The last two years I have been a Confirmation small group leader for a group of teenage girls at St. Ambrose of Woodbury Parish in Woodbury, MN. They were confirmed last Monday, May 13 at the Cathedral of St. Paul, MN. My daughter was one of the confirmed. It was a beautiful ceremony!
Tonight is the last time we will meet with the group of teenagers. I want to share with them things they can do to continue to grow in their faith.
The first suggestion I have is to listen to Catholic Apologists such as Jeff Cavins, Matthew Kelly, Patrick Madrid, Crystalina and Jason Everett and more. These guys are solid in their faith and they explain God, Jesus, the Catholic Church, the Saints and much more in ways that will enlighten teenagers and adults like never before. Listening to these guys on Podcasts or CDs or on their website and reading their books and blogs on a daily or weekly basis will make all of us hunger and thirst to learn more and more! I imagine they even have apps for the phone that I don't know about.
Another suggestion is to look at all of the volunteer opportunities at their church and in the community to see which one(s) compliment their personality. Do they like to sing? Become a cantor or part of the choir. Do they like to read aloud? Become a proclaimer. They can become a Eucharistic Minister or an Usher. Do they enjoy children? Volunteer to teach at the summer Vacation Bible School. Do they enjoy meeting people and sharing ideas about their faith? Join a Bible Study at Church.
There are also ways in the community to live out the Gospel and literals serve our Lord. He did say, "What you do onto my brothers, you do onto me." My daughter needs volunteer hours for the high school she attends so a couple of weeks ago we contacted the local Catholic Charities and they put us in touch with a homeless shelter that is about 3 miles from our home. On a Friday night my daughter and another teen who was just confirmed served dinner to a group homeless families. It was moving, touching and eye-opening. The families we served are in transition and trying to make a better life for themselves, from what we could see and what we were told. It is a powerful thing to live out the Gospel and be obedient to God. "Lord when did I ever see you hungry? "When you fed the least of my brothers, you fed me." This is a paraphrase from the Bible, but it brings the point home. I cannot express with words how right it feels inside, how good it feels inside do feed the homeless. I think this feeling is so strong because we are emulating Jesus when we do this. We are one with God when we carry out His words, His requests in the Gospel.
On a personal level, I suggest they schedule a time to pray everyday on their calendar. This works well if on Sunday you schedule or block the time you are going to pray each day for the upcoming week. Somedays it might work better to pray in the morning, other days in the afternoon or evenings. If it's on your calendar and you have scheduled time for it, it will be much more likely that you will do it. Sometimes I schedule my prayer time in the car because I know I will have a half an hour commute. This is when I listen to CDs and Podcasts by the people I listed above. By the time I reach my destination, I am filled with a new joy, knowledge and wisdom that I am bouncing off the walls! That is how much you can learn from others who are strong and educated in their faith!
Keep a notebook or a note page on your phone with your current prayer list. When you tell someone you will pray for them, write their name down or text they name in your phone on a list and as part of your prayer time each day, offer their needs up to God. You will not believe how fulfilling this will make you feel, and in addition you are helping others!
On Sunday, when you block time to pray, also block 1-2 days each week when you will care for and serve others with a thank you card, a phone call, a text, a simple gift. Reach out to your grandparents, cousins, old friends and let them know you are thinking about them. How about baking cookies for an elderly neighbor? When you deliver them ask if you can visit for 10 minutes and ask them to share about their childhood-they will beam with joy and you will be living out the Gospel. "Lord, when did I see you lonely? When you visited with the least of my brothers, you visited me."
From personal experience, by doing these things you will grow in your faith by leaps and bounds as you will be strengthening your spiritual muscle, working it out. Just as our bodily muscles grow and expand and become stronger when we lift weights, go the club and work out, the same occurs with our spiritual muscles!
In my opinion going to church is necessary and totally awesome to spend an hour every weekend in God's presence with a Community of believers and receive His body and blood, but it is not enough. Take action on some or all of the ideas I have shared with you here, plus other ideas that God plants in your heart and your faith (not to mention true joy) in your life will grow in ways you cannot not even imagine. God is full of surprises for you, He needs you to take action in your life!
Theresa G. is fascinated by the topics of God, spiritually and the Catholic Church. As her faith and knowledge about these topics grow, her desire to write about them grows as well. Maybe you will be able to relate to one of her articles and maybe they will affect you in a positive way!