Each time I get ready to go out anywhere, I check my pockets for the same items. Subconsciously, I think of these items as “the essentials”. I need my keys to drive, to get into work, and to get back home. My wallet carries all essential information about me and is, basically, my only means of paying for and buying things. And my phone, of course, allows me both navigation and communication. If I forget any of these things, I usually can’t make it very far. I would wager a bet that most people today have a similar check list for themselves.
And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light. LUKE 16:8
In Luke’s Gospel, Christ remarks that the people of God are clever when it comes to worldly matters. We often act with wisdom and craft to assure our welfare, our happiness, and our comfort. Yet, is it not also true that we may neglect ourselves when it comes to our spiritual lives?
Leaving Home Spiritually Prepared
Sometimes, perhaps more often than not, we leave home ill-prepared. We can go about our day failing to take inventory of our interior lives and our deeper spiritual needs. This may result from our own neglectfulness or from a mere lack of experience. If we do not know what our spiritual lives require, then we will likely fail to be well prepared.
With this in mind, I would like to offer a spiritual check-list of sorts. Of course, I am only proposing a simple set of suggestions. This is by no means the standard which anyone should feel judged against. If any of it strikes you as particularly helpful or unhelpful, take or leave it as you like. Consider discussing it with a confessor or spiritual director.
First item: A daily offering
By taking a few moments to prayerfully offer the experiences of our day, we remind ourselves that each day is a gift from God. We recall as well that even the hard times we face can be opportunities to grow in holiness. A daily offering can come in a variety of forms. For those who pray the liturgy of the hours, the Invitatory psalm may serve this purpose. A practice such as the Three Hail Marys devotion may be another great option. And of course, there is no problem with a more personal, spontaneous offering. Any prayer which helps us to invite God into our day and offer to Him our trials is worth praying.
Second item: a daily examination
Saint Ignatius prescribes the practice of taking time at the end of each day to examine where God has acted and how we have responded. While this includes us recalling our sins, we should also see where we have responded rightly and in grace. This practice is more than the examination of conscience prior to the sacrament of confession. It allows us to grow closer to the Lord by acknowledging and thanking Him for working in us. It allows us to gain a heightened sense of spiritual awareness as we continue to go forward.
Third item: intercessory prayer of the saints and angels
As Catholics, we acknowledge the ability of the heavenly host to pray for us and guide us in our lives. We are able therefore to ask the saints and angels for their prayers and guidance. By devotion to the saints, especially by imitating their virtue, we follow them in the path of holiness which leads us to the Lord.
I recommend that each of us discern particular saints whose examples might resonate with us. I personally have found special devotions to Saint Francis Xavier and Saint Joseph, among others. Our Blessed Mother, of course, is the Queen of the Saints and the closest to Our Lord in Heaven. Her prayers and the prayers of all the saints help to guide us daily. Therefore, I think it important that we remind ourselves to ask them daily for intercession.
The Goal of a Check List
In the same way that my keys, wallet, and phone are important, these spiritual practices are essential for me to check each day. The daily offering, like ignition keys, allows me to initiate my means of progress in grace. Offering my whole day to God allows grace to enter into my work and home life. Like the wallet carrying my ID and money, the practice of a daily examination helps me to recognize my identity in God. It also allows me to repay Him in thanks for working in my life and in reparation for my failings. Finally, praying for the help of the saints reflects the communication which my cell phone enables. Like a GPS or map app, I can follow their guidance in the spiritual life as I walk on my journey towards the Lord.