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Do you want your life to change?

This was the question that Dynamic Catholic Founder, Matthew Kelly, posed to a packed church parish hall ten years ago. I can’t speak for the other attendees’ responses at the retreat that day, but I can share mine. It was a solid yes.

The solution Kelly offered wasn’t anything that I was expecting and certainly didn’t align with the solutions the world offers. He didn’t tell me to go to therapy, practice mindfulness, walk in the grass barefoot, or lose weight. (Which, for the record, are not bad things. In fact, I’ve done them all.) He simply suggested, “If you want your life to change, go to daily Mass every day for two weeks.” He followed up with, “Some of you will, and some of you won’t.”

As for me? I did.
And he was right.
My life radically and profoundly changed because of the Mass.

But please do not mistake “changed” for “eliminated trial and tribulation.” My active participation in the holy sacrifice does not serve as a magic pill that makes troubles melt away. (If it did, the churches would be filled.) Dare I say, some troubles have seemingly gotten worse. The “change” goes deeper than external and current circumstances. It is an ongoing stretching and pulling of the heart. An interior transformation. It is hard to explain the mystery of it all, but I have narrowed my own experience of how the Mass has changed my life down to three significant, yet super simple points that might help you to better understand; and, if you so desire, can apply to your own life.

1. Start every day with God’s Word. Do you realize that when you reach for your phone before you get out of bed you have just given every voice in your feed permission to shape your heart and steer where you stare? What we allow to daily enter our minds has the power to bring us peace or unrest. Life or death. Scott Hahn said, “If we do not fill our mind with prayer, it will fill itself with anxieties, worries, temptations, resentments, and unwelcome memories.”[1] And maybe you are thinking, I do pray every morning. I do not have to physically go to a church to pray. And you are correct. Sort of. Because…

2. The Mass is an invincible weapon. We are in a daily battle. In the Book of Revelation, we read how “the huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it” (Revelation 12:9). And “when the dragon saw that it had been thrown down to the earth, it pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child...then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring” (Revelation 12:13, 17). Sweet friends, I don’t mean to alarm you, but we are the offspring. We have an accuser who accuses us “day and night” (Revelation 12:10). I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a terrifying and losing battle!

However, Ephesians 6:13 offers a plan: “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist on the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” How much armor are you wearing? Because I want to wear the full armor. I want the armor of personal prayer, but I also want the armor of the holy sacrifice of the Mass! The Eucharist! Christ present on the altar in flesh and blood! I cannot rely on my own strength, and so I need to literally consume the strength of Christ. Where do we find this strength? In the Eucharist. The Eucharist strengthens us in charity, preserves us from future mortal sins, and unites us more closely to Christ.[2] And speaking of being united with Christ…

3. The Mass rightly orders our worship. Here’s the truth we don’t want to hear: we are all addicts. Everyone is addicted to something. As the saying goes, “Addiction is giving up everything for one thing. Recovery is giving up one thing for everything.” Jesus is everything, and yet so many worldly addictions compete with Him. What is the one thing that you drop everything (Jesus) for? On the days I skip time with Jesus present at the daily Mass, it is my addiction to self-reliance that has taken God’s place. The moment I start to look at everything piled on my plate and start to imagine all of the things that I will accomplish with that extra hour is the moment I give up everything that Jesus wants to give me. Truly, it’s the work of the enemy. Because there is nothing on my to-do list—not even those things I can do for my children—that will ever be more important than hearing the Mass. I know…every parent reading this thinks I have lost my mind. But hear me out. Our children, no matter their age, are watching us. They see what matters to us and what does not. In his book, Parents of the Saints, author Patrick O’Hearn writes that “these devout parents show us that there is no greater gift a parent can pass on to their sons and daughters than the Holy Eucharist. Other gifts will never satisfy or last—toys will be abandoned, clothes will be outgrown, cars will break down, and sports teams will disappoint, but the Holy Eucharist is the gift that never stops giving and always satisfies.”[3]

Some of you will read this and feel inspired to attend daily Mass. Others will find my suggestion highly inconvenient and logistically unrealistic. Others will think how strict and outdated the rules of the Catholic Church are that, in today’s busy day and age, church attendance is even a requirement. “But the true state of the case is that the law of the Church is so strict because Christ is present in the Mass.”[4] Of course, we know that God is everywhere. “But it is in the Holy Mass alone that He offers Himself to His Father as the Lamb that was slain. How can we forego that sweet and solemn action?”[5]

This Advent, I made a vow to give up my worship of self-reliance and to get back to “the works I did at first” (Revelation 2:5). Namely, worshiping God at daily Holy Mass. And in just one short week, the fruits and rewards are undeniable. The bottom line is that wherever this lands on your heart, I want you to know this: Ten years ago, I wanted my life to change, and it did...because of the Mass.

Do you want your life to change?
If so, go to daily Mass every day for two weeks.
Some of you will and some of you won’t.

I pray that you all will.

[1] Scott Hahn, Signs of Life: 40 Catholic Customs and Their Biblical Roots (2009), p.91.
[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, p.352, 1394, 1395, 1396
[3] Patrick O’Hearn, Parents of the Saints:The Hidden Heroes Behind Our Favorite Saints (Tan Books, 2020), p.30-31.
[4] Father Lasance, The New Roman Missal (Christian Book Club of America, 1993), p.40.
[5] Father Lasance, The New Roman Missal (Christian Book Club of America, 1993), p.40.
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The kids are off from school and summer is here-although it has been raining forever, but nonetheless, so I am told... summer is here. And quite honestly, it can rain for as long as it wants and I will be okay, because I do not have to pack any school lunches for another two months. Can I get an Amen?!

Packing lunches is not my thing, mainly because eating what I pack is not my kids' thing. I'm not sure what fine culinary experience they are expecting to find in a small brown bag. Salad nicoise? An all you can eat sushi buffet? Blackened grouper on a bed of wilted greens? But let us not think of such things! Because glory to God in the highest, school is out and packing lunches are a thing of the past. Hey kids, you can make your own disappointing lunches now! It's summer!

If you follow Walking with Purpose on Instagram, you might have caught my “stories series” on how to have an intentional summer; practical tips on what not to do, or what to do, to refresh and relax without taking a vacation from Jesus. That was my most favorite week with all of you! For those that couldn't join me, Tip #1 was encouragement to women to not sleep in. Not only that, but to get up early; rise with the sun and start each summer day with praise. So I have been taking my own advice, and what I have discovered is that with the hideous chore of packing lunches removed, I actually have more prayer time than ever. This, my friends, is great news… unless you are a recovering perfectionist and overachiever like me. Because once I realized how much more time I was gifted with, do you want to know what this girl thought? Exactly how much more can I cram in?

You see, all too often I approach my spiritual life like my daughter does a blank canvas. At her art school graduation two weeks ago, her creative voice was described by her teachers as “more is more”. As the years unfolded, blank canvases grew larger, paint application thicker, and the more acrylic she applied - always by hand, never by brush - the more she would step back, examine, and then lean into the canvas to add just a little bit more. On a busy sidewalk of New Haven, as I loaded five enormous paintings that barely fit into the back of my car and weighed more than all of Texas, I realized something about my spiritual canvas. I am trying to pray like she paints. 

But you want to know the difference between my daughter's paintings and my prayers? Her finished product is a masterpiece because each stroke and design is intentional and executed with extreme devotion to her ultimate vision. She never rushes a project, and always steps back and away, allowing the space to speak and inspire. And my finished product? Well… it isn't even worthy of hanging on the fridge.  All too often what I offer my Lord is a litany of memorized words with no meaning, mixed up and thrown together in the hopes that when finished, a beautiful vision will be revealed to me. There is little devotion because of all those distractions, and plenty of frustration because of all those interruptions. Just because your canvas is covered, it doesn't mean it is worthy of hanging on the wall. 

And I don't want to be the kind of woman who prays this way-distracted because I have piled on too much; irritated by life's interruptions, that just so happen to be my FAMILY. (Um, remember Laura… you are a wife and mother; NOT a cloistered nun.) I don't want my desire for personal holiness to be fueled by anything other than pure love of God.

Distraction in prayer is a common struggle, and in my attempt to concentrate and free my mind of all the things that pull me away from where I desire to be, I have learned something. You don't wipe a plate clean of distraction by adding more things to your plate. I heard Matthew Kelly say once, “there is genius in simplicity” and well, I have to agree. Of course, he can say anything in that adorable accent and I will agree. But seriously. What if the key to personal holiness has nothing to do with what we add to our life, and everything to do with what we remove from it?

A few months ago, I added Saint Louis De Monfort's True Devotion to Mary to my early morning prayer routine. With Our Lady's hand gently guiding me, I have slowly removed every other practice and prayer, only focusing on this one book, morning, noon, and night. I have fallen deeply in love with St. Louis De Monfort's Prayer to Mary; a prayer that promises to not only give myself wholly to Jesus through her, but one that begs to have “anything which does not belong to thee”¹ be taken away. My hours of mechanical prayers and distracted readings have been condensed into one heart felt, intentional plea, “Destroy in me all that may be displeasing to God, root it up and bring it to nought; place and cultivate in me everything that is pleasing to thee.”²

As my daughter applies more paint to tell her story, I am asking the Lord to peel my paint off so I better know His. Perhaps this gift of a little more time is not about how I can fill it with God, but how God can empty it of me.

Here is to a summer of blank canvases, peeled off paint, and rooting up all that gets in His way.

Your Sister in Christ,

Laura

 

P.S.  The only thing I love more than blogging for WWP, is sharing my days with you on WWP Instagram. If you are not a follower yet, what are you waiting for?

 

¹ True Devotion to Mary with Preparation For Total Consecration, Saint Louis De Monfort, Tan Classics 2010, p.219

² True Devotion to Mary with Preparation For Total Consecration, Saint Louis De Monfort, Tan Classics 2010, p.219

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