SummaryMary Donellan offers that summer can be the perfect time to deepen our Spiritual Life with God. Here are four simple tried-and-true methods of her own!
Ahh . . . summer is finally setting in with all its hazy, humid, dehydrated glory!
Remaining schoolwork is shriveling away under its spell.
Everyone’s eyes are starting to glimmer with pool-pining. Graduations have been celebrated in fine style, vacations are on the horizon, and popsicles are currently the most popular dessert.
All this much-needed leisure is certainly beckoning to you hard-working homeschooling parents or students.
But do you ever feel a little nudging in your heart, as though you crave the slowness of summer for something even more than the barbeques and the luxuriously less-structured days (with the math textbooks finally stacked on the shelf for another year, thank ye heavens)?
Have you ever felt as though summer might be the perfect time to deepen your spiritual life a bit?
I want to change . . . but how?
I think it’s common for many of us to sense the transition of seasons (both natural and liturgical) as the best time to re-asses one’s spiritual life: to clean out those icky, dusty corners and pinpoint the areas that most need cultivation, pruning, and growth in holiness.
Perhaps our Creator intended from the beginning of time that the visible change in the natural world would ignite a desire for similar inner growth in our souls.
Lent and springtime are probably the most obvious launchpads for (at least attempted!) spiritual renewal for Catholics; and with late fall comes Advent and preparation for celebrating the birth of our Savior, which also seems appropriate for trying to get ourselves into better spiritual shape. But what about summer and Ordinary Time?
Sometimes it can feel as though summer is the time that most easily slips through our palms and leaves us waking up bleary-eyed at the beginning of the new school year, still feeling somewhat needful of spiritual refreshment in order to view algebra with gratitude. (It would take a whole lot of refreshment for me to get to that stage!)
We all want to change and become more dedicated to the pursuit of personal virtue; and the changing of seasons can sometimes most strongly remind us of this desire. Yet still we’re faced with the perennial question of how, exactly, do we do it?!
Well, it seems to me that countless saints have recommended very small steps when one wants to grow in holiness. And don’t small, gentle steps seem to melt perfectly into the hot, lazy days of summer?
With this in mind, I’m here to share four very simple ideas that the Holy Spirit dropped at different times on my own cluttered, winding path towards holiness.
No hair shirts or lentil diets here, you’ll be glad to hear: these were very small additions that required quite little actual time, and occasionally only a dash of spiritual bravery from yours truly.
I tried each of these seemingly tiny things and noticed a gentle but definite change within myself and my relationship with God as the habit grew. So here they are for your enjoyment!
1 . Choose one way to more deeply honor the Blessed Sacrament in your life.
There are so many different ways you can do this! But no matter the method, I can attest that this step, above all, can and does make a great difference in your spiritual life.
Making one extra effort to deepen your reverence toward Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is a beautiful and unerring way to draw closer to Him.
In my own spiritual journey, the step I took was to start practicing the very old and beautiful Catholic tradition of wearing a mantilla, or chapel veil, every time I was in the Presence of the Eucharist.
This was the idea that required that “dash of spiritual bravery” for me. My younger sisters had worn veils during Mass for a very long time, but I hadn’t taken to the idea very quickly at all. I was afraid I would be constantly distracted, or that I would distract or annoy others by wearing it.
But one day, I felt motivated to do some deeper reading on the subject. Once I discovered the tradition is not about how you, as a woman, look in front others, but rather is about personal reverence and submission to Christ, a door was opened in my heart that had been closed before.
And I believe that was the point all along: Christ wanted me to open my heart more to Him. And he wants this for you, too!
Discern and choose one simple, consistent way of more deeply honoring the Eucharist that speaks personally to you—whether it’s wearing a veil if you’re a woman, or receiving Communion on the tongue, or even just genuflecting more slowly—and you will begin to notice His Eucharistic love more keenly in your heart.
2 . Move one holy image in your home to a different place.
How many times does a feature of your home blend into nothingness (except maybe that Sharpie masterpiece on the wall by the dear toddler), merely because you’re so used to it?
This happened with a beautiful painting of the Madonna and Child in the bedroom that my sister and I share. It had been hanging over my bed for several years, but due to where my bed stood against the wall, I rarely ever looked at the picture.
One day, I had an impulsive moment of rearrangement inspiration, and I switched the painting to a different wall.
It was a small change, and I didn’t immediately hear angel choirs or feel as though I should drop to my knees every time I saw the picture. But Our Lady’s presence did seem to grow in the room over time.
Now, more often than not, if I’m praying in my room, I feel compelled to turn to the image and ponder our Blessed Mother lovingly caressing the Child Jesus in her arms.
Is there a holy image in your home that might be getting lost in the background? Consider bringing it out to a different location, and see if God doesn’t inspire you to ponder the good, true, and beautiful a little more because of its quiet presence.
3 . Pick one daily prayer to say on your knees.
It doesn’t matter when or where, but I have found that getting on my knees once a day has been a small, consistent reminder of the constant presence of God, and an encouragement to surrender myself to His Fatherly care.
Currently, I offer my short sequence of morning prayers while kneeling with my sister, but I know that doing this any time of the day, or with any prayer, would provide a similar grace.
Are there a few minutes of your day where your knees can hit the carpet and your head can bow in a simple prayer? Try to make kneeling once a day in prayer a habit, and see if you notice a little extra strength and spiritual orientation during your waking hours.
4 . Tape the definition of one virtue to your wall.
We have a family tradition that, at Pentecost, the six members of my family each randomly draw two of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit and work on those virtues for the year. (No, we do not pick them out for each other . . . although it can be tempting!)
This year, I felt inspired to print out my fruits/virtues and their corresponding definitions on pastel card stock and tape them up near my bed, where I can see them as I’m both waking and falling asleep.
Is there a virtue you feel God wants you to work after, whether patience or kindness or modesty? Type it up in a visually appealing way, along with a description of it that particularly moves your heart. Tape it up, ponder it as you pass . . . and see if you don’t notice the card cheering you on in hard moments!
Whether you try out one of these four ideas, or employ original steps of your own, let’s all work with the Holy Spirit and strive to make this summer a simple, gentle spiritual shift that will refresh our love for God before the new school year commences (and our beloved algebra returns)!