2/12/2017 12:00 AM
Last week, in talking about the release of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, I realized that one of the main challenges that we can face as disciples in the midst of the world is staying connected to the power of the same Spirit. There is the ‘Post Retreat High’ that can occur when someone has a mountain top experience and they are thriving on that spiritual adrenaline, yet as Peter, James and John have to eventually come down from Mt. Tabor, we have to eventually come down from that spiritual high as well.
And honestly, the real work of growing in holiness does not happen during those mountain top experiences, rather it fostered more in the day to day toil of life, the day to day struggle to put my faith into action in the real world, when the temptation to hit the snooze button one more time is all too present…
This is where the life of prayer takes on that deeper fruitfulness. This is where prayer grows, when despite that inclination to do otherwise, we rise, we get up and spend those few moments in reflection with the Mass Scriptures for that day, or we keep the radio off on the commute and pray a rosary, or at the end of the day we ask Jesus to walk back through the day with us to see where He was present.
Surprisingly, one of the best sources for how to grow in a prayer life is the Catechism of the Catholic Church, specifically in Section Four: Christian Prayer. It is the shortest of the four sections of the Catechism; but yet also perhaps the most beautiful section, as we are led through the various types of prayer that have been handed down to us before looking at the life of prayer in general. My favorite part of this section, however, comes from paragraph 2725 and following: the Battle of Prayer:
“Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.”
The effort that is required for prayer often surprises those who are knew or trying to rediscover their prayer life. That effort never ceases, even for those who are well schooled in prayer, hence why priests are required to take an annual retreat, so that we can focus our efforts on growing in prayer that might have lapsed over the last year.
This battle to grow in prayer is waged on two fronts: against my own inner weaknesses and against the wiles of the evil one who seeks to distract from a growing prayer life. When we hit those distractions that inevitably come, we learn from the saints to refocus our attention and recommit to the action that is before us.
Having mentioned a yearly retreat, I leave on Monday for my annual retreat. If you could, please spare a prayer for me that I might grow deeper in love with the Divine Master, so that I can be a better shepherd of souls in these two wonderful parishes!
Fr. Kyle Schnippel
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