Sunday, November 10, 2002

it didn't quite get done for Saturday, but here it is:

Spiritual Fitness Level Two, for advanced beginners

If you still need to see and start level one, the program is here, and the reasons behind the program are here.

I did promise to provide a level two exercise program. But, please, promise me in return, especially those of you who are real beginners at praying, that you'll stick with level one for at least a couple of months before proceeding? Please? Those of you for whom this is a refresher course or rehab may be ready sooner. Do not proceed until you are praying morning offering and night review without difficulty either in the praying or in the remembering-to. Let the prayer habit get solidly established --- don't go running ahead before the foundation's solid.

That said: here's level two, spiritual workout for advanced beginners.

First: continue all the exercises of level one. The goal is to build a lifelong habit pattern; don't stop now! Also, is it time for Confession again? Is there some problem that keeps coming up when you review your day each bedtime, some besetting sin or fault, that needs or could use some confessional grace?

Second: find a fifteen minute piece of time after breakfast and well before bedtime. We're looking for prime, well-awake time for this. Also, consider a time where, after a while, the fifteen minutes can expand to a half-hour. Seated comfortably with good lighting for reading [eyestrain is not the goal!], read, slowly and thoughtfully, the Sacred Scriptures. Read them out loud if that's what it takes in order to slow down. A good way to begin is with the lectionary readings for each day. These are available on the internet at "the journey" (citations only, grab your favorite Bible) and at the USCCB site (full text, NAB). There's also a wonderful little magazine called Magnificat, the world's best missalette, available by subscription, that has all the readings in full text and lots of other helpful stuff besides. _Do_not_ just pick up a Bible and start at Genesis 1:1. People who try that tend to give up somewhere in Leviticus' rubrics or in Numbers' censuses, and we do not want to give up.

The goals of this exercise are to spend even more time with the One we want to love and to learn about Him and His ways, His history and promises, what He likes and what is detestable to Him. How can we come to live in a way pleasing to our Beloved if we don't even know what might please Him? So we're going to spend some time observing and studying and learning and watching, then we will begin to know.

Third: find a spiritual friend and/or a regular confessor. There's only so far that an unknown disenbodied internet voice can take you. There's only so far you can go with a book. To proceed beyond this point, you need a guide who knows you. Every one of us is different, and the way we will love and serve the Lord will be as different as we are. The person you are looking for is someone you can trust, therefore you will not lie to them or pretend things are okay when they aren't. They need to be discrete, not prone to gossipping; and wise enough to admit when they don't have an answer; and they should be at least one step ahead of you on this journey, if possible. Be patient, it may take a while to find the person who can help you in this way, but when you find that person, you will know it.

You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole soul, and your whole mind.

Why did God make me? God made me to know Him, and to love Him, and to serve Him, and to be happy with Him forever and ever in heaven.
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