Karli Smith | October 20, 2019
Question: The Lord is calling me to be a good student. Sometimes, I just can’t seem to make it to Mass on Sundays because of the amount of homework that I have for the following day/week. I’m really trying to be a good Catholic but I can’t do it all. There are too many things that I am called to do. How do I discern what is a priority?
I remember my last semester when I found myself lying awake at night, anxious about getting to sleep because of all that I had to do the next day as a nursing and theology student as well as part time employee for two jobs. I was just trying to keep my head above water so as not to drown in responsibilities. I had cut out almost every other facet of my life excluding school and work, and even though I didn’t miss my Sunday Mass obligation, live a life transformed by Christ, for Christ, in love of Christ. So, how does this work practically?
First, it means fulfilling our Sunday obligation by going to Mass. Our Lord commands this day set aside for His worship, not for His own benefit, but for ours. It is in the celebration of the Mass that He grants us the gift of the Eucharist, the very body and blood of Christ, by which we receive the grace to persevere in a life of faith. Prayer is also essential. Just like in any other relationship, our relationship with God can only be sustained and fruitful if we spend quality time with Him. Prayer is quality time with God, which provides further grace and continues to sustain in us what He has already generously bestowed. This quality time can be spent in silence, meditation, casual conversation, written prayers, singing praise, or reading Scripture. C.S. Lewis depicts the importance of our need for the Lord in our lives when he wrote, “A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on himself. He himself is the fuel for our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other.” 1
To do this requires prudent planning and use of time. Having time to relax, fulfill our responsibilities, and invest in relationships with friends and God, is not impossible, it is simply a matter of prudence and self-discipline. If we do this not only will we be able to get work done, but we will be able to be fully present and appreciate the time we have to spend relaxing and having fun with friends.
Sometimes, even this doesn’t quite solve the problem. We have to face the reality that we piled too much on our plates. I realized throughout my years in college, that in my enthusiasm to be active and involved in all the amazing opportunities there were, there was a temptation to overcommit myself to the point of doing nothing well. The better choice, I discovered, was choosing and committing to a couple activities I could fully invest myself and my time in, and to do them well.
There was a time that I hadn’t been in the chapel for a long period of time, and I found myself thanking God for so patiently waiting for me to visit Him, and asking His forgiveness that He had to wait so long. I realized that if I was going to be the woman I desired to be and was created to be, I could not merely make time for God in my schedule, but that I had to build my entire schedule and life around Him. I wanted to make Christ the true center of my life, and treasure of my heart. No longer did I want to put other gods above Him; I wanted to dethrone my pride and vanity, my laziness and selfishness, my entertainment and comfort, to place the King of Kings in His rightful place on the throne of my heart. This meant making sacrifices. Some days, I needed to forego gym time, or time with friends, or Netflix, or taking a short break and falling into the black hole that social media can suck me into during my study time. Other times it meant inviting my friends to pray with me or accompany me to Mass as a part of our time spent together. Even harder, sometimes I had to practice self-discipline and make myself go to bed earlier in order to get up for early morning Mass when I knew the rest of my day was going to be really busy. Sometimes the best way to make sure to get to Mass and spend time in prayer is by taking time on Sunday to look at the week and choose a time everyday to spend with God, even if it’s only 10 minutes. Put it in my planner, on a stickie note, or in your mind’s list of things to do, and consider it an unbreakable appointment. It’s also important to make this time during a part of the day when you will be able to be present and thoughtful, and when you know you will be able to keep your commitment. For some of us, we know we cannot make it first thing in the morning, because there is a chance we won’t get up on time, for others it can’t be at the end of the day, because we would most likely fall asleep.
Even with planning, life is full of the unexpected and unplanned. Perhaps the best perspective to have in such situations is to trust that if you give quality time to God, even and especially when it seems like you don’t have enough to give for Mass or prayer, He will often make the time you need to fulfill all of your other responsibilities. That is, He will in a sense multiply your time. In fact, Our Lord Jesus Himself says, “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure by which you measure will in return be measured unto you.” 2
In all circumstances, though, we can and should make our entire lives a prayer of praise and gratitude to God. St. Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians wrote, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 3 This can be done by requesting the Lord to be present through a simple invitation such as, Jesus, I invite you to be present with me during my studying, or, Holy Spirit, I thank you for your faithful presence, and particularly invite you into my time cleaning and cooking, that you may make this time Holy. You can say a short prayer before beginning to study or taking a test. Some friends of mine have small stickie notes or prayer cards taped to their laptops as a simple reminder. Or, you could begin your day with a morning offering, to give God your entire self and all your day’s activities. St. Josemaria Escriva said, “we can raise the level of our efforts we can try to turn the work we do into an encounter with the Lord and the foundation to support those who will follow our way in the future. In this way, study will become prayer.” 4 In this way we will live a life of Catholic faith. Our worship of God will extend far beyond the hour spent in Mass on Sundays. In fact, in doing all for the glory of God, we are actively living out our call with which we are sent forth from the Mass when the priest gives His final blessing to, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” We will live a life, seemingly simple and average, if you will; yet, in reality, we will be living an extraordinary life, a life of greatness for which we are made.
2 Luke 6:38
3 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18