Theology by the Slice: How can I develop a stronger faith in God?
On November 5, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Newman Center hosted an event titled, “Theology by the Slice.” Students were able to ask a panel questions about the teachings and traditions of the Catholic faith. The following is one of the questions. The panel included Bishop Peter Muhich; Father Mark McCormick, Newman Center chaplain; Sister Christine Hernandez, SCTJM, chancellor; Sister Rachel Gosda, SCTJM, director of Faith Formation; Sr. Maria Belen Musgrove, SCTJM, religion teacher, RCCSS; Seminarian Robert Kinyon; and Michael Pauley, director of the South Dakota Catholic Conference.
How can I develop a stronger faith in God? What are the methods by which you have grown? What resources, litanies, novenas, or lives of Saints have inspired you?
Bishop Peter Muhich: The only way to get to know a person is to spend time with them and so we need to spend time with the Lord by being with him in prayer, by reading his word, by being with him in his Eucharistic presence which is the most powerful way he is present to us. I know some of you may not be Catholic. The Catholic Church teaches the Eucharistic presence of the Lord is what we call his “real presence.” There’s an intensity to that that makes it a privileged place to come and spend time with him, especially daily, celebrating and receiving the Eucharist. If that’s not possible for whatever reason. That’s the basic answer. You must spend time with him.
Father Mark McCormick: I have preached on Blessed Carlos Acutes, a 15-year-old boy who died of cancer in Italy. He came up with 169 panels of eucharistic miracles that have been traveling the diocese. He attended daily Mass as a 7-year-old until he died when he was age fifteen, and if you look at his life, it bore so much fruit, so much joy that even at his burial many people attended. Those who came to it were the homeless and the poor in the town where he grew up and his parents were really surprised by it. Carlos had a gift for the poor and that came out of his relationship with the Lord. He would say if you want to grow in holiness, if you want to live a life of joy, peace and love, love then you encourage people to go to daily Mass.
I think reading the lives of the Saints really inspires us. Saint Paul says to be imitators of Christ. I think that’s the beauty of the saints — when we read their lives, we are given a great example of how to be an imitator in Christ.
Michael Pauley: I have a priest friend who’s favorite saying, “a day that doesn’t begin and end with prayer doesn’t have a prayer.” I’ve come to realize the truth of that. I’ve always been a practicing Catholic but there was a period in my life in my 20s, I call it the workaholic phase where I was consumed with work. I was working all the time, late on Saturday nights. When you get home late and you’re wiped-out, it was all I could do to drag myself to Mass. I remember times when I would lay there and think I don’t want to go to Mass, but of course, I would drag myself out of bed and go. I always found it was on those mornings — when I was the most exhausted, the most brain dead, sure that I would get nothing out of Mass because of my sheer exhaustion and burnout — that something in the Gospel or something in the priest’s homily would just hit me like a rock in the forehead.
I just shared that story as sort of a loud punctuation mark on what the bishop shared. You can’t have a relationship with the Lord unless you give time. You can’t have a relationship with a friend, boyfriend or a girlfriend, or a spouse if you didn’t invest time. God is no different and sometimes he speaks to us in precisely those moments when we’re convinced that we’re too weary burned out and distracted to pay attention. If you give him that time, he will find a way in
Robert Kinyon: Michael said that we can’t have a relationship with God unless we put in the effort and it’s true. I’m coming from a worldview where God is the beginning and the end and the creator and the summit of all existence. When we have that world view, even though we might not have a relationship with him because we’re not putting in the time, we can be confident that he has a relationship with us. Prayer is tapping into that relationship. We don’t believe that we’re just randomly plopped on the earth, and we live just 75 years and put into the grave. Protestants don’t believe that either. We believe that God has a plan for each and every one of us, and to put it as our former pope put it beautifully, our life is the result of a thought of God. Just to say that God has thought about us, has willed us into being, and continues to hold us and sustain us at all times, that he is intensely looking upon each of us and choosing to love us. That’s the Catholic worldview and that’s the Christian worldview.
Now prayer. To go back to what was said earlier, prayer is to take my gaze and to meet the gaze of God which is constantly and mysteriously reflected down into my heart and prayer and is now me opening up that heart to let that voice speak to God. Practically speaking, I think silence is essential for that. Practically speaking we now have smartphones which means we have constant attention being flooded into our minds and constant business and money being made by the attention we give our phones. It’s really hard to break from that and when we’re constantly distracted, we’re almost incapable of focusing on the gaze of God. To focus on that gaze requires some silence. For me, I don’t look at my phone for the first two hours I’m awake and it allows me time to pray. Prayer is simply looking at God who’s always looking at me and recognizing that I’m being held and I’m in his presence and that I can hear him move and feel him move.
Sister Christine Hernadez, SCTJM: When Michael told his story about being so exhausted, I think this is when God talks to you the most. I think that sometimes when we’re that tired and we’re that exhausted is when we’re the most docile. It’s when we’re so tired we can’t even fight back. I’ve had some of my most intense spiritual moments when I’ve come to that point of exhaustion where I can’t just fight it anymore and I just let go and, in that moment, where I let my guard down and throw my hands up, that’s when God touches you and that’s when he’s touched me. That’s when my heart beats, when my gaze meets his gaze because there isn’t anything else that’s blocking it in my own heart in my mind. I would say don’t be afraid or don’t give into that exhaustion, when you don’t want to drag yourself to go to prayer or bed or chapel or just even to say a simple prayer. Fight that and just let yourself go into his arms and he’ll take it from there
Sister Brooke Happ, SCTJM: With the practice of prayer, and I believe it’s already been mentioned, that discipline is so important. Even if we don’t feel like it, we should still go to prayer. I know for me I can think of a few instances where I didn’t feel like going to prayer or adoration and it can be one of the most powerful moments. I’m grateful that I went, but how beautiful that we can have that own discipline in our own hearts and minds to not be distracted, to not say I’m too tired to say I’m too busy but to make time for the Lord and trust that he will take care of everything else.
Sister Rachel Godsa, SCTJM: Just ask him, “Lord reveal yourself more.” Ask for his grace. He’s preparing you to receive, specifically through his word. We’ve been talking about prayer, but particularly to have the Gospel and to ask the Holy Spirit to break open that word for you and to lead you more deeply into the heart of Jesus.