When I first started taking my faith seriously, figuring out how to pray was super tricky. I had all of these recommendations swirling in my brain from speakers, blogs, mentors, and the saints, and at first, I tried to do it all. Doing it all was impossible, and trying to only led to burnout. So, it made me think and read a lot about how to grow spiritually as a Catholic.
Eventually, I took the advice of several people and started small, one new habit at a time. Following these guidelines helped me to develop a consistent prayer life and continue to go deeper in prayer, unlike when I had tried to do it all immediately.
All of this research and searching helped me to discover some exciting things about spiritual health and Catholicism, which I plan to share in this article. I will also talk about how spiritual health impacts other parts of our lives, as well as some examples of habits to help you grow in spiritual health.
Resources for How to Grow Spiritually as a Catholic
Before we begin, here is a book you can use to learn more about how to grow spiritually as a Catholic:
- 13 Powerful Ways to Pray by Fr. Eamon Tobin.
What is Spiritual Health? The Key to How to Grow Spiritually as a Catholic
A Regular Prayer Life
One component of spiritual health is a regular prayer life. To understand this, we have first to understand what prayer is.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us some insight:
- Prayer is a gift of God (CCC 2559)
- The heart or soul prays, which is the center of a person and a place of relation. This reality makes prayer a covenant because it is communication between God and man. (CCC 2562-2564)
- Finally, prayer is communion with God.
There are so many definitions of prayer, but this can help us get started. These definitions remind us what prayer is about: being united with our Lord and receiving a gift from our Lord.
There are so many different ways to pray, and the Church recommends no set routine. We are only required to pray regularly.
But, to give you a little guidance, Fr. Eamon Tobin in 13 Powerful Ways to Pray describes two overall categories of prayer that are important to have in our prayer routine. They are:
- Occupational Prayer: This type of prayer takes place throughout our daily living.
- Spousal Prayer: This type of prayer takes place when we focus entirely on God, dropping everything to do so.
These two types of prayer are essential because they are interdependent-without one, prayer is dry and lacking in depth. This interdependence is because, for our prayer throughout the day to be deep, we must have regular times with our Lord. And, without occupational prayer, we only see God on set appointments.
This interdependence is similar to human friendship. Human friendships are much deeper and richer when we both have set times alone with them and also have those moments throughout the day where we communicate. Having only one type of communication in friendship would make the friendship lacking in depth.
The Sacraments are God’s greatest gifts and are ways to receive God’s grace, which is so necessary.
Two Sacraments are of interest to us here since they are the ones we can regularly receive (plus Anointing of the Sick, but I hope and pray you do not need that Sacrament very often!). They are Confession and the Holy Eucharist.
According to the precepts of the Church, we must:
- Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year during Lent.
- Attend Mass every week (but we do not have to receive the Eucharist).
- Receive the Eucharist at least once a year during Easter Season.
These precepts are the minimum requirements to practice your faith, but I have found that receiving the grace of these sacraments even more often allows for even more significant growth and communion with God.
Many people recommend going to Confession at least once a month. Speaker Matthew Kelly recommends this because this helps you stay more sensitive to sin. However, if you are in a serious struggle with mortal sin, going more often can be very helpful, especially if you want to stay in the state of grace to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist.
I also recommend receiving the Eucharist as often as you can. However, this needs to be done with our hearts open to the Lord and with a soul in the state of grace. If you cannot do so when you attend Mass, it is perfectly okay and even recommended not to receive.
Note: We have this weird attitude that Mass is not Mass unless we “get something,” i.e., the Eucharist. But, we receive grace by just being at Mass, and if we cannot receive, the Lord often uses that time to increase our desire for Him, so the next time, we can receive Him with a heart open wide. If you choose not to receive, use the time while everyone else gets the Eucharist to do a spiritual communion and ask the Lord to increase your love for Him in the Eucharist.
The Effects of Spiritual Health on the Mind and Body
There are three types of health in the Radiant as the Son progression:
- Mental health
- Physical health
- Spiritual health
All of these types of health affect each other for better or for worse. This connection exists because all aspects of ourselves form one whole being (CCC 365), so one part influences the entire being.
When we regularly pray and participate in the Sacraments, we receive grace that can aid us in living by the truth and healing from lies. The love we encounter in those times can also help to dispute lies we may believe. For example, if we view God as uncaring but then go and encounter Him in prayer and the Sacraments, we, through our behavior, provide evidence against that lie. All of this is helpful in healing.
To care for our bodies for the right reason, we need to remember that they are the temples of the Holy Spirit. When we stay in regular contact with God, it is easier to remember these reasons.
Second, in 13 Powerful Ways to Pray, Fr. Tobin writes that when we learn to better relate on a human level, this positively impacts our prayer and vice versa. Our prayer can have a positive impact on our fellowship.
How Spiritual Health Impacts Virtue
In the Radiant as the Son progression, our health either allows us to grow in virtue or hinders our growth in virtue.
Receiving the sacraments and regularly praying provides us with the grace necessary to grow in virtue. Growth in virtue requires not only our efforts but mostly God’s breaking in through grace. Our prayer makes us more open to those graces.
Habits for How to Grow Spiritually as a Catholic
Regular Prayer Life
As we said before, both spousal and occupational prayer are essential.
Here are some examples of spousal prayer:
- Practicing the ARRR Method
- Praying the Liturgy of the Hours, Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, etc., apart from our daily activities.
- Attending a Holy Hour
- Spiritual journaling
Here are some examples of occupational prayer:
- Praying before meals
- Praying before activities
- Stopping for a moment to tell God how a situation felt and listening for His response.
To repeat the recommendations from earlier:
- Try to attend Confession at least once a month. If you are seriously struggling with some sin, more often may be helpful.
- Try to receive the Eucharist as often as possible. If you are not in a state of grace, spend that time at Mass praying for an increased desire and love for the Eucharist.
Conclusion: Next Steps for How to Grow Spiritually as a Catholic
I hope that this article has encouraged you to pursue habits to improve your spiritual health. If you would like some guidance regarding creating habits, subscribe to the email list below. You’ll receive a free workbook that you can use to choose and plan a healthy habit.
If you would like to read more about how to grow spiritually as a Catholic, I recommend the following book:
- 13 Powerful Ways to Pray by Fr. Eamon Tobin. This book begins with an explanation of the keys to an effective prayer life and then ends with detailed descriptions of 13 methods of prayer. This book can be a handy resource for learning more about prayer and finding some habits to implement.
Finally, check out these articles to learn more about the Radiant as the Son progression.