A quarter-century ago, when I was an associate pastor in another parish, I used to wonder at the pastor: He always seemed to be searching for a bit of paper so he could write a note to himself about something. Now I don’t wonder: I do the same thing. I’m not sure whether it’s a matter of getting older or of the many more demands and distractions that come with the pastor’s job, but I know that if I don’t write something down I’ll likely forget it.
This applies to our spiritual growth too.
If we do all the spiritual work I’ve been talking about for the last several weeks in order to hear what God has to say to us about how to grow as a disciple, we can still forget what we heard. But there’s a simple solution for that, although far too few Christians seem to know about it. It’s simple: Write things down.
This isn’t some fancy technique that only saints can practice; anyone who can make a shopping-list can do it. (All right, even if you can’t make a shopping list you can still do it.) It requires only a few things:
- Readiness to hear what God is saying;
- A notebook (or something similar);
- A pen or pencil; and –
- The commitment to actually write things down.
Here’s a simple outline of the steps:
- Each week before going to Mass you read the Gospel for that week several times;
- You come to Mass asking God to give you one thing to help you through the coming week and make you a better version of yourself;
- You come to Mass prepared with a notebook and pen or pencil, so when something does come to you you can write it down;
- You write down – a few words, a sentence – what you hear at Mass that seems directed right at you and your situation.
That’s it. It could be a word or phrase from one of the Scripture readings, from a prayer or a hymn, or something that emerges in your imagination. Whatever it is, you write it down. Even if it doesn’t seem exactly to be an answer to what you’d been seeking, if it seems important you write it down. (How many times in the Gospel do we hear Jesus not answer the question someone was asking, but rather the question they should have asked…?) And when you go home from Mass you take out your notebook, read what you wrote, and – if it seems right – add to what you wrote. During the week, you take your notebook out and look at what you wrote and wonder why God wants you to pay attention to this particular thing. And you prepare, as above, for the coming Sunday and what God might have to say to you.
The Pastoral Council suggested to me that we encourage this discipline for Lent for everyone in Our Lady of Grace. And we will. At Mass this weekend we’ll get started, and you can expect to hear about it when you come to Mass during Lent. You might – if the parish is blessed – even see people in the pew with you taking notebooks out at Mass and jotting things down. You might – if you’re especially blessed – even find yourself doing it. The Council and I hope this will start us all down a path that continues after Easter. Can you imagine what your spiritual life would be like if you’d been doing this for the past ten years, and could look back at what God had been saying to you over that whole decade? Can you imagine the vibrancy of a parish where everyone did that, every week? Let’s get started. Until next week, peace.