One of my favorite ways to enjoy runs is to listen to podcasts by Fr. Mike Schmitz. Sidebar: If you haven't discovered them yet, you just hit gold—you're welcome. Next to the pope, Fr. Mike might be the living Catholic I'd fangirl the hardest over meeting (man, I hope he reads this). Unfortunately, though, I burned through Fr. Mike's years worth of podcasts while I was training for my marathon, and he only releases new episodes once a week. So, I've recently found another captivating podcast that passes the miles, The Catholic Feminist Podcast. My favorite moments of each episode are when the host, Claire, asks her guests what has been bringing them closer to God lately. These women's answers either inspire me with new ideas or resonate with what I've been doing too. So, given that the results of the reader survey favored faith and relationships, you might take interest with what has helped me grow in my personal relationship with Jesus lately.
Get a prayer journal
Before I had a prayer journal, I would have an incredibly fruitful five minutes in the morning spent in prayer or an evening spent in Eucharistic adoration, but those moments felt like isolated instances. Now, my prayer journal serves as the "golden thread," as Fr. John Kartje would say, that weaves those seemingly "isolated moments" together. What do I mean?
Well, when I have an encounter with Jesus—whether that's at Mass, at Eucharistic adoration, sipping coffee on my couch praying, on a run, talking with a friend, or listening to worship music—I write it down. Regardless if I felt my prayer was "worthy" of writing down (i.e. even if those minutes had been "dry"), I would write down what happened as a letter (err, sometimes, a quick note) to Jesus. I wrote these posts almost like a diary I was writing to Jesus rather than just about Him. Writing "You" instead of "Jesus" increases the personalization aspect, like I am pen pals with Jesus. But I also use the journal to jot down notes from an awesome homily at Mass (or a Fr. Mike podcast), important points from spiritual direction, and lists of worship music.
This process of journaling through prayer helps quiet my mind from the voices reminding me what I "should" be doing. I have no doubt that is the devil trying to distract me from time spent with Jesus, sending me little lies that the miles I need to run, the laundry I need to fold, or the paper I need to write are more important than this time. I've spent far too much of my life believing those lies and prioritizing such things above Jesus. The act of writing down what I just prayed about or heard from God helps me process what God is trying to tell me in this sacred moment. Often, I go to jot down a few notes from prayer and the pen ends up flowing across the page with realizations and truth.
Very quickly, I realized that I could look at these prayer journal entries and see the golden thread that Fr. John was talking about. God was speaking to me day to day, connecting the dots. My prayer began to flow from one day to the next, like a conversation being picked up where we left off. It is not always perfectly logical or linear, but that is the way God works. Looking back over each prayer entry helps me literally see my spiritual journey: where God has spoken to me and answered my prayers, often in ways I didn't even realize at the time.
(Psst - if you need a cute journal, see the bottom of the page!)
Prayer as a part of a daily routine
For our New Years resolutions this year, Anthony (my husband) and I vowed to make prayer a part of our daily routines. Not the say-three-Our-Fathers-on-your-way-out-the-door-prayer, but prayer which we get out of bed, sit down with a cup of coffee, and make intentional time for. Yes, this requires us to get up earlier or sacrifice reading that article or skip the scroll through Facebook in the morning, but it has been so worth it.
For both of us, if we don't pray in the morning, the day seems to get away from us. Plus, I've found how centering I feel after starting the day with Jesus. I'm not implying I walk around in a meditative state, but continually starting my day with a conversation with Jesus has left me feeling neither under- nor overwhelmed. My mood isn't determined by the external happenings; I don't have to be rocked by the waves of the day.
I've tried murmuring a quick Hail Mary—hail, a whole decade of them!—before walking into an organic chemistry final as I scarf down a banana. That's not what I'm talking about here. That is not going to bring me the peace of the Holy Spirit. It's the consistent, daily, dedication to prayer, regardless of what my schedule holds that hones the fruits of the Spirit.
Find a prayer buddy
Now, like any human ever, I'm not perfect. I fail to set that time aside for prayer some days. But thankfully, I have a prayer buddy. An accountability partner and fellow traveler on your road to Christ, a prayer buddy is someone you can talk to about your faith journey. This person might be your sibling, spiritual director, classmate, roommate, or spouse. In fact, all of these people have been my "prayer buddy" at some point in my faith journey, though we may never have used that term to describe our relationship.
I often tell people the most important person I met at Northwestern was Fr. John Kartje—remember, I did not meet Anthony at Northwestern ;) Fr. John was the chaplain at the Newman center there, who became my spiritual director, my husband's spiritual director, the priest who did our marriage prep, and eventually married us—with a killer homily to boot! Before Anthony was ever in the picture, Fr. John was my "prayer buddy" as my spiritual director. I checked in with him every two weeks or so about what had been coming up in prayer and how it relates to my life. As more space has come between us and more time between spiritual direction sessions, Anthony naturally has become my primary "prayer buddy," and I his.
Not only do we encourage and help each other to set time aside for prayer, but, importantly, Anthony and I authentically discuss what comes up in our prayer, spiritual direction, or even reconciliation. Put most basically, we consistently discuss our faith journeys with one another. I've said before how, as Catholics who have been called into a sacramental marriage, we believe our primary goal is to get each other to heaven. So, discussion about our respective personal relationships with Jesus should be very relevant and vital to our marriage and our individual well-being.
You probably don't have to think too hard about who your prayer buddy is or could be. Who is that person to whom you naturally open up about your faith? Who would you be willing to open up to? Maybe you can share these thoughts with them so you two are on the same page, and you can even set up times to talk about your faith journeys if that time doesn't present itself naturally. You can send each other "accountability reminders" or read and discuss a devotion together (I love the daily ones from Blessed is She). It doesn't have to be overly ritualized, "for where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst" (Matthew 18:20).