond with tears of gratitude for His love and mercy, that is goodness. He is always inviting us forward and I can accept that invitation or not. When I focus on the things that feed my soul, I can see the pathway to holiness a little clearer each year and be Smitten with Goodness.
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.Focus on His truth, Matthew 5:16
Our Christmas journey continues until February 2, we can reclaim daily the Christmas miracle to feed our hearts with joy. Now that the hustle and bustle of the holiday baking and gift giving has come to an end, the rhythm of my normal routine beckons me. This includes prioritizing my daily spiritual readings, scheduling more prayer time – the soul food that satisfies much better than the sugar and wine I overindulged in for the past few weeks! Here are my current goals for the new year:
First, I plan to keep my nativity up through the Feast of the Presentation since it points us toward Jesus’ birth. The Presentation is celebrated February 2, 40 days after the birth of Jesus. The Presentation of Jesus is also called Candlemas, since the mini epiphany expresses the Jesus is the Light of the World. I am praying that I might be able to attend mass in person and take my candles that I will use in my home on the Sabbath or feast days and have them blessed.
Second, having found that structured prayer time has catapulted my spiritual growth this year, I commit to the following:
- Continue praying my daily rosary with Many Hail Mary’s at a Time. There are immeasurable spiritual benefits in praying the rosary. The Blessed Mother was my 2020 Saint Buddy – she has become a spiritual mother, friend, and all-time role model for me! She prepares our hearts to accept grace!
- Dedicate time to my Centering Prayer practice. This is a receptive method of Christian silent prayer in which we experience God’s presence within us, closer than breathing, thinking and consciousness itself.
- Participate in the By Their Fruits Prayer Pledge. Every January the Blessed is She community comes together to dedicate the first 31 days of the year to prayer to begin, or reenforce the daily habit of prayer for the rest of the year and hopefully our lives. This year the theme dives into the fruits of the Mysteries of the Rosary.
Third, I am excited about Richard Rohr’s daily meditation theme of A Time of Unveiling. This series is an opportunity to awaken to deeper transformation, love, and hope. Accepting reality offers us an invitation to depth and to discover what is lasting and what matters.
Fourth, I love the practice of having a saint buddy each year. My Saint Buddy for the new year will be St. Joseph. St. Joseph has been speaking to me throughout this past year but when Pope Francis proclaimed 2021 as the “Year of St. Joseph” that sealed my decision!
Finally, I will continue the path of simplicity. My tolerance for chaos and clutter has lessened over the years. Simplifying my life helps me focus on the things important and establishing priorities like my relationships, with my creator, myself, my husband, family, and friends – doing what matters most first is the key to living a busy life with inner calm. If you are up for taking a Simplicity Challenge, Emily Ley has a great one when you feel you need a little bit of simplicity in your life. Physical clutter = mental clutter so both are addressed through the challenge and most tasks can be completed in 20 minutes or less.
Hopefully, my goals might provide some inspiration for you. Let me know when you finalize yours and how you plan to be Smitten with Goodness.