There’s a lot of fad diets that Christians turn to in order to help them get into the spiritual shape they desire. The fad diet spirituality of yesterday, like Prayer of Jabez and others, are like a battery: they can provide an initial spark and some energy over time, but eventually they die out like the others.
Of course as Catholics we have a pretty good roadmap for our spiritual direction and sustenance: the Sacraments.
Baptism aids us by removing original sin and entering into the resurrection of Christ. In Confirmation, we receive the ‘blow’, which enables the Holy Spirit to work in, and with, and through us. The Eucharist is the “source and summit of our faith”. Our consumption of the bread is the real consumption of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Christ. There’s not a bigger act of faith we can make. Reconciliation brings us back into communion with God from spiritual death when we make our confession, act of contrition, and perform the satisfying penance given. For those who are called to it, Holy Orders allows for a life of service and governance in the Church, a supernatural society which is able to perform the previous ordinary sacraments. Like Holy Orders, those who are called to enter into Matrimony are responsible, truly, for the formation of the world. Finally, the sacrament of Extreme Unction prepares the soul for death with a combination of the administering of Penance and the Eucharist, to include a blessing of the five senses.
Together, these make up the best formula for a life of real spiritual success. However, when I became Catholic, even though I was attending daily Mass, receiving reconciliation, and going to adoration regularly, I was missing one very serious ingredient.
I was having some friends over for a late barbecue after Mass on a Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t any special occasion but it happened that the couple we had over were lifelong Catholics who had a huge influence in my conversion to Catholicism. Anything they said, I listened. Except for this one thing. I just wouldn’t.
At that time, nobody could touch my time. No way! I have always been the sole earner in my family, fulfilling a promise to my wife to be able to stay at home and raise our family when possible. We’ve made a lot of sacrifices to do that, and we’ve never lived a life of much luxury, so the principle I learned in college really set into my personal philosophy: “Time is money, and money is time.”
Nobody could touch my time, so what my friend was about to suggest didn’t fall on deaf ears, it fell on defensive ears.
“So Shaun, what are you doing later today?”
“Probably going to empty out the garage, clean it, and wash the cars, too.”
“Don’t you want to do those later in the week and enjoy your Sunday?”
“Well, I’d love that, but I have work to do during the week. My schedule is seriously full and I feel like to never get any time to do things like this until the weekend.”
“More important than your schedule, God wants you to leave this day for His purpose, which is rest.”
Argument started. But isn’t that a bit legalistic? How am I supposed to do absolutely NO work?
We went through just about every objection and counter-argument I could supply us with. We went on for about 30 or 45 minutes. Our wives… our poor wives. My poor wife! We’re sitting here having this great lunch, laughing, telling stories, sharing fun, and I’m just arguing away. No way is someone going to tell me what to do with my time, when I’m using my time for God! Right?! That’s the way I saw it. I was blogging, writing, sponsoring in RCIA, earning a Masters’ in Theology, trying to make a difference in the world—and I couldn’t clean my garage on a Sunday? Was that justice? Didn’t my work earlier in the week somehow earn me some time to keep my house clean? Really, though, doesn’t the work I do for my home fall into some sort of ‘good works’ category?
I had every excuse in the book, and I just wouldn’t hear my friend. Then he sort of reshaped his approach.
“Shaun, don’t you want the day off? If you could work all day or rest, reflect, and just have down time with your family, wouldn’t you do it?”
“Then why don’t you?”