In his book, “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic,” Matthew Kelly outlines the common qualities the highly engaged Catholics who do the vast majority of the leading, volunteering and contributing within the church hold in common.
At the top of the list is prayer. No surprise there. When we examine the life of Jesus, it is clear his prayer relationship with the Father was the source and center of everything he did. So it must be for us as his disciples.
Kelly talks a lot about a prayer routine. The Catholics who are truly serious about daily prayer usually do it at the same time, in the same place and in the same way every day.
They may go to morning Mass and spend some time in quiet beforehand. They may sit in a comfortable chair in the living room and pray the Scriptures. They may pray the same prayers out of a book when they come home from work every day.
Many people pray when they need to ask the Lord for a favor or when they feel particularly inspired, but the discipline of a regular, day in, day out prayer life requires commitment and continuity.
Kelly also talks about “prayer giants,” individuals who wrapped their marriages, families, parishes and work places in a loving mantle of powerful prayer. Anyone serious about Catholic discipleship probably has someone in his or her life – a grandparent, a friend, a mother or father, a co-worker – who has prayed and loved him or her toward a stance of faith. Such spiritual power carries down the generations within families.
We stand spiritually on the shoulders of our ancestors who often heroically lived the faith. Of course, the challenge for us is to become that “prayer giant” for the people in our lives.
The book discusses the crisis of prayerlessness, the fact that many people, including many good and committed Catholics, have never actually developed an active prayer life. We may claim to be too busy to find the time, but who can’t spend 10 minutes a day in silent dialogue with the Lord?
Perhaps the more fundamental reason is the fact that, despite all of the talking we do about prayer, we seldom teach people how to actually pray or to find a spiritual practice that “works” for them.
When someone asks me how he or she should start to pray, I usually suggest beginning with the Gospel of Mark or the Gospel for Mass that day, sitting down, reading it meditatively and thinking about what the Lord is saying through that passage. What word, phrase or idea stands out? How can I act on that message today? Imagine what would happen if every Catholic did this.
Kelly talks about the need for silence in our lives filled with so much noise and activity. We need silence and solitude to refocus, pray and think about the real significance of the recent events of life, see the big picture, correct our perspective, slow down.
Without such experiences, our reserves of compassion, love, purpose, faith and sanity become depleted. The current frenetic pace of life is out of balance and we see the consequences of it in the alarming rates of anxiety, stress, depression, and even violence.
Last January, I heard Kelly speak about “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic.” I was so motivated by his thoughts that I purchased 5,000 copies and have been promoting the book ever since. In a practical and concrete fashion, Kelly shows all of us how to deepen our engagement with the Lord, our faith and the church through some very simple practices.
Imagine if every Catholic went to Mass every Sunday, prayed for 10 minutes a day, went to confession once a month, volunteered for one thing at the parish, studied the faith for 15 minutes a day and did one specific action for the poor.
What if each one of us intentionally cultivated the faith in one other person in our lives? After all, disciples go and make other disciples! I strongly encourage you to read Kelly’s book. It could be a game changer.