Spiritual Advice from 6 Catholic Bishops
“Read. Pray. Worship. It’s not complicated. But you do need to actually do it, rather than just talk about it.”
Catholic bishops are spiritual guides to their flocks. I asked some of our country’s archbishops and bishops for a basic program of spirituality they’d suggest to the faithful. Here is a sampling of what they shared.
Charles Chaput, Archbishop of Portland
Read. Pray. Worship. It’s not complicated. But you do need to actually do it, rather than just talk about it.
Paul Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
It starts with making time for prayer. We have to show up on a regular schedule; it can’t be haphazard. We create an opening to God by consistently spending time with Him, and the Lord will respond to our free cooperation by giving us grace.
We also need to listen in prayer. It should be a conversation with God and not a monologue.
And, our prayer must nourish both the head and the heart. I advise people to pray with the Scriptures and before the Eucharist.
I also believe we should have a strong Marian dimension. Years ago, my first commitment I made to prayer was to pray the Rosary every day.
James Conley, Bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska
We have a rich tapestry of Catholic spirituality that is beautifully diverse. Whether you prefer Ignatian spirituality or Carmelite spirituality or Benedictine spirituality, there’s something for everyone.
But I would say important components are the sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist. I’m a big proponent of Eucharistic adoration, and it should be at the heart of everyone’s spirituality. Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary is important, as is Sacred Scripture.
Joseph Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville, Kentucky
I encourage people to follow the Lectio Divina [“divine reading,” prayer with the Scriptures]. If you want to be renewed at Mass, you should come prepared. It doesn’t take long. You can purchase a book from a Catholic bookstore, or go online for the Readings of the Day. Read them in a reflective way.
I am also a big proponent of the Holy Rosary. When I say it, I also have a copy of the priest’s pictorial directory open and pray for each of our priests. Even if I say only one decade, I have a chance to pray for 10 priests.
Anyone can do that with a family album or their parish pictorial directory, as I encourage our priests to do. Bring the pictures of real people with you when you pray. It’s amazing how Christ can speak to us about what we should be doing in our relationship with them, and how we should be grateful to them.
In addition to setting time aside each day to pray, I like to take one day a month in which I go to pray at the Abbey of Gethsemani, a Trappist abbey in New Haven, Kentucky. I go down on a Sunday afternoon for evening prayer, and then spend all of Monday there.
People need to make time for a period of prayer and reflection. It could be a Holy Hour in a church or time at a retreat center. It’s a great way to open ourselves up to Christ and let Him speak to us.
Robert Morlino, Bishop of Madison, Wisconsin
I strongly recommend adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It brings us tremendous graces. In our diocese, we have had one parish that has had perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for 15 years. The difference it makes to the spiritual life of the parish is incalculable.
Secondly, I recommend the daily Rosary. People need to know the way in which our Blessed Mother leads them to her son. That’s the way to get to know her son as she knows him. She is all those beautiful titles that we call her in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, such as the Ark of the Covenant and the Gate of Heaven. She is a privileged gateway to knowing Jesus as she knows him. Getting close to her always means getting closer to Jesus.
We celibate priests especially need to be conscious of the Marian dimension of the Church and to have Mary as a powerful intercessor and intimate friend. That can come about with the daily recitation of the Rosary with attention and devotion. I’ve seen it over and over again, and I’ve seen it in my own life.
And, the intercession of St. John Paul is a particular gift to our own generation. It is wonderful to be able to pray to a saint that we knew in one way or another, even from a distance. His intercession for us before the Lord will be great in terms of just looking at the many blessings that he brought upon the whole world with God’s help during his life.
Alexander Sample, Archbishop of Portland
I emphasize the importance of a strong sacramental life, especially participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I recommend frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance; the fall off in its use worries me greatly. We priests and bishops need to preach often about the importance of confession and be available to hear confessions.
It’s important that we learn to pray on a deep level, not just vocal but mental prayer and contemplation. We’re so busy in our lives and the world is so noisy; we need to learn to be quiet and listen. We need to develop a personal, deep relationship with the Lord and pour our hearts out to him in prayer.
And, we need to stay close to the Lord as part of the Body of Christ, the Church. This means being part of the local Church under the diocesan bishop, being docile to the word of God and humbling accepting the teachings of the Church.