How Devoted Are You?

The Final 3 Steps To Deep Devotion According to St. Peter Alcantara

How badly do you want it? How badly do you want God?
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7. Perseverance – The seventh of St. Peter Alcantara’s steps to deep devotion we’ve been discussing from Finding God Through Meditation is perseverance.

Many of our biblical heroes were masters of perseverance (almost to the point of annoyance). Abraham, the greatest negotiator in the history of the world, drove down the price of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah through amazing perseverance. (Unfortunately, the premium remained too high for those towns.)

Another great example is Hannah, who continuously begged God for a son, promising to give him over to the Lord’s service. God answered her prayers, and she gave birth to Samuel, the last of Israel’s great judges.

Persistence is so important that Jesus himself teaches its power in three different Gospel parables: the persistent friend, the unjust judge, and the Canaanite woman.

Our Lord is saying that God wants to help us out. He is ready and willing. The guy in the parable of the persistent friend got out of bed and helped his buddy just so he would be left alone. Christ is saying, “look, if the friend at the door got what he wanted simply by being persistent, how much more will Our Father yield to our persistent prayers? Keep praying! Keep asking!

8. Corporal Austerities – If you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk. Catholics don’t do penance because we’re masochists (except for that one guy who has his chest waxed and then dons a hair shirt). We do it so that we won’t be too attached to the pleasures of this world. We do it so we can free ourselves from too much focus on this life and turn our eyes to heaven.

We’re made for far more than this world has to offer. It doesn’t hurt to start letting go of it now. The more room we make in our hearts for God, the greater our devotion will be. It’s that simple.

9. The last step to deep devotion is Works of Mercy. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves,” says James 1:22. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead; performing these works of mercy will increase our devotion because we’re a union of body and soul. We need to act out our beliefs. And when we act them out, our devotion grows because not only do we see the fruits in others, but God causes love to grow in our hearts.

And if you’re not physically able to perform corporal works of mercy, there are always the spiritual ones!

  1. Instruct the ignorant.St Peter of Alcantara
  2. Counsel the doubtful.
  3. Admonish sinners.
  4. Bear wrongs patiently.
  5. Forgive offenses willingly.
  6. Comfort the afflicted.
  7. Pray for the living and the dead

That’s it! Finito! Over these last three posts we’ve covered St. Peter Alcantara’s 9 steps to deep devotion in Finding God Through MeditationHope they were as beneficial to you as they were to me!

God bless!

Matt

P.S. Keep your eyes peeled for my new podcast – “The Art of Catholic”. It’s just about ready!

9 Steps To Deep Devotion (Part Deux)

Did it hurt? It should have.imgres

If you prayed over and meditated on the first three steps we outlined in my last post, you should have felt something stir. (No, not that…that was your third plate of lasagna from last night.)

Seriously, unless you’re a saint, any real pondering on the first three steps to deep devotion probably stung a little. But as  muscle-bound brutes like to scream in the midst of their fifth set of curls with 55lb. dumbbells: “No pain, no gain!” (You can actually see the spittle sailing through the air.)

But let’s cast aside all fear and continue seeking hard after God by continuing with the next three steps (4, 5 & 6) outlined by St. Peter Alcantara’s Finding God Through Meditation (edited by Dan Burke, author and president of the Avila Institute).

4. Solitude – First of all, it’s kind of hard to sin against others when you’re alone. (Though unlike a tree falling alone in the forest, slander is still heard even when the subject is not present.) But while solitude is all well and good for hermits (who can be crabby), what about the rest of us? We’re made for community. We’re made to live in families. So for most of us, temporary solitude – alone time with God – is the only kind of solitude we’ll ever get or really need.

Solitude is a necessity for meditation. Let’s be honest. We’ve enough distraction between our ears that we don’t need any help. Plus, you can’t hear God if your ears are filled with something else. Spending time alone with God is one of the absolute necessities in any healthy life of prayer.

5. Reading of spiritual books – This is huge. In fact, I’m getting this list from my spiritual reading. Like you, I’ve got shelves of books waiting to be read and absorbed. If you’re wondering where to start, it easy. Begin with Scripture. But also turn to the masters of the spiritual life. They’re totally inspiring! They show us the way!

I realize that sometimes older books can be a bit hard to plow through,FOD_copy_t so here’s one of my modern favorites: The Fulfillment of All Desire, by Ralph Martin (which just happens to be on big-time sale right now). It’s great because it provides a lot of passages from saints at the top of the prayer chain (e.g. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Augustine, etc…) and gives understandable commentary.

So turn off the tv, radio, or podcast to which you’re listening for 15 minutes and read. (It can even be a book with pictures if you want.) It will help you grow in devotion.

6. Continual Memory of God – Sometimes you see this called “practicing the presence” of God. It’s a vital tool of devotion for people who don’t live in a monastery in the hinterlands. In fact St. Peter Alcantara says, it’s the “only remedy for those who have neither time nor place with opportunity to insist to long prayer and meditation.”

One of the best ways to stay in the presence of God, says Augustine, is to practice ejaculatory prayers – spontaneous aspirations thanking and praising our Lord as you go about your daily routine. Try putting that into practice this week and see what happens.

So there you go: solitude, spiritual reading, and practicing the presence of God. Three more keys to deeper devotion to God. But remember, devotion doesn’t just happen. You’ve got to follow through!

God bless!

Matt

P.S. Did you see I’m leading a pilgrimage to see Our Lady of Guadalupe in February? Join me!

9 Steps to Deep Devotion (Part 1)

Are you devoted to God? I mean, really devoted?Alcantara-Cover-Small.001-e1421966538531-281x380

Not long ago I interviewed Dan Burke, author and president of the Avila Institute on my radio show. (Look for it on iTunes soon – “The Art of Catholic.”) We were talking about a book he edited by St. Peter Alcantara, titled Finding God Through Meditation.

It’s a tremendous little work on prayer and spirituality.

One of the things I came across in the book that I really “liked” (in an uncomfortable, convicting kind of way:) was a list of nine steps to acquire and strengthen devotion to God.

I know I need deeper devotion, and I’m betting you do, too. I found these very inspirational, and helpful in getting (and keeping) me on track. So I want to share them with you over a couple of blog posts. (I’m commenting on his list, not quoting his text directly.)

1. Completion of the exercise – Whatever we’re doing in our spiritual lives, we have to resolve to see it through. Don’t ever forget we’re striving for the “pearl of great price”, so we can’t let any obstacle keep us from the things that draw us closer to our Lord. Realize there is going to be hardship and difficulty…especially in the beginning of our move toward God. Even for experts, it’s hard to overcome our disordered desires.

Whether it’s direct work of the Evil One or our own issues and problems that distract, we can’t let anything keep us from living in Christ. Keep the end (i.e. God) in mind at all times and keep striving! Nothing this good comes without work!

2. Custody of the heart – Think about the things you desire in your heart. Are they worthy of God? Really consider whether they going to help or hinder your growth. Do you chase after vain things?

In the positive sense, do you seek after things in your life that would help you acquire devotion? The goal is to have a quiet heart that is at peace, undisturbed by the turbulence and vanity of this world. A heart not distracted by the “bright, shiny objects” that lure our affections and waste our precious time. Pray about this.

3. Custody of the senses – This one is a biggee! What television do you watch? What magazines or internet sites do you read? With what music or conversation do you fill your ears? How do you use your tongue? Do you praise others, or gossip and cut people down?

We relate to God through our five, God-given senses. Which means that we can turn from God through these same means. We have to be extremely careful about what we allow to enter our mind and bodies (not to mention what comes out). It’s hard enough to enter into prayer and relationship with God given the number of distractions with which we already deal. It’s almost impossible to acquire devotion to our Lord if we’re constantly dumping trash into our minds. As the old saying goes…”garbage in, garbage out.”

Let’s all spend some time meditating on these points. And feel free to comment!

If you can’t wait and want to see what St. Peter Alcantara has to say about this and more, just click “Finding God Through Meditation” and you can get read the book for yourself.

God bless!

Matt

P.S. I’ve been told that Emmaus Road Publishing (the publisher of “Finding God Through Meditation” is having a monster sale right now! Check it out!