Adulthood: A Spiritual Guide (Because Being a Grown-Up Is Weird)

Hello friends!

So, we all remember middle school, yes? Of course, we don’t necessarily like to remember it at all, seeing as we were all awkward, hormonal, and wearing our clothes in all the wrong ways.  Becoming a teenager was all about re-establishing ourselves as the somebodies that everybody wanted to get to know, and we tried way too hard to do so. If you’re also cringing right now, I’m terribly sorry.

middleschool Me circa 2006. Don’t hate me cause I’m beautiful.

Photo Credit: Lora Wilkinson

In past years, I’m sure we all used to see ourselves at 22, driving cars we could afford with well-paying, satisfactory careers to help us afford them.  We saw a bright light at the end of a dark, horrifying tunnel. As a 23-year-old, I can attest to the fact that that is most certainly not always the case.  In a way, I feel almost as if I’m in middle school again.  As someone starting their career and attempting to establish new relationships here in the area, I’ve been sort of feeling like a newborn giraffe – awkward and juvenile and not so sure how to find my footing.

giraffe

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Just two weeks ago, I came to my spiritual director feeling incompetent and very far from myself, yet he quieted the chaos with a phrase so simple it could have smacked me in the forehead: “You’re in transition.”  It was like a spiritual V-8 commercial. And it’s true! For many of us, being in our early twenties means just recently graduating from college.  It means job searching and interviewing and trying to establish a name for ourselves with what little we have in our possession. It means moving to new places and making connections. It means not being taken as seriously at first. It means not always being sure you’re on the right track. It’s a hard knock life.

hard knock life

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So, where does God fit in with all of this?  The answer is simple. When life seems to go awry and we lose our peace of mind and spirit, evil attempts to kick us while we’re down. The confusion and unfamiliarity associated with one’s early twenties essentially creates a spiritual battleground for that very reason. It remains imperative, as it is during any other period of one’s life, to turn to the Lord during times of struggle and uncertainty.

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How can we survive (and conquer) what seems to be our second round of middle school?  In which ways can we integrate the Catholic faith into our time of transition?

Here’s how!

  1. The Mass

This one is pretty much a no-brainer. There is nothing in this world more apt or able to heal a troubled heart than the Word of God and the very manifestation of Heaven on earth in the Holy Eucharist.  Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati once said, “I urge you with all the strength of my soul to approach the Eucharist table as often as possible, feed on this bread of the angels from which you will draw the strength to fight inner struggles.” In John 6:55-66, Christ himself declares, “My flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” What better way to involve Christ and obtain healing through Him than to actually consume Him at least once a week? There isn’t a better way. Fact.

Mass

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  1. Prayer and Devotional Time

Finding time to pray may become a challenge as life starts to look muddy, but it’s when life looks muddy that we need some Jesus. (We need him every other time, too, but you get me.)  It is extremely important to find time in your day to devote to prayer. Set a daily alarm, if it helps, and talk to God. Sing to God, even! He’s the best listener and doesn’t care if you sing out of tune. Best friend ever? I think so.

Spend time devoted to Our Blessed Mother, as well. Utilize your rosary as a weapon against sin and distress, even if that means working your way up from a decade a day. Invoke God’s saints and pray for their intercessions. You’ve got a whole slew of supporters who will pray for you! Turn to them!

rosary
Photo Credit: Lora Wilkinson

  1. Adoration and The Blessed Sacrament

When it comes down to maintaining relationships with others, we all know how beneficial it is to interact one-on-one.  We go out of our way to get in the car and travel, sometimes for several hours, to spend time with the people who are dear to us. Why should your relationship with Christ be any different?  Visit Him!

From a personal standpoint, I have experienced so much grace through my visits to the Blessed Sacrament and through Eucharistic Adoration. When I revere God in this way, I’m overcome with a great sense of peace, and the physical presence of God before me makes the problems that I’ve encountered seem merely trivial.  After all, “Adoration of the thrice-holy and sovereign God of love blends with humility and gives assurance to our supplications” (CCC 2628).

adoration

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  1. Confession and Direction

“The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” – St. Augustine

Dear friends, GO TO CONFESSION. I once spent a nine-year period without partaking in this sacrament, and to say I felt empty during that time is the understatement of the century.  In order for you to be completely open to receiving the Lord, you must be purged of your sins. And there is no better feeling than the lightness of a squeaky-clean, sin-free soul.  Christ died for you so that your sins may be forgiven! Do your part of the deal.

Another available service that I recommend is spiritual direction.  A spiritual director will converse with you in complete confidentiality about everything that goes on with you spiritually. Their role is to aid you in your faith formation and to assist where your spirituality is lacking, as it often is in your early twenties and during times of uncertainty.  A little bit of clarification goes a long way.
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  1. Your Catholic Community

After recently leaving campus life behind, I found myself feeling anxious.  I wanted to become more involved in the Catholic community. I wanted to go on retreats and volunteer to work them. I wanted to be part of a faith-filled community of people with whom I could relate.  I was already a part of the young adult ministry at St. Joan of Arc, where I am a parishioner, but I wanted to expand and delve into the community more, and I didn’t know how.  Through some pretty wonderful friends, I was able to become a part of the young adult community at Immaculate Conception, as well. I wouldn’t be sitting here telling you all of this if not for my involvement in the community, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Don’t become a hermit (unless you’re pursuing the cloistered life, which is a beautiful and super cool vocation, so go you). As a young adult, networking should not be limited to your career. Find people who share your excitement for the Catholic faith who will serve alongside you and bring you closer to Christ.  Not only will this help you spiritually, but you’ll have friends, and friends are great.

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Photo Credit: Lora Wilkinson

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – St. Catherine of Siena

Really, this is what it all boils down to. Middle school was rotten. Young adulthood can be just as rotten.  How you choose to embark on this journey will determine your success and your sense of peace as an adult.  Will you crumble when facing adversity, or will you allow Christ to catch you? We His faithful, despite the awkwardness and pandemonium we may encounter, must actively pursue Christ and avoid spiritual lethargy as we establish our lives and strive for direction in the big, bad, grown-up world.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 1.34.20 PM Lora Wilkinson – Contributor

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Olly Olly Oxen Free! Where in the World is He?

“Come out, come out wherever you are!”

Nowadays, I feel like this is all I am asking of the Holy Spirit cause I can’t seem to figure out where He has gone! Why does becoming an adult mean that I am in a perpetual game of hide-and-seek with our Lord?

Hide and Seek (Megan)

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As a 23-year-old recent college graduate, and nervous first-time teacher, I am also struggling to figure out where in the world my relationship with Christ has gone. Why does it seem that becoming an adult means that God has become more difficult to find?

I was a cradle Catholic, attended parochial school, was actively involved in campus ministry, and now am preparing to teach third grade at Catholic school. Doesn’t any of that magically grant me the secrets to spirituality?

Megan and Bro Aren’t my brother and I cute in our uniforms?

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

Retreat after retreat, whether I attended or teamed, I heard everything there was to hear about who God is, how to pray, and what a relationship with Him ought to look like. However, when I’m in the real world, I lose sight and it becomes extremely difficult to stick to any sort of routine.

Those “small moments” where I do hear God answering a prayer or giving me a polite nudge to let me know He’s there, they feel like cheats… Like I don’t deserve them because I haven’t been dedicated enough.

Here I am, a trained teacher, preparing to teach children about the foundations of our beautiful faith, and I feel like fraud.

Trees (Megan)

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

Now, I realize I may be sensationalizing a tad. Yes, it may often seem like I can’t find Christ because I don’t “feel” anything—because I don’t feel His Spirit. However, as a local priest once preached at Sunday mass…

“Faith is more than a feeling.”

Faith is not measured by how much or what exactly we may inexplicably “feel.” Faith is truly believing in something greater than ourselves… Something that we cannot see, describe or truly understand.

Faith is an on-going learning experience as we ask questions and better discover who God is and what He is doing in our lives. Are we ever going to fully understand Him? No! Of course not. But I find supreme beauty in that.

As a teacher, I am called to encourage my students to inquire, ask questions and seek out knowledge. God is calling us to do the same things. Just like how we are always learning, even after the schoolbooks are away and all of the homework has been submitted…

God never stops revealing Himself to us.

Ok… So where exactly do I find Him?

Now, I never said it was easy, and I am certainly no expert…

As a Newport Newsian/Hampton Roadsian/CNU Captain, I have been able to seek and find the Lord in some of the following ways:

1. Music

Now, I have plenty of stories about profound spiritual experiences with music on a car ride or as a music minister, but I’ll save those for another post.

Music has always been a huge part of my prayer life. Whether at the mass, retreats, or praise and worship, I have found great solace in the beauty of music and the truth of lyrics. Sacred music is so special because of it’s deep connection to personal experiences, and best of all, scripture.

Bible (Megan)

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Ever feel at a loss for a prayer before mass or any other moment? Try reading over the lyrics to one of your favorite hymns. I can’t tell you how many times I perused through the pages of Breaking Bread as a child, fawning over the words of classic tunes like “The Summons,” “Here I Am, Lord,” and “O God You Search Me” (all still favorites of mine to this day).

2. Quiet Prayer 

Now, I admit, I am terrible when it comes to praying on a schedule. Every time I dwell on it, I feel supremely guilty… Prayer is what keeps our relationship with Christ alive! Relationships cannot survive without communication.

In the gospel of Matthew, Christ tells us,

When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:6 NAB

Quiet prayer is one of the most awkward, but by far the most rewarding things we can do to find and know God. There have been times that I have shut off the radio in my car (which, trust me, is almost impossible for me to do) on a long solitary car trip, and prayed out loud. Starting out, I feel ridiculous as I babble what’s on my mind and in my heart… but then it becomes one of the most freeing and worthwhile moments of my day. Sometimes I wind up in tears! There is something beautiful about that sort of awkward vulnerability.

An easier and less awkward option that I exercise with great frequency is to retreat to a quiet spot in nature; my favorite being the large tree near Lion’s Gate Bridge, a part of Noland Trail.

Lions Bridge (Megan)

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

Sigh… Isn’t it beautiful? I love retreating to this spot with my prayer journal, rosary, Shorter Christian Prayer, or guitar. Staring out at the water, I feel an immense amount of peace. My prayers are able to blossom from ones of adoration for God’s creation to those of petition, asking God for assistance and support in my life.

Haven’t been to the tree before? Try it! You won’t be disappointed.

3. Community

One of the biggest things that I have learned from youth ministry and campus ministry is that Christ is more easily found in community.

Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:20 NAB

The friends I have made in these communities of faith have not only kept me sane, but perpetually point me towards Christ and the path that He has laid for me. These friends have encouraged me, stood by my side, and lifted me up when I was down.Grace Bible (Megan)

Photo Credit: Megan Jones

If I ever doubt our Lord, all I need to do is to reach out to any of these friends and they reveal to me His face and love once again.

Have any of these keepers? Rejoice! They are worth holding on to, connecting with, crazy Snapchatting… you name it! And when special events are going on in the area like Praise and Pints or Theology on Tap, grab them and head out to some special spiritual formation!

… and if all else fails?

If all else fails… luckily there’s a solution.

Where can we best find our Lord? Why that would be in the Eucharist of course!

Eucharist (Megan)

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Receive Him with an open heart at the Mass and fall to your knees in His presence. We are so blessed that our Lord has humbled Himself to join us here on this earth. Never take it for granted.

“Where can I go from your spirit?

From your presence, where can I flee?

If I ascend to the heavens, you are there;

If I lie down in Sheol, there you are.

If I take the wings of dawn

And dwell beyond the sea,

Even there your hand guides me,

Your right hand holds me fast.”

Psalms 139:7-10 NAB

VENI SANCTE SPIRITUS!

IMG_1463 Megan Jones – Contributor