No spiritual director in sight – how can I keep growing spiritually in the mean time?
A: As you patiently continue looking and praying for a good spiritual director, God will continue to guide you through the other means for spiritual growth that the Church recommends. These are the some of the same items and activities that you would discuss with a spiritual director. If you make a decent effort to keep these plates spinning, the Holy Spirit will have plenty of room to work in your heart until he gives you a good spiritual director. These are the plates I am referring to:
- Participation in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and confession. It’s funny, but sometimes you run into people who claim to be enthusiastically pursuing spiritual growth, but who make little effort to receive frequent Holy Communion, spend some time regularly in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and go to confession (Although the Church only requires us to confess our mortal sins once a year, for someone like yourself, whom God is clearly drawing to a deeper intimacy, I would recommend at least a monthly confession – every 15 days is even better.).
- Daily prayer. A daily God-time is absolutely essential for spiritual growth. I would include both vocal and mental prayer. If you are not already doing this, I would start with a very realistic time commitment – 15 minutes of mental prayer in the morning would be plenty. If you can add a few minutes at night to prayerfully review how your day went, thanking God for his blessings, asking pardon for your sins, and renewing your desire to seek and serve Christ during the next day, that would be a big help.
- Spiritual reading. This is not the same as prayer. It consists in taking some time each day (or a few times a week) to read about the spiritual life. This is like fertilizer for the soul. If we are filling our minds with solid teaching about what it means to follow Christ and how to know, love, and imitate him better, our decisions and attitudes will gradually become more and more like his. What you are doing right now, for example, is spiritual reading. Some classic works that can be a good place to start include St Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life and Eugene Boylan’s This Tremendous Lover. (If any of our readers have some favorite spiritual reading books, I would ask them to share their recommendation with the rest of us!)
- Fellowship with people seeking to follow Christ more closely. Christianity is not a self-help method; it is a family affair. We were not meant to pursue holiness on our own, but together with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Developing friendships with others who have the same priorities as you do and are trying to live them faithfully helps keep the fire burning in your own heart, and actually makes it burn better. If you take a burning coal out of the hearth, it will lose its heat. But if you keep it in the hearth, in contact with the rest of the burning wood and hot coals, it will stay warm. If you can plug in to a faith-sharing or Bible study group that is truly focused on transformation in Christ, it will give exponential help to your growth in holiness.
- Service to others. Christianity is about redeeming the world, showing forth God’s goodness, rolling back sin and evil, and leading others to friendship with Jesus Christ. If we aren’t engaged in this activity, consciously and purposefully, we will be like those stultifying ponds that receive water from a stream but have no outlet. They become rank, clogged, and swampy. We want to be like a spiritual reservoir, constantly receiving new floods of God’s grace through our means of spiritual growth, and just as constantly sharing what we have received with others – grace flowing in, grace flowing out. That keeps our souls fresh, and gives God a chance to work more freely in and through us. This service could be directly religious, or it could be humanitarian. If you have a profession, this too can be supernaturalized, simply by offering your work to God for the good of your neighbor. Not everyone is called to be an explicit missionary, but everyone is indeed called to be actively engaged in the mission of spreading Christ’s Kingdom.
If this seems like too much, don’t fret. Just take baby steps in each area, gradually. The important thing is to get started and to keep going, not to break speed records. I will say a prayer for the success of your search for a spiritual director.
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