Devotions can be like jewelry. They bring about beauty and accent the appearance of the one wearing them. However, too much jewelry can be a distraction. At one point, they become counterproductive.
I have discovered this to be the case with devotions in my own life. The more complicated things become, the more suffocated I feel.
You start with basics. You have a daily Rosary and then the daily Divine Mercy chaplet, and then a Novena to the Holy Spirit, and then a Novena to Saint Joseph, and then a Holy Hour once per day, and then you have to care for your spouse, and your children. Oh, and then there is the Knights of Columbus meeting. The Bible study. The Altar Guild meeting. And daily Mass. Liturgy of the Hours. Little Office of the Blessed Virgin. One-Year Catholic Bible. Reading a Saint story daily. Reading the Summa...
...and then you snap. Then you go crazy. The spiritual life becomes complicated, conflicted, and stifling.
You're wearing so much spiritual jewelry that you cannot even stand up and walk around. The yoke is no longer easy. The burden is no longer light. It's heavy. Really heavy.
From time to time, this happens to me. Devotions, commitments, and resolutions add up. Life changes. New children are born. We move to new places. We acquire different responsibilities. We enter into different seasons of life.
Frequently, we must reassess our journey with Christ. Simplicity is best when its rooted in love for God.
Saint Francis de Sales said, "We are not drawn to God by iron chains, but by sweet attractions and holy inspirations." The same saint said, "We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear." We do not need a complex constellation of devotions. We need simplicity.
True devotion to God derives from simple love. I heartfelt "I love you," to God is worth more than a strenuous Lent with resentment.
Saint Therese the Little Flower wrote, "Loves consumes us only in the measure of our self-surrender." Love is the core.
In order to re-discover this simple core, here are five ways to simplify and revitalize your life with Christ.
1) Mental prayer is the most important kind of prayer. Mental prayer is talking to God with your heart and mind. It's conversational. In mental prayer, you tell Jesus about your hopes, joys, fears, and sufferings for each and every day. It's intimate. There is something simple and unassuming about mental prayer. Set your iPhone for five minutes and talk to Jesus from the heart. Add minutes over time.
2) Do you have a basic prayer structure in your life? A morning prayer/offering. Prayers at meals. Angelus. Daily Rosary. Prayers before bed.
If this seems overwhelming, don't worry. Just start with one devotion and think of it as a brick. You don't need build the house at one time. Brick by brick is the prudent way. Rome wasn't built in a day. Add one thing at a time. Don't start praying the Breviary or fifteen decades of the Rosary overnight. Ramp up slowly.
3) How can you make a better Holy Communion? The Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives as Christians. How can you amplify that reality in your life. Could you say prayers for the night before. Is there a prayer you could add to the moment when you receive Communion? Something special that only you and God know? How can you crown that moment of Holy Communion?
4) What's your "policy" on going to Confession? Do you have a simple rule that makes it regular and easy? What is one thing you could do to make Confession into a sought after joy, rather than a dreaded obligation? All the spiritual masters say that frequent confession is essential to growth. Make a simple, easy to remember plan.
5) Set some goals. Get out a sheet of paper. Stop reading right now and get a sheet a paper....
Okay, do you have that sheet of paper? Write down your daily, weekly, monthly, and annual devotions. If you don't have any. Don't worry. Assess where you are. Then ask yourself where you want to be one year from now. Best of all, discuss this with your spiritual director. Get his objective diagnosis. If you don't have a spiritual director, talk to a friend you trust in a casual way.
Set a simple plan and then stick with it. If you decide to pray the daily Rosary of five decades. Do it. Don't feel obliged to bump it up or turn it down. Just be steady. If you miss. Just start over the next day.
Did you decide to do the Morning Offering every day? Great. If you forget and remember to say it at 9pm at night. No worries. Just say it when you remember. If you forget for three days, say it anyway as soon as you remember. Keep it simple. Remember, it takes about twenty-one days to create a habit. Give it twenty-one days before you even begin to become discouraged!
The key to simplicity is habit and pattern. Why do you think monks and nuns lived patterned lives? Simplicity.
Question for comments: Sometimes I set forth my patterns, but I don't feel like it. I have those days where I am less than inspired. What do you do on those days? For me it helps to be by a Tabernacle or to look at a crucifix. What about you? Please leave a comment.
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