“Come to me, all of you,” Jesus said to then-sixteen-year-old James Alberione. It was December 31, 1900, the famous “Night Between the Centuries” when James was praying in the Cathedral of Alba. “Come to me, all of you.” James, I want you to bring me all the people of this new century. I want them all, and I want you to bring them to me using the “new means” of communication. But first I want you to bring me yourself, James: “Come to me, all of you!” I want all that you are; I want your mind, will, and heart. I want everything, James!
Jesus says these same words to each one of us as we begin this New Year of 2019. “Come to me all of you, Sr. Laura.” “Come to me all of you, _______.” Jesus wants all of us: that’s you and that’s me! This task of bringing all of ourselves to Christ can be daunting and overwhelming but it is possible, “for all things are possible with God.” (cf. Lk. 1: 37). And a plan to help with this task is what can make it happen—a plan for our spiritual life.
Think of it. Whenever we want to succeed at something important, we have a plan: a business plan, a financial plan, a game plan, a marketing plan. You name it, we have a plan! But what goal, what endeavor in life is more important than our growth in Christ, our transformation into him, our “Christification” as Blessed Alberione would say?
Last spring, Pauline Books & Media released a great book that can help us with this task of “becoming Christ,” i.e., saints! It’s called Plan of Life: Habits to Help You Grow Closer to God by Fr. Roger Landry. This is a marvelous, practical, straightforward book that makes the often-overwhelming task of becoming a saint possible; it brings it within our reach. St. Paul encourages us when he says, “all things are possible for those who love the Lord.” But it is still important to have a Plan of Life. And this is what Fr. Landry does. He shows how the Christian life comes alive and deepens when certain habits are practiced regularly.
What are some of the habits essential to our Plan? Morning offering, Sunday Mass, general examen, frequent confession, daily prayer, and sacred scripture. Are you surprised by this list? Probably not; you might even say, “this is nothing new!” You are right—it isn’t new, but it is true. If we want to really grow in the Christian life and see ourselves gradually change into the “best-version-of-ourselves” as well-known writer and speaker Matthew Kelly says, then these elements need to be present in our lives on a regular basis….
- The morning offering is a simple prayer we say at the start of the day. We offer God all that we have, all that we are and will experience, the “prayers, actions, joys, and sufferings” of our day. We offer it all to him who has given it to us in the first place.
- Sunday Mass is a given, but this is certainly not clear for many Catholics. Whatever happened to “remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day”? And many who do attend Sunday Mass regularly see it only as an obligation, something that they are required to do. The Second Vatican Council describes the Mass as, “the source and summit of the Christian life.” And this means that the Mass is what nourishes and feeds us; it gives us strength for the week. And don’t we all need that?
- General examen is usually done at the end of the day reviewing all that has happened to us. (Alberione also encourages us to include it in our Hour of Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.) With the examen, we ask Jesus to show us where he has been present in our day and how we have responded to that presence. Socrates once said that an unexamined life is not worth living; we don’t want to fall into that category.
- Frequent confession flows right from the examen. When we seriously take stock of our lives each day we see we are sinners. Each of us falls short, sins, and needs God’s mercy. And the best place to find that mercy is in confession!
- Daily prayer is as necessary as air to breathe and food to eat. It keeps us in communion with God. It gives us strength and guidance for what we will encounter during the day.
- Sacred scripture, God’s word is also necessary if we want to grow in our relationship with him. God speaks to us in and through his word. He enlightens us through his word…
Mother Thecla, the co-foundress of the Daughters of St. Paul, writes to each of us, “Let us live in intimacy with the Divine Master: mind, will, heart, and activities; our senses, hands, feet, eyes, ears- everything in him, for him, and with him. Let us strive for always greater union with him…”
And a Plan of Life will help put this within our reach. A blessed and happy 2019!