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13 Things to Do After RCIA to Keep Your Catholic Faith on Fire

13 Ways to Keep Your Faith on Fire After RCIA via @ACatholicNewbie

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So you spent the last nine months of your life going to weekly sessions to learn all about the Catholic faith, attending weekly mass and receiving special blessings. You got through the nerve-wracking first reconciliation and you made it through the long Easter Vigil finally confirmed in the faith and an official member of the Catholic church. Congratulations! Joining the Catholic church is not an easy process, nor should it be. We only want you to join the Body of Christ if you’re truly passionate about Jesus Christ and “thirsty” for best way to life out your faith.

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Many of us Catholic “newbies” (as I like to call us :)) are zealous for all things Catholicism, especially at first. We’re so excited at this jewel we have discovered in the Church that we want to learn all we can and tell everyone who will listen to us all about it. But like new love, sometimes that excitement wears off. I’ve got 13 things you can do to keep your faith on fire and make sure that come next Easter you haven’t fizzled out.

13 Things to Do After RCIA to Keep Your Catholic Faith on Fire

1) Go on a Silent Retreat

First, you need to start your Catholic life with prayer. I started the tradition of a yearly silent retreat before I joined the church and I’ve found it so beneficial to help me discern next steps in life. Check your diocese or one nearby for retreat houses or monasteries that offer a day’s silent retreat. You can often choose to spend at least one night if you’d like, as well, and it’s always a very minimal cost less than $40.

Turn off all electronics and just check in periodically for emergencies and try to be as silent as possible. Pray the rosary, visit the chapel (if one is available) in silent meditation, walk the grounds, pray the Stations of the Cross if available, read the Bible, read spiritual books and record your thoughts in a journal. LISTEN to God and you’ll be amazed at the direction you receive in silence and prayer.

2) Make Prayer Part of Daily Life

I always feel myself slipping away when I get busy and end up sacrificing my prayer time. I’d suggest praying as close to the start of your day as you can (for parents it may be after the kids go to school or before they wake up). Consider praying the Liturgy of the Hours (you’ll find them in the free Laudate app available on smartphones), pray the rosary, offer your day’s work to the Lord that it may work for His will, and pray any prayers that are special to you (perhaps to your confirmation saint or Mary or other prayers you love). I also try to remember to stop at noon and pray the Angelus (a short prayer to Mary that the Pope prays daily), as well as offer a closing prayer as I go to sleep.

3) Begin Praying the Rosary

You might start by adding the rosary once a week on a set day and see how it works in your life. Once I started praying it weekly, I quickly wanted to pray it daily. However, I mostly pray my rosary decade by decade throughout the day however I can. I may pray the opening as I take the dog for a walk, pray two more decades at noon, pray another two in the shower at the end of the day and finish as I go to sleep. My advice, though, is to get started early otherwise the day will get away from you and you’ll be too tired to pray the whole thing. Read my tips on How to Work the Rosary Into Your Busy Day.

4) Read the Bible Daily

The simplest way to do this is to sign up for a free email that either provides you with a daily verse to read or tells you which verse to read. The founders of Flocknote offer free emails that take you through the entire Gospel in a Year, as well as the Catechism in a Year. You can also read the Catholic Church’s Daily Bible Reading on your free Laudate app, by subscribing on USCCB.org or in a daily missal book.

There are also Bible reading plans like the free 90-day Bible Reading Challenge from Ascension Press or the Coming Home Network’s Bible Reading Plan and Catechism Reading Plan, which takes you through related parts of the Old & New Testaments. Or pick a book of the Bible that you feel called to and start reading a chapter a day!

5) Read Catholic Books

This is one of my favorite ways of growing my Catholic faith. I have stacks of books and online lists of books that are just GInormous! Try to read at a minimum at least one Catholic book a year. Need suggestions? Check out My Favorite Catholic books Pinterest board, check out my Amazon book list on the right side of the page or email me if there are specific things you want to learn more about. My two absolute favorites are “New Testament Basics for Catholics” by John Bergsma (see my review) and Matthew Kelly’s “Rediscover Catholicism.” No need to spend tons of money on this either — see what you can find at your library and ask them to transfer things in if they don’t have it. This is where I started!

6) Go to Mass

This one should be an obvious, right? But you’ve GOT to go to mass to avoid falling away from the faith. You must receive Christ in the Eucharist. He told us in John 6:53:

“…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.”

That’s pretty darn clear to me! While you’re at mass, consider using a mass journal. This is a recommendation from Matthew Kelly, author (who I mentioned above) and founder of DynamicCatholic.com. Pray at the beginning of mass that you will learn something to help you grow spiritually and when you realize what it is, write it down. It’s something you can review from time to time so you don’t forget what God is trying to teach you. Request a FREE one from DynamicCatholic.com (you just pay shipping).

7) Attend Daily Mass

OK, I’m upping the ante here :). If you really want to grow in your faith, try to get to daily mass at least some of the time. I find this is how I learned a lot about the Catholic faith (and still do) in the homilies and the daily Scripture readings. It’s a free activity that only requires the sacrifice of your time (usually only about a half-hour) and the best part of it all – you can receive Jesus any day of the week!! I find it a wonderfully quiet and centering way to start the day. It helps set the tone of my day and reminds me what’s most important as I go through my daily tasks.

8) Commit to Regular Time in Adoration

Another of my favorite activities (that I still tend to let fall off when I get busy, but shouldn’t!) is quiet time spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament or the exposed Eucharist in Adoration. For newbies, this means that you can sit and pray, read or meditate on Jesus by sitting in His actual Presence (meaning his REAL presence in the form of the Eucharist). You can actually SIT with Jesus!!

You’ll find much direction and discernment here. Ask most priests, deacons, nuns, monks, etc. about their discernment process and they will tell you spending time in adoration played a role. This doesn’t mean God will tell you to be a nun (He might though :)), but you’ll a get much clearer idea and sense of peace about the plans He has for you.

Most churches have a Blessed Sacrament (not exposed) or Perpetual Adoration (exposed) chapel where you can go sit with Jesus anytime. Don’t let Him be lonely! You please Him greatly by spending time with Him.

9) Take Time for a Daily Reflection

Matthew Kelly offers a great daily reflection called the Prayer Process in his book “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic” if you can get into the habit of doing so. You simply take a moment at the end of your day to reflect on what you could have done better, what God is trying to tell you through the events of the day, thanking God, asking for forgiveness, praying for others and just taking a moment to talk with God about your life. You can get a free Prayer Process card on DynamicCatholic.com

10) Get Involved in Your Parish

Find a way, even a small way, to get involved. To truly be a member of the Body of Christ, you’ve got to get in there and mix with its people — for good or bad. Could you be a reader, teach religious education, help clean the sanctuary, play an instrument, sing, help set up for an event, speak to future RCIA candidates…? Most parishes offer plenty of opportunities in the way of serving. Here are my 5 surefire ways to help you get involved at your parish. Pray, discern and speak up! I’ve read God provides many graces for those who assist at Mass. 🙂

11) Take a Class

If you want to learn more about your faith outside of books, consider taking a class. I’ve considered getting my master’s in theology (for lay people) and looked into institutes around me who offer flexible programs. St. Meinrad in Indiana and Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio) both offer flexible programs with online components, though I’ve determined right now isn’t the time for me, but I hope to begin the process down the road. If you just want to learn and don’t want to pursue a degree, consider reputable online programs like the Avila Institute, which offers classes on various saints, spiritual formation, spiritualities and more that you can do from home.

12) Go to Reconciliation

I think you will also find the fire fizzling if you don’t regularly go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. While it’s an easy one to put off, when you get there and confess your sins, you feel remarkably better and receive grace to continue to battle your temptations. Here is what I wish all RCIA candidates knew about confession.

I’d recommend going at least monthly if you can. It will keep you in good spiritual health. Plus, as Vinny Flynn points out in his book, “7 Secrets of Confession,” this is one of a few Sacraments where you experience the Real Presence of Jesus, this time not in the Eucharist but in the priest who acts as Jesus in hearing and forgiving your sins. Don’t miss that opportunity to be in the presence of Jesus! It’s a tremendous blessing!

13) Consider Total Consecration to Jesus Through Mary

I won’t go into this in depth here since this post is already long, but it’s a great next step in deepening your faith. Read more in this past blog or check out the books “True Devotion to Mary” by St. Louis de Montfort or “33 Days to Morning Glory” by Fr. Michael Gaitley.

Did I give you too many marching orders!? Take it one step at a time starting with prayer to determine where to begin. It’s also a lot about building habits. In the book “The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results” by Gary Keller (one of my all-time favorites, though not specifically Catholic), he says it takes about 66 days for a new task to start to feel like a habit, so add in one thing at a time till it becomes a habit and see how it flames the fire in you.

Now, as Catherine of Sienna says, “If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.” We just need to get it kindling first…

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Pray the Rosary for 33 Days — You Can Do It!

Catholic RosaryRecently, I’ve become involved with a project to encourage praying the rosary. As someone who just over the last few months began praying the rosary daily (well, almost!), this is near and dear to my heart and I can attest to its benefits.

Created by David Calvillo, the 33 Day Rosary campaign encourages all Catholics to pray the rosary daily for 33 days starting August 29 and then see what a difference it’s made in their lives. He has a compelling story of how the rosary changed his own life, which is captured wonderfully in this article by Patti Armstrong on The Integrated Catholic Life website. When praying the rosary on a retreat he says, “I was suddenly with Mary at the feet of Jesus, praying with everyone who had ever prayed the rosary. I was in union with the whole Body of Christ.”

As a Catholic newbie, one of the stumbling blocks of praying the rosary for me was figuring out how to do it! It seems simple to cradle Catholics, but let me tell you, when you Google how to pray the rosary and start reading all the prayers involved and then add in the mysteries, it was a “mystery” to me :). It finally took finding a simplified brochure at my parish that helped me understand it. Calvillo has overcome that one with an easy-to-understand How to Pray section of his website that takes you through each prayer on the drop down menu under How to Pray.

Another problem I ran into was struggling with the repetition of it all. That simply took JUST DOING IT and then I got over it. I think after 33 days you’ll have conquered that one.

Also, you may be saying “But I don’t HAVE TIME to pray the rosary every day.” WRONG! YOU DO! If you can’t set aside 20-30 minutes of quiet time, then pray it while driving (this requires some prayer memorization or tune into Catholic Radio, which plays it multiple times a day, or download a rosary podcast), folding laundry, walking the dog, taking a shower, etc. I know you can fit it in. And if you have to do 2 decades in the morning, 1 at lunch and 2 more at night, so be it. Mary doesn’t mind :).

I marvel at the change the rosary has brought to my own life and my newfound dedication to our Blessed Mother. She has brought me infinite graces and blessings already. In reading Calvillo’s story, it chronologically mirrors my own. The rosary led him to St. Louis de Montfort, which led him to Total Consecration. I plan to do the Total Consecration to Mary beginning September 4 and recently finished reading “True Devotion to Mary” by St. Louis de Montfort after starting to pray the rosary daily this spring. I am so excited! Take a look at the Total Consecration page on Calvillo’s website for more information. I am doing it through Gary Zimak who offers a resource for a free book to take you through the process. More info.

Why pray the rosary? Well, there are the 15 promises from Mary, which are pretty powerful, but let’s let the experts weigh in:

“It is through the blessed Virgin Mary that Jesus Christ came into the world, and it is also through her that he must reign in the world.” — St. Louis Marie de Montfort

“One of the principal benefits of the rosary is to provide the Christian with a short and easy way of nourishing his faith and of preserving it from ignorance … When faith is exercised … by meditating on the mysteries, … we recall to mind the wonderful work of our salvation.” — Pope Leo XIII

Now, go sign up for the 33 Day Rosary Challenge to make yourself accountable and put it on your daily to do list. Then come back to the Catholic Newbie blog at the end and share how it changed your life. And remember, Jesus came to us through Mary, so why should we not go to him through Her? Be blessed!

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Thoughts Before I Officially “Join” the Catholic Church

Cross in the SkyHere I am, less than one week away from becoming Catholic. This has been my desire for more than a year, yet somehow it’s all gone pretty fast!

I am bursting with excitement at how close I am to becoming a full member of the church and being able to enjoy more of the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist. I wonder how it will affect me — if it will be noticeable or just a subtle change.

I am thrilled that I have done First Reconciliation, which I was so nervous about. I feel like it’s all joy from here on out as I head into Holy Week and the Easter Vigil (the service where I join the church)!

I am amazed at how far I have come spiritually in just the span of a year. From a year and a half ago a nonbeliever to a full convert bursting with joy at what I have found … nothing short of a miracle.

I look forward to becoming more active in the church. So many times I’ve been interested in doing something but thought to myself “nope, let’s work on actually becoming Catholic first… then I can add more of these activities.” I hope to get involved in some of our church’s groups and programs and perhaps become a reader.

I have participated as fully as I can as a non-Catholic from going to mass weekly and on Holy Days and to daily mass when my kids’ school schedules permit it to adding prayer to my daily life and guiding my kids in the beginnings of their Catholic journey.

I have learned so much over the last year, but yet am so eager for more. It truly is a “thirst”. I find myself often sad at the fact that I cannot just sit in church or read a spiritual text or pray. Work and day-to-day life get in the way, but I’m working it in as much as I can and I hope I find the capacity to add to it.

I look forward in the coming year to continuing to work on my personal flaws and am so happy to be aided in that process by the sacrament of reconciliation. I also fully intend to commit myself to service to others in a regular fashion in the wonderful model of our new Pope Francis.

I also hope to take a short pilgrimage to St. Therese of Lisieux’s national shrine in the U.S., not too far from me outside of Chicago. Maybe a good summer trip…

So much to do… so little time… I will continue to blog as my first year as a Catholic and share all the new joys and experiences that come my way. Please join me!

How I Came to Conversion

Becoming CatholicI’ve long intended to share how I “came around” to Catholicism because it truly shocks me utterly to the core! It’s not that it was some huge, dramatic moment, but the simple fact of me becoming Catholic is nothing I could ever have imagined and would have argued with you about vehemently had you told me it would happen.

While exposed to different churches growing up, I always felt most comfortable in a spiritual, but non-religious environment. I spent many years studying various New Age philosophies and always believed in God but not religion as a requirement to get to God. However, through all that, I never felt like I was given a solid, specific path to self-improvement. It was all wishy-washy, try this, do that and disorganized, so I never got very far on that path. Read my blog on Catholicism as a specific, proven path to self-improvement.

Right about Christmas 2011 is when I experienced my “calling.” I don’t even know what words to give this. I’ve heard “calling” and “conversion of heart” but to me, it’s like I was suddenly given the eyes of faith. Never before was I willing to believe in Jesus as the son of God because my very logical mind would not accept it. But once I was given the “eyes of faith,” it didn’t need to be “proven” to me; suddenly, I could just “feel” how right it was.

It started some years before that when I began to feel a very faint desire and interest in revisiting  the place where my husband and I spent our Catholic marriage retreat. I felt “pulled” or “drawn” there is the best way I can describe it. It was deep in the recesses of my mind or perhaps it was the stirrings of the Holy Spirit I was feeling.

I ignored it for a couple years, though did a few things like looking up the retreat house on the web and learning more about it. I would eventually go back to the retreat house and spend a silent retreat that led me to this blog. All of a sudden around Christmas 2011, I began to feel more strongly that I’d like to try going to Catholic Mass. So we packed up the whole family and off we went.

My husband is a cradle Catholic, though has not been engaged with the church since living at home. Never had I been interested in Catholicism and in fact was turned off by it (read more in my blog here about my misgivings about Catholicism). But when I went this time, it didn’t seem so bad. In fact, if I dared admit it, it felt kind of good.

We came back for Christmas Eve Mass and sometime thereabouts I decided to give it my full effort, kneeling, singing and reading the responses. The first positive feelings I experienced besides “not so bad” were complete and utter peace, something I really feel was lacking in my life as the mother of two boys and owner of my own small business. This simple respite of peace once a week was delightful. The positive feelings grew from there into a great “thirst” and unquenchable desire to learn everything I could and attend Mass as often as possible, and then complete and utter “joy.”

I feel like perhaps this happened at Christmas because this is when we celebrate Christ’s conception and coming into the world. I feel like the Holy Spirit allowed Christ to be conceived in me at this time.

I think after Christmas Eve Mass 2011 I have never missed a Mass since. And it’s less because I’m obligated to go as a future Catholic and more because I can’t stand to miss.

To me, this is utterly a miracle and I can explain it no other way. I still stop and say “is this me?” and begin to question myself a bit, but when I go back to the feelings I receive when in communion with the Lord, I “get it” again and again and again.

As for advice for those of you considering Catholicism, pray that you experience a “conversion of heart” like I did and that you are given the “eyes of faith.” I am not sure why I was called now and suddenly given this gift; I suspect I had some people — both on earth and in heaven — praying for me :).  Open your heart, participate in Mass, read about Catholicism and see where it leads you. I hope it leads you to the place of peace that I have found.

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