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Philippa Martyr: Four habits to change you – and the world

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Everyone has time for a morning prayer, even if it’s just saying a printed morning offering. Photo: Public Domain
Everyone has time for a morning prayer, even if it’s just saying a printed morning offering. Photo: Public Domain

Well-meaning people often send me helpful lists with titles like ‘Ten Things Every Catholic Should Know’, and ‘Seven Ways to Get to Heaven’. This is very kind, and I do read them (mostly).

But I did read something else recently – a pithy one-liner – that I’ll share here: “You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.”

This is very true of us as human beings – and as in nature, so in grace. I’m also increasingly bad at remembering long lists.

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So with this in mind, here’s four things I think a Catholic should do every day. They’re all tiny things, but if you try them daily, you will change your relationship with God and everyone else for the better.

1. Start the day with prayer.

The gut response from most of us is that ‘I don’t have the time’. But you do have the time.

You had the time to exercise this morning – you took the dog for a walk, or you went to a Pilates class. You also had the time to spend two hours browsing on social media yesterday evening.

I often ask clients with anxiety and procrastination issues to do an audit of their time. We print out a one-page planner that’s one full week divided into seven 24-hour days.

“Find some live online Adoration and join it, even for ten minutes. You can do this while you’re still in bed.”

All I ask them to do is to map out what they did each day, after they’ve done it. This quickly shows people how much time they really have in their day, and how they use it.

Everyone has time for a morning prayer, even if it’s just saying a printed morning offering.

If you’re more ambitious, download a Divine Office app and say Morning Prayer (this is about ten minutes).

Find some live online Adoration and join it, even for ten minutes. You can do all of this while you’re still in bed.

One of the reasons we avoid daily prayer is that we find spending time with God can be uncomfortable. It’s usually more uncomfortable if you’ve been sidelining Him for a while now.

But make the effort. He’s very understanding. And your relationship with Him is the one that really needs the most time and effort, because it’s the one that’s going to last forever.

Connecting daily with others, with kindness and respect, helps to build up the Body of Christ. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Connecting daily with others, with kindness and respect, helps to build up the Body of Christ. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

2. Connect with other people.

I mean really connect, and with everyone you interact with. Try to make the connections positive ones.

For example, it’s helpful to remember that it’s not very Christian to cut people off while driving or make hand gestures that are not related to giving directions.

Connections form the basis of relationships of all kinds. Connecting daily with others, with kindness and respect, helps to build up the Body of Christ without you even noticing – but you’d soon notice if you didn’t do it.

Put the phone down and look someone in the face and really listen to them. And then respond with interest.

“So count your blessings. Say thank you to people when they do something for you, even if it’s trivial.”

3. Be thankful.

In Colossians 3:15, Paul says ‘kai eucharistoi ginesthe’ – ‘And become thankful’. We often translate this as ‘be thankful’, but Paul really says ‘become’ – that is, you’ll need to work on it.

So count your blessings. Say thank you to people when they do something for you, even if it’s trivial.

The attitude of gratitude will carry you through some very dark times. I know people who have been unable to find anything to be thankful for, until I mention warm showers.

Everyone perks up at this one.

And be grateful to God, the source of all these blessings, including the warm showers. I don’t know anyone who has ever gotten tired of being thanked, and God is no exception.

So count your blessings. Say thank you to people when they do something for you, even if it’s trivial. Photo: File Photo
So count your blessings. Say thank you to people when they do something for you, even if it’s trivial. Photo: File Photo

4. Sacrifice something.

The least popular one! This is the old school practice of mortification – an awful word for a positive spiritual practice.

I know a mother of a large family who said that the best thing any parent could do for their child was to offer something up spiritually each day for them. Just something small, but every day.

Do something you don’t want to do, particularly for someone else. Or unplug your ears and brain from the AirPods, and walk or drive while listening to the soundtrack of the world instead.

These are four very tiny things. But if you do them every day, they can help you to form good habits that build up the Church in the world, rather than tearing it down.

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