( Aleteia – Philip Kosloski ) G. K. Chesterton wrote, “It might be reasonably maintained that the true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground.”
That feels true; life is hard, and it’s hard for everyone, one way or another, and its difficulties can tempt us away from faith. What can we do to keep our faith alive, through the task field, until we reach the playground of heaven?
Attending Sunday Mass is certainly a good start, but should it stop there? St. Thomas Aquinas would say no.
“To enter heaven, continual prayer is necessary after baptism; for although all sins are remitted by that sacrament, there still remain concupiscence to assail us from within, and the world and the devil to attack us from without.”
But what does “continual prayer” look like? Does it consist of staying in church all day long?
Our daily habits are the keys to unlocking the secret of “continual prayer”, and encouraging these four can help deepen our relationship with God, conversing with him intimately, so that when we reach the “pearly gates,” it will be a reunion of long-time friends than of acquaintances.
What are the keys that unlock our access to continual prayer?
1. Morning Offering
Fr. John McCloskey describes the morning offering as, “when you kneel down and using your own words, or a formula, you briefly offer up all the day ahead for God’s glory.” You can choose whichever offering prayer you want. I personally use the “Serviam!” prayer right when I wake up. It is simple yet very powerful.
By praying a morning offering, you dedicate the rest of the day to God, which then prepares you to tackle anything that comes at you during the day.
2. Fifteen Minutes of Spiritual Reading
This can be described as “a few minutes of systematic reading of the New Testament to identify ourselves with the words and actions of our Savior, and the rest of the time spent on a classic book of Catholic spirituality recommended by your spiritual advisor. As [St.] Josemaria Escriva puts it, ‘Don’t neglect your spiritual reading. Reading has made many saints’” (The Way, 116).
One way to accomplish this is to read the Gospel reading for today and then find a spiritual book that will help you grow in your relationship with God.
3. Fifteen Minutes of Mental Prayer
Mental prayer is very simple, though not without its many distractions. It consists of a “heart-to-heart” with God and leaving time for talking and listening. God is extremely interested in what troubles you and what is going on in your life, similar to how a parent is interested in the day of his or her child after school. God wants to know (even though he already knows) everything about your life.
The reason he wants to know your deepest desires is because it helps you draw closer to him. Just like any relationship, when you reveal to another person your feelings, you start to share an invisible bond that can last a lifetime.
4. Nightly Examination of Conscience
Fr. McCloskey explains how to do an examination of conscience before going to bed:
“You sit down, call on the Holy Spirit for light and for several minutes go over your day in God’s presence asking if you behaved as a child of God at home, at work, with your friends. You also look at that one particular area which you have identified with the help of spiritual direction in which you know you need to improve in order to become a saint. … Then you make an act of gratitude for all the good that you have done and an act of contrition for those areas in which you have willfully failed. Then it is off to your well-deserved rest.”
This is important and it helps prepare you for your next confession. It is healthy to examine your faults and failings and to ask God’s help to overcome them. The Divine Physician will then heal whatever we tell him is wrong with our soul. Sometimes his medicine is not easy to swallow, but he gives us the remedy that speeds us along the path to eternal life.
These four habits are very powerful and can keep your faith alive through the trials and “task fields” of life, because they keep you in conversation with our Lord.
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”—James 4:8