Catholicism is a way of life. We are supposed to see everything through “Catholic” eyes. When you see people in dire straights, you offer a prayer for them. Politically, I think about how an issue affects my holiness, and that of my family. This is also known as trying to be the best version of yourself. It’s a way of life. I try not to eat too much because I don’t want to be a glutton. I don’t drink too much because I don’t want to have the sin of inebriation. I examine my conscience at least once a day. I incorporate prayer into my entire life-praying the Divine Office, the Angelus, the Rosary. I go to Mass every day and offer up my walk to Mass, because it’s a pretty long uphill climb. Catholicism comes out of everything. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We should invite God into our lives at each and every turn. Rather than asking our kids “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We should ask them to pray to God to help them decide what to be when they grow up.
Parish life used to be part of life in general. We gathered on feast days for the patron saint of the parish, had fiestas, and bingo. When I became Catholic, the parish we were part of had lots of events. At least once a month there was some sort of dinner or event, a gathering of the faithful. We were more connected. I went to a memorial on Sunday for a relative, and saw a lot of people from the old parish, there in support of the recently departed, and the family. Whole parishes would come together to celebrate weddings and funerals, harvest time successes. A few years ago, in a province in the Philippines, the diocese sanctioned a Creche festival. Every Church, even the City Hall, and the Police Station, and many road-side Nativity Scenes could be visited.
Today, a lot of this is missing, at least to the general population. Rarely do people stick around and chat after Church (though the noise before Mass can be deafening). If there’s no doughnuts and coffee, there’s no social time. Parish events are poorly attended, and people don’t even attend Mass. It’s really a wonder society isn’t falling apart. Oh, wait, but it is! There’s just so much noise. In a previous post, I quoted Old Screwtape “Our strategy is to put so much noise into the world that the people can no longer hear their God.” And it’s working. You can’t walk down the street without seeing nearly every person with earbuds hanging from their ears. We get up and turn on the TV before our coffee, watch the (usually negative) news. Get in the car, turn the radio on. Get to the bus, plop on the headphones loud enough so the surrounding eight seats can hear clearly what’s shouting into your ears. We get to work, turn up the radio or iTunes, and then turn it around, and the last thing we do is turn the TV off before we fall exhausted into sleep.
My suggestion, my mentor Matthew Kelly’s suggestion…enter the Classroom of Silence. At least 10 minutes a day. If possible, in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Sit there, and listen to God speaking to you. Plan your day. Learn what you need to do that day, and plan how to do it. For me, my quiet time is on the bus ride to work in the morning. To start with, I will admit-I turn on the TV first thing AFTER I get our coffee. Watch about 20 minutes of news, just to get the weather, sports, and a bit of overnight news. Then the TV goes off, and we prepare for the day. My wife goes to her spot to pray, I go to mine. I pray liturgical prayer-the Divine Office, and a few minutes for Bible reading. At least the Gospel. Shower, breakfast, out the door. On the bus, I will read spiritually for about half an hour, then I put the book away, think about what I read, and then think about the coming work-day. I walk to work, work away the morning, then attend Mass (whenever possible), work the afternoon, then catch the bus home. Sometimes I check out what’s happening in the world, but mostly I read, and then contemplate the day, and maybe plan the weekend. The TV is usually on during dinner, and stays on until it’s time to sleep. The point is to take the time to nourish yourself in the ways you need. You have physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs, and intelectual needs. Make sure you’re taking care of all your needs…