A modern examination of conscience. (But not too modern… we’re loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church here!)
If you confess with your mouth… and believe in your heart… you shall be saved. Romans 10:9
As Christians, we know that our salvation in Jesus Christ comes with the responsibility to live a life of faith. We can’t sit back and relax, expecting Jesus to do all the work. We can’t be lazy in our spiritual life.
St. Paul lays out two obligations: believe with your heart and profess with your mouth. Our faith must be both internal and external. We must embrace it with every fiber of our being, and we must portray it in our words, our actions, and our lifestyle.
Faith is a gift from God. But it’s also an act of the will. Through the virtue of faith, we choose to believe all the truths God has revealed. At times we may not understand, but faith allows us to accept the truth even when we don’t feel sure of it. Even when we struggle.
This month, we pray, “Lord, increase our faith,” and we trust that He will give us the grace we need to believe.
And we also do our best to attain the tools and practices we need to be open to the gift of faith when God gives it.
Let’s explore ways to open ourselves to the gift of faith, and keep ourselves safe from the spiritual sloth that threatens our ability to receive this gift.
Grow in the Virtue of Faith
Profess Your Faith:
- Learn about the faith. Before we can say we believe something, we must know what it is we believe! Take an opportunity this month to open your Catechism and learn something new about the faith.
- Believe in your heart. We don’t have to understand the deep mysteries like the Trinity or the Eucharist. And we don’t have to feel emotional or mystical when we pray. To believe in our hearts, we need to make an act of the will to accept and embrace all the Truths of the Church.
- Profess with your mouth. Vocalizing our beliefs helps us make them a part of our lives in a very real way. Make an intentional act of faith (for example, the Apostle’s Creed) and think about the significance of the words you are saying. Also, make it a habit to profess your faith to others: as simple as grace before meals, as public as Facebook posts, or as inviting as personal conversations between friends.
Frequent the Sacraments:
- Mass, Eucharist, Confession. The Sacraments are our way to plug into God’s grace. God is waiting to pour out His gifts on us. We just need to open ourselves to receive them. Frequent reception of the Sacraments is vital to a life of faith.
- Practice Reverence. Sometimes we get caught up in the habit, and just go through the motions. We need to take time to remember the significance of actions and objects set apart for God. Slow down. When you make the Sign of the Cross, picture Jesus laying down His life for you. Pause when you genuflect and remember you are bending your knee before your God and King. Bow your head at Jesus’ name, kiss a crucifix or a Rosary, use your quiet voice in church. Be intentional and ramp up the reverence in your life.
- Catechize your kids. Bring them up in the Catholic way of life. Teach them about virtue and God’s gift of grace offered to us through the channels of the Sacraments. It’s especially effective if we teach by example – our love for the Faith is our best witness. Our enthusiasm is contagious.
Integrate Your Faith:
- Build faith into your routine. It’s vital to go to Mass on Sundays and Confession regularly. But a life of faith needs more than just pit stops. It needs daily nourishment and care. Make sure you set apart time every day to connect with God.
- Trust in God’s plan. Being Christian doesn’t mean God is going to make our life better or easier than anyone else’s. But it does mean that we trust God to bring good out of even the worst situations. And most importantly, our goal is everlasting happiness in Heaven, not fleeting happiness in this world. Focus on living virtuously in all circumstances – the good and the bad.
- Fake it till you make it. Sometimes it’s hard for us to emotionally come to grips with difficult truths. But even if we don’t feel like it’s true, we know that it is because God revealed it to us. We must act on what we know is true and right, no matter how we feel.
Pray for Faith:
- Open yourself up to belief. God gives the gift of faith, and we need to be ready receptacles. Keep your heart and mind open to accepting the teachings of the Church and the guidance of the Pope, Bishops, and Priests.
- Pray to increase faith. Ask God every day to increase your faith, to open your eyes. Beg for understanding, for trust in His plan, for love of the Eucharist. Remember: ask and you shall receive.
- Persevere in prayer. Even when prayer brings you no joy, keep praying. Keep saying your morning offering. Keep going to Mass and Adoration. Even if you feel like you have nothing to say to God, even if you can’t hear His voice. Prayer is not about emotions, so don’t worry if you don’t feel it. God is listening no matter what.
Avoid Spiritual Sloth
Don’t Be Silent:
- Don’t pass up opportunities. Learn about your faith whenever you can. There are so many free online devotionals at the tip your fingers. Like Blessed is She which sends free daily Bible readings and reflections right to your email. Or Pray More Novenas as your personal prayer companion. Let them feed your knowledge of the faith and boost your prayer life.
- Don’t be afraid of doubts. They are a normal part of growth. Doubts don’t make you less of a Christian, or less holy. They offer you an opportunity to learn and grow. Educate your doubts. Overcome them.
- Don’t hide under a bushel. As scary as it may be to profess your beliefs in a skeptical world, you don’t need to be afraid. God is with you. He will give you strength. Your faith is beautiful, let it shine!
Don’t Neglect Your Duties:
- Don’t Skip the Sacraments. We have certain obligations: Mass on Sundays and Holy days, confession of mortal sins before receiving the Eucharist. While these things may sometimes be difficult, they are in your best interest. They are a major opportunity to connect with God and receive His grace.
- Don’t be sloppy. Hasty rosaries, half genuflections, sloppy Sign of the Cross… don’t let bad habits sneak in. Take care of the things that are set apart for God.
- Don’t neglect your children’s formation. Sometimes our kids have hard questions. It’s important that we take them seriously. If you don’t know the answer, look it up! Make sure your kids have time daily for their own prayer and learning about God, too.
Don’t Neglect Your Faith:
- Don’t save Church for Sundays. God doesn’t want to be an acquaintance. He wants to be involved in every part of your life. Don’t block Him out. Talk to Him every day. Invite Him in to your personal life.
- Don’t succumb to anxiety. Fear doesn’t change things. Instead of wasting time worrying about what’s to come, spend the time praying for God’s will to be done. And actively engage yourself in planning for the future. Let your faith bring you peace.
- Don’t endanger your faith. Doubts are a normal part of life, but don’t feed your doubts by inviting dangerous influences in. If reading the horrors in the news disturbs your peace and your trust in God, don’t do it. Read things that build you up, not things that break you down.
Don’t Lose Touch With God:
- Don’t coast. God won’t force you to believe. He won’t push His way into a life already filled with other things. Always make sure there’s room for Him. Always be aware of your need for Him. Always seek Him.
- Don’t be afraid to ask. God is a generous giver. Let Him know what you want. What you need. What you struggle with. What you don’t understand. Let Him be there for you and give you your heart’s desire.
- Don’t give up. God doesn’t always answer our prayers in the way we want, but He always answers them. Keep asking. Don’t give up. Talk to Him always, even when you don’t feel Him there. He didn’t leave, but He may be hidden for a while. Calling out to Him is a great act of faith.
Take the Challenge:
Are you ready to grow in faith? 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 faith and eliminate spiritual sloth. 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!
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 faith, to avoid the sin of spiritual sloth, and to become the saint He’s calling you to be.
Take the Faith 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