Introduction: How to do this...
Take these 40 days, whether you begin your journey in Lent, or at another time of the year is not so important. What is important is that you are resolved to stay the course, "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won't you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). The Holy Spirit will help you, “ask and you will receive, seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7).
You will find on this website, pages of resources to help you on this spiritual adventure.
Plan your days.
Talk to the Lord about what you seek, ask the Holy Spirit to be with you on this journey. Decide when you will start. If possible, a good way to begin will be to go to mass and confession, but if that is not possible, just say a personal act of contrition and resolve to start again. Write down your plan… what will you commit to do every day? Stick with the plan throughout the 40 days. No days off, no excuses. If you fail, do not beat yourself up about it, just start again… that is what it means to practice. You need to practice a new habit, practice over and over again, the Lord and all heaven is accompanying you in this.
Spiritual Friendship: Is anybody going on this journey with you?
God is Trinity. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are a communion of persons. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and so we are called to live in communion with our brothers and sisters. This is why it is important that we come together regularly as Church.
To live in communion with others, calls us to open our lives and hearts to others. We need to make space for the presence of God in our lives, and to allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts. We do this through the sacraments and through the gift of God working in and through other people.
“It not good for man to be alone…” (cf. Genesis 2:18). The desert can be a lonely place. Whilst we seek to be alone to be able to make time and space for God, even the desert Fathers learned the wisdom of spiritual companionship. A companion can help us see the mirages that fool us, and the presence of the Holy Spirit when we are unable to see it ourselves. So, find either a spiritual director to accompany you on this journey, or ask a friend to come on the adventure with you… that way you will be helping your friend in their journey of holiness too. Arrange to meet, either in person or virtually on-line on a regular basis to share prayer, your thoughts, your struggles, and your discoveries. If you would prefer, the National Office for Vocation will have a closed group on their Facebook page to help you join a virtual community of discerners.
On the first day- be different!
Leave yesterday behind, and joyfully start this adventure full of life and love.
Start every day with a prayer.
To start your day, even with just a short prayer, teaches you a good habit that will grow into a precious virtue. This is about prioritising God in your life, and the first step of deepening your relationship with Him.
Set aside some time in the day for prolonged prayer.
This is not wasting time, it is spending quality time with the one who loves you, understands you and wants you to get to know him more. This time is a gift to yourself, so place any distractions or worries into the hands of God. This is why you have begun this journey, so treasure it!
“… the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”
Whilst devotional prayers are good Catholic practices, they are designed to help you when you need to get started, or to lead you into prayer. From their starting point, allow the Holy Spirit to pray in you. There are many different ways to pray and some advice will be given in this programme. Everybody is different so try something new but use what helps you best.
Close the evening with an examination of consciousness.
To review your day as it closes helps us progress in the spiritual life. To look back on what we have done well, with God’s grace, and where the Holy Spirit has invited us to collaborate with him in building up God’s kingdom. We can also reflect on where we have not responded to the call of the Holy Spirit or the Word of God, where we have failed in our resolution. This is not to make us feel bad, but to show us how we can respond better the next time. Ask yourself about why you made the decisions you made, so that you can learn to know yourself better. Always end with a prayer of thanksgiving to God, for his presence with you on this adventure, this journey of discovery. Thank God for his grace, which has helped you feel closer to him. Pray too for your Spiritual Companion, that they may grow strong in their faith and holiness.
Prepare for tomorrow.
Read the Word of God for the next day. You may have chosen to follow the liturgy of the Church with the readings for mass, or you may have decided to follow a biblical itinerary… follow the plan you have set out for yourself. The practice of reading sacred scripture last thing before you sleep, helps us sanctify our mind and thoughts before we fall asleep. The Holy Spirit will work even when we are asleep, and the next day when we read the same scripture again in our daily prayer commitment, we will find that we are drawn to a word or phrase or have some attraction to this Word of God. These will be the seeds of your spiritual work for the day, and throughout your 40 days adventure.
To keep a written journal of your spiritual adventure during these days is very helpful. It will help you look over things and be reminded of your prayer and spiritual experiences in the future. It will also help you share with the person you have chosen to share this journey with. You will be amazed at what comes out as you write, that you never imagined! Write about your thoughts, feelings, difficulties, and insights.