I haven’t gone to church in a couple of weeks, I haven’t read my bible in even longer, and I’ve replaced listening to Rob Bell podcasts with Audible books about Oysters, Champagne, and living the life of leisure. You know, “eat, drink, and be merry” and all that (Ecclesiastes 8:15). Faith has it’s seasons and right about now, summer hasn’t been one of them.
But as much as I believe whole heartedly that God wants us to have our lives and to live them to the full (John 10:10), I know that personally, my life is not full without God. Not because I’m not having a good time, but because I miss spending time with him. Because when I am close to God I feel loved and cherished and peaceful, and when I’m not I feel somewhat out of sorts.
When I’m close to God, I talk to him throughout my day, I write to him for advice or answers, and I thank him for all the good things in life (like Cinnamon Red Maca Butter and Ella Fitzgerald cover concerts). He keeps me grounded, reminds me of my priorities, and teaches me how to become a better person. When I’m not close to God, it’s just the opposite: I feel anxious, scattered, and stressed, and I start to get real judgy (example: “did someone actually bring Coca-Cola to my house?” cue disgusted inflection…).
For me having time for prayer and devotion in life is like sitting in a beautiful garden vs. getting lost in the crowds at an amusement park. Both can be fun, and there is certainly a time and place for both—but only one can provide peace and perspective. And I am of the sort to require the one in order to enjoy the other. Lately though, I feel as if I’ve spent too much time at the amusement park and not enough at the garden and so it’s time for a bit of a recharge.
The thing is, I have long relied on three things to keep me connected with God on a daily, weekly, and yearly basis: I read my Magnificat every day, attended mass every week, and went to school every year where I have been pursing my graduate studies in Mariology—the study of the Virgin Mary. This has been my ritual for more than four years, and it has provided the core framework for my faith. A way for me to constantly be plugged in. Until recently.
A couple of months ago I found out that Father François Rossier, my favorite professor at school passed away. I had been planning on attending three of his classes in the fall, and was devastated to discover that would no longer be a possibility. Father Rossier taught all my favorite classes (Mary in the Apocrypha, Mary in Anthropology, & Mary in Literature), and I had my heart set on him sponsoring my dissertation.
For awhile I debated on whether or not I should return to school knowing I would no longer be able to work under one of the great Mariologists of our time, and I ultimately concluded it wouldn’t be the same. I was attending school not for the recognition or the degree, but for me. And if I was no longer going to get out of the program what I had set out to learn from it, it wasn’t worth the extra ten thousand dollars I would spend in tuition just to complete it.
At the same time, my Magnificat app started to get really buggy. It was slowing down my phone and glitching out every time I tried to open it. Not to mention it was never really user friendly to begin with. The app hasn’t been updated since 2014 and when I emailed the publisher to request that they update it, I was told to delete the app and re-download it. Not the solution I was looking for.
In the end, I decided it was time for an “out with the old, in with the new” approach to my faith. I needed a more modern way to connect with God on a daily and regular basis. A practice that would help me feel grounded in God so that I wouldn’t get lost in the world. That would keep me in sight of the shore so I wouldn’t drown in the waves. So I did some research and planning, and found a few new ways I could get back into God. Here’s what I did:
I downloaded the SheReadsTruth app
As a Catholic, I love that the Magnificat is a compilation of the daily Mass (the readings and prayers spoken at church each day) and the Liturgy Of The Hours (what the nuns and priests are required to pray each day). The scripture, hymns, prayers, and readings written in the daily Magnificat are centuries old and steeped in ritual and religion—and I absolutely love that sort of thing. But Catholics haven’t done a great job at modernizing the faith and making it more accessible to the masses. Non-denominational Christians have.
That’s why I downloaded the SheReadsTruth app. It is, quite sincerely, the best app out there for reading the bible and subscribing to devotionals. I put it in the bottom right corner of my iPhone’s home screen so I could read it in place of Instagram or Twitter whenever I have a spare moment to look at my phone. My favorite thing about this app is how beautiful it is. It’s like what reading the bible would be like if Apple designed it.
Plus, I can choose to either read the bible, or to read a devotional plan. Devotional plans are two-week to year-long plans that include a daily snippet from the bible, plus a few paragraphs about that snippet to deepen your understanding of it. And you have the opportunity to comment or write a private note about it as you do so. I’m currently subscribed to The Beatitudes plan and I love having something to read each day when I look at my phone.
By the way, SheReadsTruth is so much more than an app. Their website includes a daily devotional you can read, plus booklets you can buy if you want to bible study it out with your friends. And all of it is absolutely beautiful.
I ordered the SheReadsTruth study bible
I have a really beautiful custom leather bible from Sunshine Leather that I love, but I wanted something a little more casual that I could bible study with. Something that made it super easy to understand what I was reading so I wouldn’t have to spend all my time in Wikipedia as I did so. So I bought the SheReadsTruth Study Bible as my casual everyday reader and I absolutely love it. I picked back up where I left off and now I’m once again reading my way through the bible but in a much easier fashion.
By the way, if you’re a minimalist, there is nothing more beautiful than the Bibliotheca Bible. In case you’re looking for something more like that.
I downloaded the Pure Rosary app
I love praying the rosary and the Pure Rosary app is the only Catholic app I love. It is simple and elegant and makes it so easy to pray the rosary wherever you are out and about without anyone even knowing you are doing so.
I’m studying The Great Courses
Leaving graduate school was very hard to me to do. That’s because as much as I love reading the bible and praying the rosary, nothing compares to the joy of studying the religion I love. I crave to understand why I believe what I believe. I want to know the historical, anthropological, archaeological, liturgical, and Theological aspects of it. I want to understand exactly what went down in the Jesus days, and why that is still so important for our modern lives.
But I wasn’t going to learn all of that where I was, so I’m setting out to try to learn it elsewhere, starting with The Great Courses. The Great Courses are graduate level courses taught by graduate level professors at distinguished universities and I have long been a fan of them. I have an Audible Membership which means that I can get $300 courses for the price of only $10/month. And they are wonderful.
I recently listened to The Popes & The Papacy: A History a 12-hour lecture series taught by Professor Thomas F.X. Noble, the Medieval history professor for the University of Notre Dame. Having the opportunity to learn about papal history from a Notre Dame historian is to me, the chance of a lifetime. So I’m excited to work my way through the religion and Catholic courses offered by The Great Courses as an alternative to actually attending school myself.
I put church on my Google Calendar
I generally don’t have a problem attending mass as it is one of my favorite parts of the week. If I go too long without receiving communion I start to feel scattered and disconnected, and since I live so close to my favorite Cathedral it is easy for me to attend. Especially as there are Catholic services available every day twice a day—and on weekdays they are only half-an-hour long.
For this reason I simply go to church whenever I feel like it. Sometimes on a Wednesday afternoon, others on a Thursday morning. But no matter when I attend, it usually winds up being about once a week. That being said, I do love to know what is going on in church each day in case there are special services I want to attend. The Catholic Church follows a Liturgical calendar that includes a l o t of special holidays, some of which are very pertinent to my life.
For example, I love anything devoted to the Virgin Mary, and the woman alone has several masses all to herself throughout the year. So that I am in the know about when those are, I added the Catholic Liturgical Calendar to my Google Calendar. Here is is if you want to add it to yours—just scroll to the bottom of the page and click “add to Google Calendar”).
I added Christian Magazines to my feed reader
I follow a lot of blogs, so I simply added a few more religious ones to my feed reader so I could follow them along too. My favorite religious blogs are: RELEVANT, SheReadsTruth, Grit & Virtue, and Blessed Is She.
I started following Christian accounts on Instagram
I already follow The Pope and The Dalai Lama on Instagram, and I love Rob Bell and Saint Signora, but I wanted to follow a couple other inspiring accounts so I added SheReadsTruth, Grit & Virtue, and Blessed Is She. Though if you know any Catholic accounts that are beautiful please let me know. There really seems to be a religious deficit on Instagram.
And that’s how I’m getting back into God. What are some of your favorite religious or spiritual rituals that help you feel connected?