September is just around the corner, and many of us are busy getting ready for ‘Back to School’ and organizing our schedules for the fall. We’re signing up for fitness classes and trying out for sports teams, joining book clubs, and even booking time off for winter getaways. We all know how important it is to nurture ourselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. But there’s one area in your life – and I believe that it’s the most important one – that you may not yet have taken into consideration. And that’s the importance of nurturing your spiritual life.
When it comes to our relationship with God, it can be easy to take faith for granted. After all, hasn’t He promised to always be with us? Isn’t He always there, even if we aren’t paying attention? We go to Mass every Sunday, perhaps we offer up a simple prayer each day, then we pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves that we’re doing okay. But in our hearts there is a deeper longing. We are hungry; we need food for our souls. We can’t escape the fact that if we want to draw closer to God – to be nourished by Him – we’re going to need to invest more of ourselves. This is as true of our relationship with God as it is with our relationship with others. Friendship is a two-way street; it takes time and effort. It’s simply not possible to maintain the status quo. In the spiritual life, there are only two possibilities: you’re either growing closer to God, or you’re moving away from Him.
Building a closer relationship with God can be as simple as setting aside some time each day for quiet prayer and reflection on Scripture. This practice is sometimes called Lectio Divina. (For more information, see Ignatian Spirituality or What is Lectio Divina?) Yet as sacred as that time alone with God is, we are social creatures. We need the support and encouragement of others in order to grow in our faith. There are numerous resources available to help us do just that.
Many parishes offer Bible studies and Catholic study groups; these are great ways to meet and connect with other people. You might want to sign up for a retreat (Catholic Retreats/Alberta), attend a conference, or take in some of the wonderful talks given by Catholic speakers throughout the year. Small groups of like-minded people (see Life After Sunday/Small Groups) sometimes gather in homes to share some refreshments – maybe even a glass of wine! – as they meditate together on matters of faith or the Sunday Gospel. At other times, we may choose to get together to watch one of the many wonderful DVDs available to help us go deeper in the life of faith. Perhaps this is the year you’ll take the plunge and do the 19th Annotation Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (Ignatian Spiritual Exercises), or maybe you just want to begin meeting regularly with a Spiritual Director. The means you choose are less important than that you just do it!
Our spiritual journey is ongoing; it won’t end until the moment we meet God in eternity. While it is true that He has prepared a multitude of graces for us, we need to cooperate with Him if we are going to be able to take advantage of those graces. So this fall, set aside some time to get to know the One who loves you more than anyone else, whose only desire is to bring about your greatest happiness. Make time for God – the only One who can truly nourish your soul, transform your heart, and bring you peace.
- Sharon van der Sloot
Need some help getting started?
- For a description of a number of resources that you might want to check out, see Recommended Studies.
- The Catholic website, Formed, is a fantastic source where many different resources are gathered together in one place. Formed has hundreds of videos, feature films, Catholic eBooks, and audio presentations available for download. Your parish may already be a subscriber – in which case you can log on for free – or you can subscribe as an individual.
- To join/start a Home Group or find a Spiritual Director (which requires careful consideration and discernment – don’t just look for someone in the Yellow Pages!), please contact your parish priest for recommendations and advice.