How to be transformed this year

Monstrance.What would it take for your faith to come alive this year?

Would you like to find a way to become so attached to God, so that your trust in Him never wavers?

Do you understand what great treasures of the Catholic Church has for you?

Do believe that you are unworthy, too sinful, and lack faith – but you still want God’s graces?

Last year I began to attend Adoration more frequently.  I found that there, I felt happier and at peace.  There I sat in silence with the Lord.  There I also felt the sadness and loneliness of God in a world that does not acknowledge Him as it ought.  There I looked at Jesus in the Eucharist – which was placed within one of the most beautiful monstrances I have ever seen – and I left feeling lighter.

Since Advent last year until now, I have kept seeing the word ‘transform’ or ‘transformation’ repeatedly.  Ours is a time of purification, change, and reform.  God is continually calling us to turn to Him – not just at Lent – but at every moment of our lives.  If we have not done so before, we can use this New Year and decade in our lives as a cleansing opportunity to answer that call.  It is a call that is extended to all people – not only to those called to the religious life – but every human being alive.

But we also have to do our part.  We must respond wholeheartedly.

How can we identify God’s call, and turn to the things which really matter in life as guided by our Catholic faith?  We are so distracted and busy.  We are tied up with work, study, and family responsibilities.  Not everyone can afford the time or money to go on a retreat, or just leave everything behind for a while.  We need practical solutions.  Daily steps.  Tiny movements forward.

How can we spend our lives transforming ourselves to become the people God created us to be?  How can we remove and discard anything that weighs us down in sin and pain, and which leads us away from the Lord?  We are men and women who are destined for heaven.  We were made to be saints.  Do you believe that?

So what can we do?  How can we renew our zeal for the Lord and our Catholic faith this year?  How do we begin to change ourselves from within?  Indeed, how can we renew our entire Church?  It begins by going back to the old, tried and true things – the things which are ever ancient but ever new, and of eternal value.

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Let us dedicate ourselves to these life-changing actions:

Prayer

When a baby is born its first instinct is to cry out for breath.  Throughout our lives when we are in need of help, we cry out for support and healing to others around us.  Prayer is the same.  It is a reaching out to the God who loves us with such intensity, that we would be engulfed and overwhelmed if we felt even a tiny portion of its fullness.

When we pray, we are speaking with God in our own words: “Father, I am here.  I need you.  Help me understand.  Help me heal.  Help me to get over X, Y or Z.”  We can also use formal prayers and daily devotions.  There are many publications available which will help you do this in a structured form.

Our God is simple and humble – He knows that every attempt to reach out to Him is well-meaning albeit feeble.  He knows our weaknesses.  He sent His Son to share in our human struggles – in everything except sin.

Prayer is the foundation of the house of our faith.  Without it we lose our bearings, we sever our connection with our eternal home and Creator.  If you have not prayed much before, or want to return to prayer, just start simply and simply start.  Find common Catholic prayer books.  Read articles about Catholic prayers.  Write your own prayers, as if writing a letter to a dear friend, as that is who God is to us.  He is a kind and merciful Father, and you need not be afraid to approach Him.

Sit in silence and hold the Rosary, sing, or simply breathe a silent prayer to the Lord.  Praise God first, and then ask for what you need and what your hopes and dreams are.  Acknowledge His silent presence – even if you feel nothing.  Thank Him for His existence and for giving you your life.  Tell Him what thrills you, what you are grateful for, the worries pressing upon your heart, or anything else.  Making a start is better than nothing at all.

2020 challenge:
“I will commit to at least 5 minutes of prayer every morning and evening.”

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Surrender

Surrending to Jesus – giving Him yourself and everything in your life with complete trust – is not about ‘giving up’ out of desperation or frustration (although that can also happen – God is always patiently waiting for us).  Surrendering is all about leaving your life and all of your affairs in God’s hands because He is God, not us.  We confidently trust that He knows best and will take care of every single detail for us, even in our times of suffering.  It is not easy to do this, but surrendering is about getting out of our own way to stop controlling things.  God is good and would never do anything to harm us.  He knows our past, present, and future, so why wouldn’t we trust in Him?

Servant of God, Fr Don Dolindo Ruotolo was a humble Italian priest (1882-1970) who was also a mystic and stigmatist.  Jesus gave him the following prayers which we need to say often:

2020 challenge:
“I will surrender and trust that God will take care of me and everything in my life.”

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Confession

We are all sinners and need to be reconciled with God.  Confession is the cleansing sacrament.  We constantly need God’s forgiveness, even moment-by-moment, because we have all offended Him and continue to do so (even if we are not aware of it or do not intend to).  We need not be afraid to approach the Tribunal of Divine Mercy, as Our Lord said to St Faustina.  Now is the time of mercy.  Do not be afraid to approach Him through His representative there, though your sins be as scarlet (and Isaiah 1:18).

Other articles about the purpose and benefits of confession:

2020 challenge:
“I will go to confession for the first time this year or at least once a month.”

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Eucharistic Celebration – the Holy Mass

The Eucharist is “the source and summit” of our lives as Christians (CCC – 1324-1327).  “Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.” (CCC, 1327)

What can this mean for us?  Our transformation begins by changing the way we think about the Eucharist and the Mass, which will then affect our actions.  A transformation and renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) will slowly start to take place when we look to Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist, and truly believe that He is present there.  We will then start to feel a shift within us and ask the Lord to help us commit to attending Mass more, to adore and worthily receive Him there.

Make a resolution to return to your church if you have lapsed, and to attend more Masses this year.  If you need help in believing in the true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, you can read more about Eucharistic miracles throughout history.

2020 challenge:
“I will attend at least one extra Mass per week (apart from Sundays).”

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Eucharistic Adoration – Spend time with Jesus

Our Catholic Church needs to increase devotion to Eucharistic Adoration.  We need to go to adore the Lord in this way more often.  Adoration is powerful.  The world needs it.  Spend a Holy Hour with Jesus, or if you cannot, at least half an hour with Him.

Find out if your local church offers time for Adoration.  Exposition of the Jesus in the Eucharist looks like the picture above.  Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist and when he faces us in this way, He is abundantly giving us His love, Divine Mercy, and graces.  When you attend Adoration, to adore, speak with, and pray to Jesus, He is looking right at you.  You are keeping company with Him as He suffers.  To know more about the purpose and benefits of going to Adoration, read the articles below:

2020 challenge:
“I will spend time with Jesus in Adoration at least once a week.”

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Scripture and Spiritual Reading – Lectio Divina

In the beginning was the Word (John 1:1).  Words and reading can change your life if you commit to reading sacred Scripture and spiritual books every day.  I have found that the best way to do this is to select a few books or daily devotionals (i.e. ‘a year with’ or ’30 days with’ type of books), and commit at least thirty minutes to one hour focusing on reading and praying through these texts in the morning and again before bed at night.  This allows for intentional, structured, communion time with God.  Some of these books also incorporate forms of the Divine Office (one example is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Day by Day: A 40-Day Journey with the Daily Office by Peter Scazzero).

You may also find that journaling and writing your responses to any questions posed in such texts can be helpful and healing to your life.

When you pray the Lectio Divina, a practice of scriptural reading, you meditate on a passage of Scripture such as the Gospel of the day.  You can begin by invoking the Holy Spirit to help guide you, read the passage and contemplate what God is saying to you through His Word, take a moment to quietly meditate on the Word, be silent, focus on any phrases or words which strike you or resonate most with you, and ask God to show you His will.  Focus on other movements of your heart, then go out into the world and put into practice what you have learnt.

2020 challenge:
“I will practice Lectio Devina, Scripture reading, and read good Catholic books for my faith formation.”

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Saints

Saints (and those still on the way to sainthood) show us the way to holiness.  They are our template for attaining and perfecting virtue, and are models of how to spend our time on earth.  We may sometimes shy away from their stories because we think that they are too extraordinary for us to imitate, their lives were too arduous, or we may fear that God is asking us to sacrifice or suffer like they did.  But we miss a great opportunity to grow in our faith and goodness if we ignore them.  We can take comfort that the saints struggled greatly on their earthly pilgrimage, so we can learn from them about our own challenges and how to cope with them.

The saints are also constantly interceding for us and – in their great communion with God in heaven – are praying for our good.  They want to see us reach heaven to participate in the beatific vision with them!  Saints were human beings, just like us, and we are all called to be like them.  If you want to learn more about the saints, or choose a patron saint for yourself, there are many books and articles to help you.

2020 challenge:
“I will read about the lives of the saints and choose one patron saint this year.”

If we take action to do some or all of these things this year, and persist in them, we will find our souls uplifted in love and holiness to the Lord and become stronger for whatever lies ahead.

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