Hi everyone! So you may or may not have noticed, the past few blog posts have revolved around evangelization, as inspired by my reading of Matthew Kelly’s book The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic and my DRE orientation a few weeks ago. Seeing as this is a topic that Catholics are largely weak on, I thought it might be good to continue my reflections on the matter for a few more blog posts. It’s been something that I’ve really been praying a lot about recently, and I’d like to share some of the most thought-provoking things that I’ve come up with. For this week however, since I’ve finally finished reading Kelly’s book (it takes me a while to work through my spiritual readings), I thought it might be a good idea to post some of my favorite quotes. I’m sure it’ll spark reflection in many of you, just as it inspired reflection in me. I also imagine that any of my readers who are interested in reading The Four Signs, but don’t have the time to do so, might appreciate it. So enjoy!
“It is out of the silence that clarity emerges” (33). This is in reference to the significance of silence in our prayer lives. So often our time with God is occupied by our conversation, which often honestly translates to us talking and not doing much listening. Beyond that, it often translates in particular to us asking for things. It’s important to remember that there are other forms of prayer besides supplication- we can praise God, ask Him for mercy, express our gratitude for the graces that He constantly showers upon us, and intercede on the behalf of others as well. But there is another dimension of prayer that often gets overlooked- listening. Conversation is a two-way phenomenon. You should be listening just as often as you are speaking, or at the very least you should be reserving at least a bit of your prayer time to listening. God speaks through the Holy Scriptures, so take time to read them. He also speaks through the lives and voices of the saints, so read those as well. And first and foremost, God speaks into the silence of your heart, so next time you’re in prayer and want to hear the voice of God, I highly encourage you to just take a deep breath, quiet your mind and spirit, and listen. Then crack open your Bible.
“Clarity emerges from silence, and passion and purpose are the fruits of clarity” (35).
The Prayer Process: “(1) Gratitude: Begin by thanking God in a personal dialogue for whatever you are most grateful for today, (2) Awareness: Revisit the times in the past twenty-four hours when you were and were not the-best-version-of-yourself. Talk to God about these situations and what you learned from them, (3) Significant Moments: Identify something you experienced today and explore what God might be trying to say to you through that event (or person), (4) Peace: Ask God to forgive you for any wrong you have committed (against yourself, another person, or Him) and to fill you with a deep and abiding peace, (5) Freedom: Speak with God about how He is inviting you to change your life, so that you can experience the freedom to be the-best-version-of-yourself, (6) Others: Lift up to God anyone you feel called to pray for today, asking God to bless and guide them, and (7) Finish by praying the Our Father” (38). This prayer process is suggested by Matthew Kelly as a great way to end our days, which can be applied to people who have never prayed before as well as those who already enjoy a strong, fruitful prayer life. He suggests taking just a few minutes at the beginning considering the task of each step, and then to add a minute or two every so often as your prayer life intensifies. Kelly uses the term ‘the-best-version-of-yourself’ to refer to the fact that we should always choose the good over the bad, the better over the good, and the best over the better. If we all did that, just imagine what the world would be like. As a last side note, you can see some of the other prayer forms that I mentioned earlier in this process: gratitude, awareness and peace (which is an examination of conscience followed by a prayer for forgiveness and mercy), and intercessory prayer. I like this model of prayer because it encourages us to pray in all of these forms and has the potential to greatly deepen our prayer lives.
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” (40).
“Today’s culture doesn’t have a vision for the human person. The culture doesn’t have a vision for you. It certainly does not have your best interests at heart. What, then, is the culture driven by? Consumption…And if the culture does not have a vision for the human person, then it certainly does not have a vision for your marriage, or your family; in fact, the culture would prefer that every family be broken. Why? A broken family needs two of everything, and that drives consumption” (48-49).
“When we move away from Scripture, we alienate ourselves from our heart, since we can only find our true heart in the heart of Jesus” (122). So crack open that Bible!
It isn’t much, but it offers quite a few things to reflect on. The gist of Matthew Kelly’s message is this: Do you want to become a more dynamic Catholic? Here are the four things to work on: Prayer, Study, Give, and Evangelize. Read an extra page of the Bible. Spend 5 extra minutes in prayer before heading out in the morning. Read a page of a spiritual book tonight. Listen to a Catholic CD on your way to work. Calculate how much you give to the Church, and try giving just one percent more (or half a percent, or 5 extra dollars, or even one, whatever you can manage). Volunteer at a soup kitchen this weekend. When you’re done reading your spiritual book or listening to your Catholic CD, give it to a friend. Invite your mother, your father, your brother, your sister, or even your neighbor to Mass this Sunday. Becoming a dynamic Catholic is like climbing a mountain. If you think about the total distance you will need to cover to reach the top, it probably will seem overwhelming. Just take it one step at a time, and I promise that you’ll reach the summit before you know it. See you at the top.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us!