Fr. James Martin, S.J.: Sometimes with prayer, start small

Detail of "The Young Virgin" painting by Francisco de Zurbarán, ca. 1632-33. (Met Museum)

Subscribe to “The Examen” for free on Apple Podcasts


Subscribe to “The Examen” for free on Google Play

Join our Patreon Community

Lent and Advent are the two times of the year when Catholics try to jumpstart their spiritual lives. Or, depending who they are, start their spiritual lives. During these two liturgical seasons many people try to dramatically increase their prayer, if they’re praying to begin with, give more alms, and even fast. Sometimes they’ll try to do dramatic things, like double their prayer time. But often you’ll hear Catholics at the end of Advent and Lent say how disappointed they were in what happened. “I had all these great plans for Lent, they’ll say, and I didn’t do any of them.” One antidote to that phenomenon is to choose to do something easy, small, manageable. A few years ago, someone told me that they were hardly praying at all, since they were so busy. Prior to that they had been praying a full hour a day. In response, I suggested not to try to do the full hour, but just 15 minutes a day. It would be manageable for her, I knew. But what happened was even better: she enjoyed the 15 minutes so much that she would often go even longer. That small period was easy to do, and so was less of a burden and more of an invitation. It didn’t overwhelm her. So this week, when it comes to your spiritual life, think small.

[Don’t miss any of the latest writings, podcasts and videos from Father Martin. Sign up for his newsletter.]

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

More: Prayer / Lent

The latest from america

From a unity deeper than citizenship, that of baptism, we implore our fellow Christians: Join us in denouncing this violence, and help us understand what distance is left between that nationalism and yours.
David AlbertsonSeptember 19, 2019
Pope Francis poses for a photo on Sept. 18 with members of a U.S. delegation that traveled to Rome to present the results of the Fifth National Encuentro to the pope and top Vatican officials.
Some 40 percent of the U.S. Catholic community has a Hispanic background and that “more than 50 percent of the Catholics in the United States under the age of 18 are Hispanic.”
Gerard O’ConnellSeptember 19, 2019
It is not about the individual as much as the movement that gave Donald Trump power. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Holly Taylor Coolman writes that her pro-life views, empathy for some Republican voters and unease with polarization has complicated her early and consistent opposition to Donald Trump.
Holly Taylor CoolmanSeptember 19, 2019
Non-scale spiritual victories come when we see ourselves clearly and holistically, when we pray without prodding because God is real and someone to talk to.
Simcha FisherSeptember 19, 2019