Personal spirituality is a topic that is often not discussed between Catholics. Often, the people you see at Mass on Sunday are there to fulfill their obligations and personal spirituality is for the most part foreign to them. Others have spiritual directors that assist them to chart the navigational course of the many methods of deepening oneself in Catholic spirituality while others suggest ritual methods of achieving a deeper spirituality.

As a Catholic, my spirituality is both personal and communal, namely participation in the celebration of the Eucharist. Far too often, Catholics do not recognize the Eucharist as the ultimate source of spiritual growth. Frequent participation in the Eucharist allows us to develop a deeper union with Christ, a deeper union with the Church and a deeper relationship with out fellow Catholic. All these aspects hinge intrinsically with the Eucharist. As Catholics we need to renew our devotion to Christ’s Presence which is made possible with the Mass and is the ultimate sacrament that unites us with the People of God on many levels of existence.

The Eucharist is transcendent, that is, it spans beyond our human comprehension of space and time. Eucharistic celebrations link all of us in a relationship with those that have gone before us in death, the living members of the Church and those faithful people that are yet to come. Wow, what an extraordinary mouthful to explain the Mass. However, our human notions of spirituality in Catholicism are intrinsically linked to the celebration of the Eucharist and all forms of Catholic spirituality emanate from the Eucharist.

Perhaps we need to spend more time at Mass participating in the celebration of the liturgy, not because we are forced to participate, but because it reflects our most solemn beliefs in how we believe, what the Church believes through the celebration of the Sacraments. There is an axiom in sacramental theology, “Lex orandi, lex credendi,” “The Church prays as the Church believes!” This axiomatic link clearly illustrates that our communal expressions of prayer are existentially linked to the manner in which we as Catholics celebrate the faith through our Eucharistic celebration. This applies not only to the celebration of the Eucharist, but to all the ritual and devotional actions we celebrate and participate in as Catholics.

Throughout the centuries, Catholics saints have the love of the Eucharist as their common denominator, hence setting them as models for us to emulate. We are indeed fortunate to have the Body and Blood of Christ at our disposal in the Eucharist as the ultimate resource as the cornerstone of our personal and communal place from which to develop our individual and personal understanding of Catholic spirituality. A place to start the development of spirituality is quite simple, participate and attend Mass as the quintessential focus of human spirituality and everything else will logically fall into place.

In addition to participation in and reception of the Eucharist, activities that focus on adoration of the Blessed Sacrament are beneficial spiritual exercises with which to deepen one’s personal relationship with God, the Church and Christ Himself. Whenever one spends time, alone, with the Blessed Sacrament it is an opportunity for Christ to speak to each of us and touch our hearts to follow His plan for us as His followers in the Church. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was introduced in the United States on a regular basis by Saint John Neumann. The period of parish adoration of the Eucharist came to be established as Forty Hours devotion in the then Diocese of Philadelphia and has continued without fail ever since Saint John Neumann introduced it during his tenure as Bishop of Philadelphia.

Catholic spirituality is something that demands daily work on achieving and maintaining if one expects to develop a deeper relationship with God. Additional ways to celebrate the faith are the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church’s daily prayer for the collective People of God and praying the Holy Rosary daily.

The Liturgy of the Hours is prayed at morning prayer, evening prayer and night prayer. Those in Holy Orders, namely bishops, priests and deacons are required by law to celebrate other hours of the Liturgy of the Hours. These few, morning and evening prayer are considered the, “hinge,” hours and night prayer, culminates the prayers for the day. Each Hour is composed of psalms, a reading from either the Old or New Testament, Intercessions for the Church and a concluding prayer. An important point regarding the Liturgy of the Hours is that it is what is considered as the, “Official Prayer,” of the Church and is celebrated globally by clergy and laity alike. So, while you recite the prayers, extracted from the Psalms you are doing so with other faithful groups of Catholics throughout the world. So, it is indeed both a communal and common prayer, shared by the Church to foster a deeper understanding of the faith through communal prayer.

The Holy Rosary is of course another method of prayer that most Catholics are familiar on a regular basis. It is repetitive prayer, invoking God the Father, (The Our Father,), Mary (The Hail Mary,) and the Trinity (Glory be…) as the intrinsic components to the Holy Rosary. Beginning with the Apostles Creed, the Rosary marks pivotal events in the life and death of Christ through the Sacred Mysteries. It is both a meditative method of prayer that is most often said alone, but can be celebrated in a group, aloud with others alternating prayers between themselves. Approved apparitions of the Virgin Mary have the Rosary in common because Mary requests by Mary have always required that the People of God pray the rosary for Her intervention with Her Son, Jesus for the benefits of mankind. Popes, religious and saints alike have consistently in the history of the Church advocated the rosary as one of the primary tools for deepening Catholic spirituality as both individuals and collectively as the Church.

Finally, spiritual reading is a manner to deepen one’s personal spirituality. Reading works authored by the saints, are excellent places to start when beginning spiritual reading to deepen the faith. When read in the context of the saints’ lives and personal experiences in deepening their relationship with God one could not ask for a more powerful manner than studying the saints as the way to deeper spirituality. The documents of the Church are also constructive towards deepening one’s faith. The documents of the Second Vatican Council immediately come to mind as works worth reading to deepen a personal understanding of the way the Church has evolved, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the contemporary Catholic Church we have today. They are filled with scriptural references that are key to deepening personal spirituality. Most importantly, last but not the least, reading Sacred Scripture as the vehicle for developing a deeper faith in the Church celebrates Christ, the Word of the Father. Sacred Scripture is another manifestation of Christ’s Presence. The Word of God as we have it in the Old and New Testaments is a redaction of the history of salvation, namely God’s presence in all human existence from creation until the end of time as is manifested in the Book of Revelation. Praying with and prayerfully reflecting on Sacred Scripture provides God’s inspired WORD as the best tool for deepening personal spiritual aspirations of the Catholic faith.

However, one chooses to deepen one’s personal understanding of the sacred mysteries of the Catholic faith each one has the potential to make all of us …saints. The fervor with which we deepen our relationship with God through the Sacraments, most importantly the Eucharist and the Word will pay all of us back a thousand-fold. We are all on a spiritual journey of faith in relationship to God, the Church and the Sacraments. The resources are there for us to take advantage of and they are without monthly membership fees or charges. All that the Father asks, with Jesus and the Church is that we, “Pray always, “until we achieve eternal life in Christ and the Church.
 

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