A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘spiritual health


Planning a wedding, celebrating a new job, welcoming a newborn or an adopted child into our family, moving into a new home? If so, the solemnity of Ash Wednesday might seem at odds with our mood.

Think about this reading from Joel 2:12-13*:

“Yet even now,” says the LORD,

“return to me with all your heart,

with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;

and tear your hearts and not your garments.”

Wedding 300dpi BW

My maternal grandparents on their wedding day

Who could think of fasting or weeping or mourning at a joyful time? And yet that is what we’re called to do.

We don’t have to draw on memories of sadder times to get into the spirit of Lent; instead, we need to look into our hearts to see where a change is in order:

  • Do we focus on appearances, or are we genuine?
  • Are we proud of what we have or thankful for our blessings?
  • Do we judge those who are less fortunate or give to those in need? Do we give donations or volunteer our time to gain attention or to serve?
  • Do we take our spouse and parents for granted, or are we grateful for their love and support? Do we care for them in turn?
  • Do we encourage our children or nag them? Do we push our expectations for their lives or encourage them in their God-given gifts? Do we notice and comment only on acting-out behaviour or give them credit for the good character they show in working hard at school, getting along with siblings, doing their chores and being kind?
  • Do we focus on others’ mistakes and refuse to acknowledge or ask forgiveness for our own?
  • Do we attend Mass and receive the sacraments only occasionally, or do we receive them regularly to strengthen us?

If we do a spiritual self-check and think everything looks fine, maybe we need to ask the Spirit to show us where we might be failing our families, our friends, our faith or ourselves. Then, even in a time of great joy, we can enter into the spirit of Lent and begin to prepare our hearts to welcome the risen Lord at Easter.

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.”

~ Luke 3:4

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, 2nd Catholic Edition.)



How kind is our sacramental Jesus! He welcomes you at any hour of the day or night. His love never knows rest…By the reception He gives to you, one would think He has need of you to make Him happy.

~ St. Peter Julian Eymard, quoted in “Celebrate August 2015,” Catholic Digest, June / July / August 2015

Over the past couple of weeks, the three of us have worked hard to clean up the weeds in our yard—no mean feat, since the front and back gardens haven’t had enough attention this year.

Even on a cooler day, all that weeding and mulching leaves me feeling grubby. Somehow a shower never feels as good as when I’ve been working in the yard; it washes away the grime, soothes any sore muscles, and leaves me feeling clean and refreshed.

When I’d cleaned up after finishing my yard work on Saturday, I thought to myself that we should leave Mass feeling cleaner and refreshed in the spiritual sense.

When we come to Mass, do we lay our worries and cares before God? Really think about the reasons we need to ask God for his mercy? Mean it when we say that our soul will be healed if only Jesus says the word? Or are we just going through the motions?

Yes, the church might be very warm in the summer, and we might have weekend plans, but our focus should be on spending time with God. If we’re only warming the pew (or sitting in it, feeling warm), aren’t we missing the point?

We’re only human, and our minds might wander during the service, but we need to keep calling our attention back and be present or we’ll miss out on the joys the Mass holds for us: the blessing of God’s mercy and forgiveness, the truths in the homily, the wonder of Jesus’ coming to us in the bread and wine, the beauty of worshipping and serving as part of a community of faith.

I pray that, on these warm and humid days, we would be spiritually refreshed by our time spent in worship at Mass.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

~ Hebrews 10:19-22*

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Once a year, to keep up the warranty coverage, we need to have our upright piano tuned. And today was the day.

upright piano

Our freshly tuned piano

Some people might find it annoying to hear the same notes being struck over and over as the tuner checks the piano, but it doesn’t bother me. I know it’s necessary to keep this beautiful instrument playing well—or at least as well as I can play it. And when the piano tuner is nearly finished, he plays a song to check one last time that everything is as it should be. I love hearing what the piano can sound like when played by someone skilled.

All this got me thinking about the importance of tune-ups and maintenance. Just as we have our piano tuned, a vehicle serviced, or even our teeth checked, shouldn’t a spiritual tune-up be high on our to-do list?

We might not realize we haven’t spent much time with God lately until the feeling hits us that we’re in a spiritual desert. We know it isn’t healthy to wait to drink water until we feel very thirsty; why should we wait until we experience a dry spell to think about our spiritual health?

We could take a few moments to ask ourselves when we last did the following:

  • prayed other than during Mass or before a meal, such as a short prayer, the rosary, a chaplet or a novena
  • focussed on the scripture readings at Mass
  • listened to the homily and thought about how it applied to our lives
  • marvelled at Jesus’ presence in the bread and wine at Communion
  • received the sacrament of reconciliation
  • read the Bible outside of Mass
  • looked up something in the Catechism
  • made time for spiritual reading (the biography or autobiography of a saint; a papal encyclical; books about the Mass, Eucharistic adoration, or prayer; and so on)

Whether we’re cradle Catholics, converts or RCIA candidates, our spiritual life shouldn’t become just a habit, something we do without thinking. We talk about becoming like Jesus, not being like Jesus, and so we need to be engaged and committed to growing in the faith rather than choose to be comfortable where we are and stand still.

I pray that we would take a little time to look at where we are in our faith walk and ask God to show us how to move forward.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;

he makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

~ Psalm 23:1-3*

(*Scripture quote taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

We hear a lot about profit and loss, about companies in the black and in the red, about revenue and deficit—especially right now, with the federal government’s latest budget this week and the personal income tax deadline just around the corner.

Of course the state of our financial health as a nation and individually matters, but how about the state of our spiritual health?

We live in a country with abundant natural resources and a reputation for peacekeeping and compassion but where there is no law on abortion, where the ban on physician-assisted death has been struck down, where the statistics on missing and murdered women don’t give rise to the outrage and action they should.

Individually, we say we are Christians and serve in our parish and the community—but do we then fail to declare our income honestly on our tax forms, engage in cyberbullying, or watch pornography?

Jesus asks (in Mark 8:36-37*), “For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life?”

If we’re more concerned about accumulating money and acquiring possessions and living for pleasure than about pursuing justice and mercy and acting out of compassion and love, then our spiritual balance sheet will reflect that. And we could find ourselves at the Lord’s left hand, told to depart from him for our failure to minister to the hungry, the imprisoned, and others in need (see Matthew 25:41-43).

Now is the time to ask God’s forgiveness and his guidance in learning how to be in the world but close to God, as the apostle Paul urged (Romans 12:2):

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

I pray that we would turn our attention away from the world’s view of the good life to Jesus’ view so that the way we live will bring these welcome words at the end: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).

(*Scripture quotes and reference taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

Like many people, I work to find the right balance between meeting my nutritional needs and not depriving myself of the things I enjoy.

But how much attention do we give to nourishing our spirit?

  • Do we make time to read the Bible?
  • Do we have a Catechism (and maybe a YOUCAT if we have teens at home)—and refer to it?
  • Do we have books of prayers, including novenas and rosary prayers?
  • Do we make time to pray?

I said “make time to pray” rather than “take time to pray,” which makes prayer sound like something we fit in when and if we can. With the speed of our lives today, we can tell ourselves we don’t have time to pray when so much remains to be done before we can call it a day. We have to make the time because prayer is vital to our spiritual health.

As our body cannot live without nourishment, so our soul cannot spiritually be kept alive without prayer.

~ St. Augustine, quoted in “Celebrate February 2015,” Catholic Digest, January/February 2015

praying the rosary

Praying the rosary

So how can we make a little time for prayer?

  • Get up a few minutes early to place our day in God’s hands, or take a few minutes at bedtime to thank God for his blessings that day and pray about our concerns.
  • Use a prayer app on a phone or an MP3 player while on the bus heading to work, on a walk around the neighbourhood, or on the treadmill.
  • Pray the rosary as a family or gather for a brief prayer time before everyone goes to bed, encouraging children and youth to pray, too.
  • Arrive early at Mass, stay a few minutes after the service, or take part in Eucharistic adoration to pray in God’s house, if that makes it easier to focus.
  • Take part in a perpetual rosary, if the commitment helps make prayer more of a priority.

If we know we need to plan prayer time into our day to keep it high on our priority list, we can block it off in our planner, even adding an alarm if the planner is digital.

Whatever we need to do to make prayer time a part of our lives, I pray that we would not wait until Lent but start now, for our spiritual health.

Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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