Ever heard someone say, “I’m a spiritual person, but I’m not religious”? Well…really? I’m always struck by the wording. It sounds as if the person is really saying, “I believe in something bigger than myself, but I don’t subscribe to any organized religion’s way of explaining it.”
Every human being, because we’re moral decision makers and we have the ability to choose right from wrong, has a spirituality. Our spirituality is really just how we’re present to the world.
In a recent interview on Relevant Radio’s Morning Air show, Fr. Michail Ford, O.P. discussed Catholic spirituality and devotions as very accessible ways to bring God into our lives and build a stronger relationship with Him.
It seems people who make a distinction between being a spiritual person and being a religious person assign some value to following particular religious practices. Similarly, Aristotle is quoted for having said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Our spirituality, Fr. Ford says, isn’t about the things we do, but rather the reason we do them; it’s out of love for God. And if we can commit to small devotions on a regular basis, we can allow God’s grace to come into our lives and we can ingrain a mindset in us that gives us strength to not despair when our lives are difficult.
“Sometimes we hear the term Catholic devotions and we think it’s something that takes up all of our time, but the truth is that our lives as Catholics are filled with devotions we don’t even think about,” Fr. Ford said. “A Catholic devotion is anything we do outside of the celebration of the sacraments that helps us grow in our faith. That opens up all kinds of possibilities.”
Some of these devotional practices include the recitation of the rosary or the simple act families commit each day when they sit down to pray before a meal. Devotional practices are ways we allow God to enter into our daily life. In these ways, we’re focused on keeping God front and center in our minds more than on the action itself.
As Morning Air host, Glen Lewerenz pointed out, many workplaces in states such as Minnesota even make accommodations for immigrant Muslims to stop and pray five times a day. That should inspire us to reconsider the way we use—or lose our own time.
“It’s not a huge commitment,” Fr. Ford said. “It’s taking any amount of time, say instead of checking your Facebook account for the 15th time in a particular day, you just say a prayer. That starts to ingrain a habit into your life. It might be a little difficult or unsettling at first, but once you start living that virtuous life and allow God to come into it more often, everything changes. It really makes a big difference in our lives.”
Although the once-popular theory claiming it takes 21 days to establish a new habit has come under fire in recent years, everyone seems to agree building new habits [or breaking old ones] is quite difficult. For newcomers, Fr. Ford suggests picking up a particular Saint as your prayer partner and asking him or her to pray with and for you.
As the director of the Dominican Shrine of St. Jude Thaddeus, Fr. Ford regularly encourages Catholics to lean on the saints for support.
“Whenever I can, I will speak with any grade school, high school, or university on the subject of devotions just to show people it’s not a big, scary thing that takes up all of your time. It’s actually something that helps you grow in your faith,” Fr. Ford said. “Devotions are making a comeback and we’re starting to see a lot more young people involved. There is a hunger blossoming for ways to explore and deepen our faith. The growth is there and it’s real.”
“Recently, we’ve been pushing this away, saying it’s part of the old Church and we don’t need it anymore,” he added. “But for thousands of years, Catholic devotional practices have been helping people grow in their faith, so we need to help get the word out about that to more young people. They need to know what prayer is about and how they can incorporate it into their daily lives. A lot of times, they’re already doing it, but we’re trying to shift their focus from what they do to why they do it.”
Excerpts from this article were taken from an interview during the July 7, 2015 Morning Air broadcast on Relevant Radio. The interview podcast can be heard online at http://relevantradio.streamguys.us/MA%20Archive/MA20150707c.mp3
To learn more about the Ministries of St. Jude, visit www.the-shrine.org or call 312.226.0020.