Starting a Christian Spiritual Life: Q&A with Fr. Matthew, LC

Starting a Christian Spiritual Life: Q&A with Fr. Matthew, LC November 15, 2018

Praying Hnads (Photo by Ben White on Unsplash CC0)
Praying Hands (Photo by Ben White on Unsplash CC0)

I’ve had a CuriousCat account most of 2018 and I sometimes get asked interesting questions. I set it up for complex or personal questions as the service allows people to submit questions anonymously. However, I got a bunch of spiritual basics too. Here are my responses to some questions of spiritual basics from CuriousCat.

Originally, I wanted to do a bunch of CuriousCat answers in one post. However, it ran long, so I divided it into three by themes. Look for questions on specific situations in the spiritual life and prayer, and a separate one on theological questions later.

If you could advise a person to develop just one good habit, what would it be?

Praying everyday for a sustained period. A half hour is a good goal but start with 10 minutes. There are different ways like rosary, Bible reading, etc. most of which are good.

What, in your opinion, is the best method for the laity to cultivate a successful rule of prayer?

The first step is to make a rule. Making the rule should have two parts: a small number of prayers you will do come what may: maybe one rosary a day or 10 minutes of Gospel reflection, then a part of prayer you hope to pray but won’t hold yourself to.

The second step is to review this with someone wise – a priest or spiritual director – to make sure it’s not too little or overwhelming.

The third step is putting it into practice. This is 98% of it. Make sure you do the first group of prayers every day/week and strive for the others when you can but don’t be too harsh if you miss. If you have arranged the rule with a priest or spiritual director, intentionally failing in the prayers you said you’d do come what may can be considered an imperfection (albeit not a sin) for confession which making it part of this examen helps you be reminded to do them.

Why does God not answer certain prayers eg for healing/to have a baby/for a sick child?

This is a really hard question. We know that God’s plans are higher and better than ours but that does mean we can always understand them. Sometimes God calls the young child to himself early because he sees that as the best plan, sometimes he brings about a miraculous physical healing. We really don’t have an easy way to know. Sorry, I don’t have a magic bullet response.

What should you do if you find your faith very so-so even with regular mass attendance and praying every day?

One of the best ways to charge up your faith is to get involved in some group that encourages you in your spiritual life. This can be anything from a simple Bible study or weekly rosary group to some third orders which take almost a decade to become a full member.

That might seem overwhelming. Well, look around locally or online and find a handful that look attractive to you and then ask each one to be part of it for a few times, and from those experiences discern which God might be calling you to. Don’t automatically base it on the first 30 minutes and don’t delay this over about a year total before deciding, although the time frame here can be a little flexible.

I’ve been very involved in the Regnum Christi movement which has helped many people in situations like yours and I’d recommend checking it out as one possible way you might be able to go deeper in your experience of the faith.

What advice might you give to an individual who very much wants to concentrate in meaningful prayer and meditation with our Lord, yet who has trouble focusing their thoughts?

1. God loves your fighting to focus and that is a great prayer even if you don’t feel it.

2. Try to find a focal point to pray away from distractions: turn off your cell phone and leave it in a separate room, make a prayer corner, etc.

3. Change up your prayer a little bit. Every Christian is asked to pray daily but there is no rule about what to pray and there are many different good ways to pray: lectio divina, adoration, rosary, breviary, divine mercy chaplet etc.

Why do we have to go to mass every Sunday? I live far from my church and recently I started praying every day so is it necessary to take all that distance to attend?

You can say “I love you” over the phone with a spouse, girlfriend or boyfriend… But you want to be with them with some regularity in person. Likewise, we can talk to Jesus anywhere but in Mass he’s there in the Eucharist like eating a meal with a loved one. A romantic relationship can have different frequencies but usually at least once a week like Mass.

As a practicing Catholic, when are the times when I should /not/ receive communion? I know there are rules, but I’ve never been super clear on what they are/where to find them.

You should avoid Communion if you have committed a mortal sin that has not been absolved. Any mortal sins before your last confession (with absolution) are absolved. However, we often talk about this in cases where people can’t receive absolution because they intend to continue committing a mortal sin.

I went to Confession today. Later at home, I recalled using the Lord’s name in vain earlier in the week. I didn’t deliberately leave it out, just forgot about it when Father and I were talking. Is it OK the receive Communion?

Yes. God forgives all sins so long as we say all we remember at the moment.

If it was a mortal sin, mention it in your next confession; otherwise, you can just forget about it. Taking the Lord’s name in vain is not a mortal sin the vast majority of the time.

I hope that helps you out with some spiritual basics. Feel free to ask more questions on CuriousCat but sometimes it takes me a bit to respond.


  1. Specific spiritual situations and more advanced spiritual questions. UPDATE: now live!
  2. Theological questions

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