A modern examination of conscience. (But not too modern… we’re loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church here!)
This month we round up our focus on the three theological virtues with a challenge in charity. Jesus shows us the importance of charity when He sums up the ten commandments with only two commandments of love.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength. [And] you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:30-31
This is the definition and essence of charity (CCC 1822).
St. Paul also points to the lasting value of charity. “There are in the end three things that last: faith, hope, and love, and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Cor 13:13
So we’ll devote two whole months to cultivating this virtue. Love of God in March, and love of neighbor in April.
In March, we’ll learn how to dispose ourselves to receiving God’s love fully, what it means to love Him in return, and how to show God our love.
We’ll avoid the sin of irreverence: treating God and all things dedicated to Him with casualness or disrespect.
Like St. Augustine says:
Love is itself the fulfillment of all our works. There is the goal; that is why we run: we run toward it, and once we reach it, in it we shall find rest. CCC 1829
Let’s run towards love this month!
Choose God First
Love the Lord your God with all your heart.
- Choose to follow the commandments. In John 15:10 Jesus says, “You will live in my love if you keep my commandments.” We all have a choice. We never sin by accident. So we can start our journey to charity by choosing to follow the commandments. And we can even go further by choosing what’s better or best over what’s good.
- Go to confession. We must strive to follow the commandments perfectly, but our human nature is weak. Sometimes we fall out of God’s friendship. But when that happens, don’t block God out. Restore yourself to God’s friendship through the sacrament of confession. He’s waiting there to shower you with grace. Return to His love.
- Practice reverence. How would you treat your 200 year old, hand-painted, blown-glass lamp: the family heirloom that’s been passed down through the generations? You would be super careful, put it up high, make a “don’t-throw-balls-in-the-house” rule. You make sure your valuables are protected. We should treat what’s spiritually valuable with as much, or even more, care and respect. We should show God we think He’s important, that our hearts value him. Have reverence for God. Respect His name and all that belongs to Him. Bow your head at Jesus’ name, sign yourself with the cross when you pass a church, place rosaries and religious statues in prominent places in your home. Cultivate reverence in your daily life.
- Leave room in your heart. Our lives are filled to the brim. We have stuff packing every spare corner of our homes, and activities crowding every spare minute of our schedules. It can be easy to think we don’t have room for God. That we’re too busy with other things. We need to remember our hearts belong to God; they belong to Heaven. Take some time to reflect on the things filling your life – are they stealing your heart? If so, detach. Make some room in your heart for God.
Think About God
Love the Lord your God with all your mind.
- Learn about God. My brothers and sisters always tell me they “love” Agents of Shield. But I’ve never watched that show. I don’t know anything about it. So I don’t love it. I might love it if I watched it, but I just don’t. We can’t love something or someone we know nothing about. So take some time to get to know God better. Read about Him in the Bible. The more you know Him, the more you’ll be able to love Him.
- Pray. How often do you talk to your best friend? If you’re like me, you text bomb your friend all day every day. God is closer to us than even our best friend. We should talk to Him more often than Christmas and Easter. More often than Sunday Mass. We should prayer bomb Him all day every day. Keep in touch with God.
- Meditate. And sometimes, texting my friend isn’t enough. We need to get together and have a heart-to-heart. We need a good long talk over a pot of coffee to help us keep our friendship deep and fruitful. We need that strong connection with God, too. We need to delve into our relationship with Him. Try to make time for meditation, for deep conversation with God at least once a week.
- Don’t let your tank run dry. My favorite Catholic radio speaker talks a lot about marriage. He says we need quality time to keep our relationship healthy. So immediately I think of date nights. But he says date night is not good enough. He likens it to “drinking from the fire hose.” Wouldn’t sipping from a glass all day long be preferable? Don’t drink from the fire hose in your marriage or in your relationship with God. Don’t let your tank run dry. Make sure you’re keeping your capacity to love alive and hydrated with frequent time set apart for God.
Love the Lord your God with all your soul.
- Joy, not happiness. You ever wonder how St. Maximilian Kolbe was able to sing hymns in the starvation bunker? How Joan of Arc held on to her faith through the persecutions at the hand of the bishop? How Cecilia preached to thousands with her head half chopped off? They had the gift of joy in the midst of the most unhappy circumstances. Joy comes from the knowledge that God created us, and our confidence in our dependence on Him. (CCC 301) Joy resides in the soul. It allows us to act despite the physical circumstances we may be in. It upholds us in the face of life’s woes. Even in the midst of persecution, suffering, trials, sadness and depression, we can hold on to joy. In your moments of unhappiness, look beyond your body. Search your soul for joy.
- God-centered down time. We often fill the silence with meaningless noise: music, movies, activities, chit-chat. These things bring us momentary happiness, but always leave us needing more. Instead, fill the down time in your life with God-centered sounds: religious music, faith-centered movies, prayer, and Godly discussion. Feed your soul in the ins and outs of your daily life.
- Share God. We all know the story of the good shepherd who left the 99 sheep to chase after the one lost sheep, and rejoiced to find it and bring it home. We know this parable is about the conversion of lost souls. Seeing a loved one come to know God is one of the greatest joys in life. So don’t be afraid to shamelessly proclaim your love for God. Tell of all the good He’s done in your life – how He fulfills you. And pray for God’s love to enter your friend’s heart, so you may rejoice at her homecoming!
- Don’t chase happiness. Lately, I’ve been depending on caffeine-laden iced coffees and sugary treats to keep me going throughout the day. But my doctor told me the crashes were doing more harm than the highs were helping. Now, she has me on a healthy diet and exercise regime. We crash and burn when we seek artificial happiness. When we look for quick fixes – empty fillers – for our spiritual deficits. Seek God first. Care for your body and your soul if you want true, lasting happiness.
Make Time for God
Love the Lord your God with all your strength.
- Clear your schedule. We live in a hectic culture. We have sports, activities, and commitments that compete for our time. We rush from one thing to the next all day long until we crash into bed exhausted at the end of the day, without a moment of time for God. We need to remember God comes first. Everything else is secondary. So clear your schedule. Plan time for God. Then fill in the gaps with whatever else brings you joy. It’ll be tough, but you need to say, “No,” to the things that distract you from God.
- Persevere. It’s hard to make time to do the right thing. It’s even harder when we’re tired or just don’t feel like it. But lucky for us, faith is not about feelings. Our faith is a faith of action. Persevere in doing the things that allow God to give you grace. Be committed to going to Mass, communion, and confession. Pray even when you don’t feel like it. Loving God is not a feeling. It’s a choice.
- Fight for your Faith. Relationships require work and commitment, especially during the hard times. If you’re experiencing doubts, it’s not time to give up. It’s time to fight. Time to pray louder. Time to work harder. Time to show God you’re committed. He’ll never give up on you. Don’t give up on Him. Fight for a friend’s faith, too. God calls all of us to holiness. Pray for a friend in need. Lead her to the Church. Show her the Truth, and God will take care of the rest.
- Don’t be hectic. When we get caught up in our worldly cares: what we’re going to eat or drink or wear, we become hectic. Anxious. We lose our focus on what matters most. Don’t let your worldly cares and to-do list distract you from God. Love God, and then do what you need to do today. Tomorrow will take care of itself. (Mt 6:24 – 34)
Take the Challenge:
Are you ready to grow in charity? Let’s get started! Here’s what you need to do:
- Prepare. Reread this post carefully and reflect on what it means in your life. Print out your materials and place them in convenient places in your home.
- Every morning, start the day with prayer (find it on your Nightstand Guide).
- Throughout the day, use your Fridge Guide to help integrate Love of God into your life. Your Fridge guide has brief reminders, and some bonus extras (like an indulgenced prayer – woot!).
- Every evening, pray the nightly Examen (find it on your Nightstand Guide). This is a step-by-step review of your day, including praying for forgiveness, and resolving to do better tomorrow.
- Before confession (or weekly at least), prayerfully read the Examination of Conscience. Reflect, not only on your sins and failings, but also on how God has blessed you with growth in virtue!
Download Your Free Printables:
This Virtue Challenge is going to change your life! I pray God gives each of you (and me too, I need this) the grace you need to grow in Love of God, to avoid the sin of irreverence, and to become the saint He’s calling you to be.
Take the Love of God Virtue Challenge now! Grab some cardstock, print your printables, and get ready for a grace-filled, growth-filled month.
Created in conjunction with Momsters Raising Monsters