The Following represents my talk notes from the closing keynote talk at the Prince George Diocesan Youth Conference on April 22nd, 2018
As we come to the end of our time together, I want to encourage you with some words from St. Padre Pio:
In the spiritual life one must always go on pushing ahead and never go backwards; if not, the same thing happens as to a boat which when it loses headway gets blown backwards with the wind.
The first thing I would challenge you to do is to go home with your eyes wide open to your surroundings. Does the music you listen to, shows you watch, and the people you interact with on social media push you ahead and deepen your relationship with God… or are they pulling you away?
- The alcoholic who is serious about recovery stays away from the bar (and pours out any more beer he has been keeping in the house). The drug addict often has to leave town. The porn addict doesn’t just clear his browser history, he installs accountability software on his computer, cell phone, and he looks through his DVD collection to see if there’s anything that would lead him into the near occasion of sin.
- As you arrive home tonight, keep your eyes open this week for those things you might need to change, those things which are pulling you away or acting as an anchor to keep you from the life that Jesus wants for you. BE HONEST.
- If you really trust Him, you’re not worried that what you give up will outweigh what you get: there is no promise in this world that can match up to the promises of God.
Most of that is about not going backwards. How do you PUSH AHEAD in your spiritual life? My solution is that I want to give you an OGRE. This OGRE represents four tips that will help you pray at multiple times per day–to walk the path of renewal and cooperate with the Spirit of God in you who is always working to push you away from death and towards life.
The ‘O’: Make a Morning Offering
I remember visiting my high school girlfriend’s family and seeing in big letters on the wall in her brother’s room “MAKE A MORNING OFFERING.” I never really understood what it meant until a few years later, at Bible School when one of our instructors told us to do the same.
It really is quite simple: by making an offering of your whole day (good, bad, and ugly) to God at the very start of your day, you do what we did last night – bringing Him with you and remembering He is with you in all circumstances and at all times. This is in direct opposition to what we do by our sin, which is to separate ourselves from Him (as we saw yesterday morning) and ultimately to exclude Him from our lives.
There are formal prayers you can use:
My God, I adore You, and I love You with all my heart. I thank you for having created me, made me a Christian, and preserved me this night. I offer You the actions of this day. Grant that all of them may be in accordance with Your holy Will and for Your greater glory. Protect me from sin and from all evil. Let Your grace be always with me and with all my dear ones. Amen.
Making an offering of your day is a simple way to start on the right foot – before you even set foot on the floor to get out of bed. If you don’t know what to say, google a morning prayer, but feel free to simply offer Him your day in your own words. We learn prayer the same way we learn to talk: imitating words and sounds before finding our own. The point is to offer it ALL to the God who loves you and gave you that day in the first place.
The ‘G’: Say Grace
A couple years ago, a group of youth from my parish decided to try and pray Grace before lunch while at school for a whole week. On Sunday night, it seemed to them to be a fantastic idea… but on Monday at 11:30, it was much more intimidating.
My youth minister used to say that every time we pray in public, it is a small humiliation – an act of love – for the God who was completely humiliated for us. What does this do? Makes us just a little more like Him. Saying Grace before our meals helps us to recognize the presence of God in our day (and from whom we get all we have.)
While it may seem like a trivial thing, saying Grace three times a day means you are stopping to pray three times a day… which is also a very good thing.
The ‘R’: Read Your Bible (and not just the easy parts!)
When he was Archbishop of Edmonton, Cardinal Thomas Collins used to carry a small, pocket sized, red Bible in his suit coat pocket. He took every opportuinty he could to remind us that Bibles are meant to be red (read.)
For most people who make a New Year’s resolution to read the Bible, it’s sometime in February or March that they give up (having come upon Leviticus’ commandments not to sleep with animals or your sister, they are understandably disturbed). But it’s all inspired, God speaks to us in all of it, and you need to make sure it stays red/read. And by that, I mean daily.
There are a ton of reading guides out there. If you enter it into Google, you’ll find a few good ones. The App store on the iPhone and Google Play both contain many as well – check with your youth minister or priest to help find a good one. Try and find out what readings your church will be reflecting on next Sunday and read those ahead of time (easier to do in some faith traditions than others).
One simple way I would recommend that will allow you to read the New Testament in 4-5 months:
a) read a chapter in the morning starting in Matthew, and going through the 4 Gospels Acts of the Apostles, and the Letter to the Romans) – 133 total chapters
b) read a chapter in the evening (starting with the 1st letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, then going through all the letters and the book of Revelation.) – 126 total chapters
You could also just read one chapter a day – this would allow you to get through the New Testament in 9-10 months (depending on how faithful you are to your reading.)
(If you want to try and get through the whole Bible, feel free to use this handy Bible Reading Checklist to keep track of your progress.)
The point, though, whatever plan or guide you go with is to read it. EVERY DAY. Allow God to speak to you through it, discover yourself in it, and have your faith deepened by it.
The ‘E’: Make an examination of Conscience
One traditional form of prayer in our Church involves ending your day with a brief examination of conscience, taking an honest look at the day and the ways in which you did or did not respond to God’s grace that day.
There is great wisdom in this practice, because it not only allows you an opportunity to see the patterns of sin in your life… but also to look for opportunities to do something about it in the next day.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be the formal examination of conscience we did yesterday afternoon. (You can find that on the second page of this document.) It could also be something as simple as (SLIDE 11) asking yourself how you did at loving God & loving your neighbor today.
The point is to make the space, to check your heart, and to ask God’s grace to do better tomorrow.
If you take on this “OGRE” – begin your day by offering it to God, stop three times to say grace, and end it by reflecting on how you’ve chosen life (and death) that day, you’ll be praying six times a day and allowing the breath of the Holy Spirit to breathe you forward.
Remember that Jesus has promised “I am with you always” – on your best day, your worst day and everything in between. He has been around since the beginning of time – ad he was there for your specific origin story. He was there when you found yourself drawn to the “distant country” – and when you were ready to make your return home again. He was there in every moment you have ever felt afraid. He was there on the Cross to restore your relationship with Him (and others).
He loves you. I am praying for you.