Dear Father John, It has always been my nature to do, do do. I volunteer and serve whenever, wherever I can and have always found I felt closer to the Lord when doing this. As I grow older, there is a lack of connection in my spiritual life and simply serving. While I do not want to give up all the volunteer time, I do want to try and slow down in order to find that spiritual connection again. Where do I start? How do I slow down?
In our first post, we discussed two ways we all can continue to do God’s work and still be able to deepen our intimacy with Him. This can be done by attending retreats and with daily mental prayer (Christian meditation). This post gives the final three examples.
No Lone Rangers
Third, spiritual direction. It is hard to find a spiritual director, but it is possible. God just likes to work in our lives through other human beings. This is his methodology. I won’t repeat all the advice we have given here about finding a spiritual director, I’ll just point you to some of our earlier posts – if you ask God to provide you with one and make a reasonable effort to find one, he won’t keep you waiting too long (or if he does, he will supply some kind of substitute). You may want to re-read some of these posts: Finding and Selecting a Spiritual Director; Who Should I Go To?; How Can I Determine if a Spiritual Director Is Faithful to the Church?
Fourth, spiritual reading. Spiritual reading fills your mind with light. It consists of regular reading of solid books that explain what it means to be a Catholic Christian. When I say regular, I mean daily – reading for fifteen or twenty minutes every day. Simply reading about the great, wonderful reality of who we are as adopted Children of God. Reading about the experiences of our older brothers and sisters in the faith – the lives of the saints. Reading solid guidance about how to grow in prayer, in virtue, in intimacy with God. Reading about God himself – commentaries on Scripture, on the truths of our faith… You may want to join our Book Club, or at least browse through all the great books that have been reviewed and recommended on the site.
Every day, our minds are bombarded with ideas and images that contradict, subtly or not-so-subtly, our Catholic world view. We need to intentionally counteract this secular tsunami. (This post gives a more thorough explanation of spiritual reading). You don’t have to finish every book you start. Just make the effort, and you will start finding books that really resonate, and these will provide the Holy Spirit more opportunities to instruct and illuminate your mind and heart. As much as we are fans of the Internet, reading posts online is not the same as reading solid books. Books go deeper. They give you more to mull over, even to meditate on. Our minds and hearts need time to digest the amazing truths of our faith; reading books helps give us that time. If you don’t know where to start, pick up a copy of Frank Sheed’s Theology and Sanity. It will turn around the way you see the world!
Fifth, Sunday and the liturgical seasons. Start living them the way you know you should, but never have been able to so far. Live the Lord’s Day as the Lord’s Day, not just as the last day of the weekend. Live the liturgical seasons and feasts, preparing for them, decorating the house for them, having special meals for them. In your question, you mention a desire to “slow down.” I would venture to say that instead of just slowing down the pace of your life, you need to Christify it. You need to gradually transition your life so that your external activities, your family life and friendships, and above all your own mind and heart, are following the rhythms of God’s time, and that’s the liturgical year. Our society doesn’t do this and never has – at least, not in our lifetimes. And so, we have no concept of the difference it can make when we govern our time by God’s time, instead of trying to squeeze time for God into our secular schedules. I know, this is hard. It seems impossible to live Sunday well, without frenetic activity. But believe me, living Sunday well is the first and necessary step to re-dimensioning the frenetic activity. To get you started, you may want to re-read this earlier post on the Sunday Obligation.
Those are five things you can do to begin this new chapter in your spiritual life. If it seems overwhelming, don’t fret! Just identify one step you can take to begin, and take it. Then identify one more step, and take it. You don’t have to implement them all over night. The important thing is to realize that your restlessness is not just a natural discomfort. Rather, it is the Holy Spirit at work in your heart, drawing closer to you, and calling you to seek him more ardently, to know him more intimately, and to love him more passionately.