I consider a true friend a person who tells you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. When I was newly ordained, one such friend indicated to me that I seemed to be changing my behavior in ways that were not necessarily flattering. This person helped me to put matters in perspective and to realize certain things about myself that I had not identified on my own. The way of fools is right in their own eyes, but those who listen to advice are the wise (Proverbs 12:15). In other words, only the fool keeps his own counsel.
At another time in my life, a good friend handed me a piece of paper with one word on it. The note simply read balance. My daily routine was then filled with stress and a multitude of responsibilities. Things were far from balanced. I had to re-evaluate the priorities in my life. Was I praying enough? Did I get adequate sleep each night? Was I eating healthy meals? Did I exercise regularly? Did I have the insight and humility to seek out and to talk to someone to help me?
I think we all need this sense of balance in our lives. We have become a society where we are often too busy, running around and constantly doing. In the midst of all the activity, I find that important spiritual matters tend to get neglected. Prayer is pushed aside as not that important. Soccer or baseball games, shopping, or various leisure activities take precedent over going to Mass on Sundays. People, perhaps, may still go to confession before Christmas and Easter, but not necessarily frequently in order to become more spiritually attentive and open to God. Things of the world generally outweigh the things of God. We may suffer harmful effects as a result, perhaps without even realizing it.
When we don’t pray regularly—and I don’t mean occasionally throwing a prayer up to God for some particular need or want—we become spiritually lethargic. God indeed speaks to us in the silence, in the depths of our hearts. We need to listen to that interior voice of the Holy Spirit directing and guiding us. We need to be reflective, introspective people.
If we are made of body, mind and soul, is the soul being fed? The Sacred Scriptures nourish us. The Holy Eucharist—the Bread of Life—is true soul food. How much of a priority do these have in my life?
Where did I leave off in my religious education? Was it in 8th grade or even earlier, after Confirmation and CCD (now referred to as religious education or PREP)? The sad joke is that for many CCD (the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) actually stood for Communion, Confirmation and Done.
Other matters are also important, such as adequate sleep, good nutrition, regular exercise, etc. in order to keep a balance in life. From my own personal experience and testimony, however, when my spiritual life is in order, almost everything else becomes more balanced. A few words of wisdom given by an elderly priest many years ago still resonate with me: Take care of your spiritual life. Everything else will fall into place.
So please consider these words some sound advice from a true friend. Don’t be offended if I ask: Is your spiritual life in order and your life truly balanced?
Fr. Ed Namiotka