Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Beginnings

I think it’s ironic that for so many years my life was punctuated by the beginning and end of the academic year and now it continues to be so as a priest. My first assignment as a priest was St. Philip’s in Greenville, a wonderful and vibrant faith community with a large school. The summertime was always a bit different—not less busy, but different—because the students were gone and there were fewer events that were associated with the school. Once September came around, however, school and religious education activities inevitably picked up.

Now as Vocation Director I live at the seminary and I am also the priest on campus at Rhode Island College. So the cycle of the academic year flowing into the summertime—and vice versa—continues. September 4 was our first full day here at the seminary, and now with all the seminarians back, we are in full swing.

From my point of view, then, my “new year” always begins as the academic year does. For many of you, it’s the same way. Your life is punctuated by the beginning and end of the academic year. So a fitting question to ask is what can I do differently this year to help me in my spiritual life? Put another way, what are my goals, particularly with regard to my relationship with Jesus Christ, as this “new year” begins?

Because the summertime has a more leisurely feel to it, it’s sometimes easy for us to slack in our spiritual life. So a good starting point for the new academic year is to resolve to pray more. Here are some practical ways to get your spiritual life back on track if you’ve slackened:

• In my last post, I wrote about the daily examen prayer. This is the type of prayer you may want to incorporate into your daily life: taking time each day to reflect on God’s action in your life and thanking him for all of the daily graces he gives to you.
• Another idea is to incorporate the daily reading of scripture into your life. It’s as simple as starting with the Gospel of Mark—the shortest of the gospels—and reading a little each day.
• Presuming you are attending Mass every Sunday, you might think about getting to Mass during the week as well, even if just once.
• Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation frequently is a wonderful practice. Think about going monthly.
• Praying the rosary and growing in your devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary will always lead you closer to Jesus Christ.
• Find a good spiritual book to read. It’s good to stay inspired. “He Leadeth Me” by Fr. Walter Ciszek is a book that I highly recommend.
• In the midst of the busyness of the academic year, resolve to spend some time in silence each day. Silence is something that many people try to avoid; however, it is in silence that our relationship with Christ deepens.

So, there you have it: some practical ways to grow in your relationship with the Lord. Remember, God has a plan for you. As your prayer life deepens, don’t be surprised if you experience a movement in your heart toward a particular vocation. It is in prayer that God will reveal the vocation to which you are called. Pay attention, then, to the stirrings of your heart, whether they are for marriage and family, priesthood, or religious life.


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