Q. I want to deepen my faith life, but I’m not sure how to go about it. I’ve talked to a few of my friends about this, and some of them seem to understand, but they don’t really have any ideas. I already go to Mass often, but I can’t make it every day. I also pray the rosary a lot. Do you have any suggestions about things I can do to grow closer to God?
A. I have three general suggestions for you.
First, keep doing all that you mention and more. Pray the Rosary, go to Mass often, read stories of the saints, study the Church’s teachings, participate in retreats, read the Scriptures (and daily reflections on the Scripture), set aside quiet time for personal prayer each day, etc. The more you are able to immerse yourself in these activities the better.
Another essential way of deepening your faith is to grow in charity. Faith and charity go hand in hand and one will strengthen the other. So look for opportunities to show love to others.
Small things make a big difference in our faith life. For example, look for opportunities to pause and simply smile at someone. Or to say a kind and uplifting word. Or why not go out of your way to help someone out. This could be simply opening the door for someone, helping someone with homework, cleaning up at home, etc. Our daily life presents us with numerous opportunities for charity. All we need to do is look for these opportunities, no matter how small they may be, and make the good choice to act on them.
A third suggestion I’d like to offer is a bit different from the other two. Sometimes, as we grow in faith, we don’t “feel” like we are growing. As a matter of fact, we may actually feel like God is not as near as before. This happens when we rely upon our feeling and emotions too much. For example, perhaps you have had the wonderful opportunity to go on an exciting and inspiring retreat. Retreats can give us a “spiritual high.” We can leave a retreat, sometimes, feeling closer to God than ever before. We can make new resolutions, be filled with joy, be excited by life and then, within a few weeks, we’re back to our old self looking forward to our next retreat so that we can have that feeling again. All this is good. And retreats, including the spiritual high, are very helpful ways of growing in faith.
But what we need to know, for the long term, is that feeling close to God is not the same as being close to God.
Sometimes, God will take away our good spiritual feelings for a time so that He can help us strengthen our commitment to Him. It is primarily our commitment to Him that will deepen our faith. If we only follow Him because we feel like following Him, are we really committed? But if God takes away some of those initial good feelings and we remain just as committed as before, then we know that we are on the right path. In that case, we can be certain that our faith is being deepened.
So pray much, learn your faith, try to live a life of charity and I promise that your faith will grow even if it doesn’t always feel that way. And you’re already on the right path for simply desiring a deeper faith. Keep that desire alive and I’m quite certain that God will fulfill it!
You may also find this book helpful: The Mystical Journey to Divine Union: Spiritual Wisdom from Saint John of the Cross