I don’t always enthusiastically jump into the air, while walking through a flowery meadow – but when I do, it’s because I am a Joy Filled Catholic!
Actually, that’s not even me, but that is how I feel inside when I think of the awesomeness that is the Catholic Church. It really truly is – but how did I get here?
Today, I am going to share with you 10 things that have helped me grow closer to God and multiply my joy! If you follow these steps, I’m sure you’ll soon find yourself becoming a Joy Filled Catholic!
Step 1: Choose Joy Daily
It is as simple and as complicated as that. Happiness fades but true joy that comes from turning your life over to God and seeking to do His will daily, will endure even through hard times. When you wake in the morning, shut out those negative thoughts and instead count all of your blessings – no matter how great, or how small.
Choosing joy provides a sense of peace that no one can steal. The evil one will try everything to take it from you. He will tell you that you are not good enough — that you aren’t attractive enough, smart enough, funny enough, faithful enough. He will tell you that you are not enough until you start to believe it and repeat it to yourself over and over again. Your anxiety will rise. Worry might over take you.
Do NOT believe those thoughts! Not for even one second.
YOU are a child of God. He made YOU! He loves YOU! He has amazing things in store for YOU – if you will only let him work in you. He wants to use YOU to spread His word and touch people’s lives. He has a purpose for YOUR life!
‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Jeremiah 29:11
This verse doesn’t mean that we won’t have trials, we will. It doesn’t mean there won’t be suffering, because there will be. BUT if we take up our crosses and abide in Christ like he said (MT 16:24-25, LK 9:23-24, JN 8:31, JN 15:4-5, JN 15:10 2 John 1:9 – just to note a few) He will give us the grace, peace, and joy to endure and thrive!
So, when you wake up in the morning, don’t instantly turn on the news, or reach for your phone. Take a moment and make a morning offering to God. Dedicate your day to Him. Say whatever you like; it is your morning conversation with God.
Listen, I know that it might feel a little awkward at first, but I promise — the more you pray and converse with the Lord, the more natural it will become.
Here’s an example of something I like say in the morning:
Dear Lord, today I choose to be a joyful witness of your love! Guide my hands, my feet, my thoughts, and my actions to build up your kingdom here on earth. Allow your most Holy Spirit to inspire my words to glorify you, and you alone. Please help me to notice those who are hurting, so that I may be a vessel of your love – to bring hope, comfort, and light to them. Thank you for all of the graces, blessings, and mercy you pour out on me each day. I am not worthy of any of it, which makes it all the more precious to me. Today I choose joy! In Jesus’ name, Amen
If you want something a little more formal, or you would like to have a variety of morning offerings to choose from, I invite you to visit the website OurCatholicPrayers.com. The link I provided is for their morning offering page, but they are an excellent resource for Catholic prayers of all kinds.
Also, on the Relevant Radio app, in the audio prayers section, there is a beautiful Morning Offering there that you can pray along with as well.
Step 2: Dive into God’s Word
I always struggled with this. I am not an avid reader (though I would like to be) and thinking about reading the Bible seemed to be quite the daunting task.
However, when I was invited to be part of a (Protestant led, but mostly Catholic attended) Bible study, I reluctantly agreed. I had a strong desire to know, read, and understand the Word of God – but I was worried that my lack of Biblical knowledge would be very evident and I wouldn’t have much to say. Was I ever wrong. I had a lot to say and I learned a lot too. I would find myself reading, taking notes, and looking things up for hours after the study was over.
My thirst to know the scriptures and know Jesus more, grew – and it continues to grow all of the time. I now own several bibles but my favorite is my Didache Bible that offers commentaries based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Not sure what the Didache is? Check out this video “What is the Didache?” from Catholic Answers Apologist, Jimmy Akin, who briefly explains it.
One of my favorite things to do recently, is to listen to an audio bible (I purchased the new testament from my EWTN app) with my family in the evenings. We all pull out our bibles and follow along. My children actually look forward to it and seem to retain much of what they are hearing/reading. I make notes and underline as I follow along because that helps me understand and remember things better.
Bible Journaling is also something that I very much enjoy. While I do take notes in my Bible, I typically write verses out in another journal that I have. Check out my post on Catholic Bible Journaling to see what I am talking about.
The other thing that reading the bible has done, is to confirm the Church’s teachings. I’m sure I learned most of this growing up but there was some sort of disconnect where I either didn’t remember – or didn’t want to remember what I had been taught.
Step 3: Partake in the Sacraments
I cannot imagine anything greater than participating in the sacraments that Christ gave to us. In recent years I have grown more and more in love with the sacrament of reconciliation. I was even more delighted when (through my bible reading) I knew that this wasn’t just something the Church made up, but Jesus told the apostles to do it and gave them the authority to do so.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” John 20:22-23
My husband and I were not married in the Catholic Church (or in any church for that matter) but we had our marriage Convalidated when my husband went through RCIA. Convalidation is the process of making our marriage sacramental. I cannot even begin to tell you about all the graces that were poured out on us and on our family after that happened. It has been a magnificent blessing our our marriage, family, and our faith lives.
Also, having the ability to receive Jesus – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, each week at Mass (and more if we like) is also something that I appreciate. It all really changed for me when I read John 6. I have a LOT more to write on this topic but will save it for a future post. It is just too special to try to cram into a paragraph or two.
Step 4: Tune Out Noise of the World
Ah, yes! Tune out the noise of the world. The more time I take for quiet prayer and reflection, and the more I seek to know and do God’s will – the quieter the voice of the world becomes. I used to be so fearful of saying, or doing the wrong thing. I was afraid of the backlash and that the world would not love me. This produced a lot of anxiety and insecurities.
However, since coming back to the faith, I have taken some very deliberate actions to help retain my sense of peace, keep my joy, and shut out quite a bit of the negativity and hate that was causing me so much worry and anxiety. I am very selective about the music I listen to, the programs I watch, and I have cut WAY back on my personal social media time. In fact, have made several modifications so that what I see in my news feed, for the most part, is uplifting, educational, and helps me grow closer to the Lord.
In making these changes, I find much more peace — but in those moments when I lift my gaze away from the Lord and doubt Him, I am like Peter, falling helplessly into the sea. The anxiety builds, fear, hopelessness, doubt, and anger rise within me. When I finally turn to Jesus for help. I imagine a warm loving smile on His face as he says affectionately,
“Christie, I got this silly girl! I’ve got YOU, if you will only learn to trust me. Why do you doubt?”
Of course, we can’t tune out everything and unless we are called to a life of solitude and prayer (which if I’m being honest, some days, that just sounds amazing!), we still have to be in the world. We also need to know what is going on so we know where God needs us and how we can help glorify Him and also bring His Word and love to those who need it the most.
Step 5: Attend Eucharistic Adoration
Speaking of tuning out the world, I just have to tell you that going to Eucharistic Adoration has been something I have learned to love and look forward to. Even though I am a lifelong Catholic, went to CCD and Catholic school – I did not know what Adoration was. It wasn’t until my children started kindergarten at a Catholic school that I heard about it. I asked them, “Is it just a prayer service?” and they said “yes”. However, I discovered that it is much more than that.
It came unexpectedly when I watched a reality show on Lifetime called, The Sisterhood. The show followed the discernment process of about 6 young women. One of the things that stuck with me, was when the women would attend Adoration. For some it wasn’t the easiest thing, for others it was something that they would “thirst” for. One young woman would get very emotional and in at least one episode prostrated herself in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I thought, “Wow! I really need to check out Adoration.”
It took me a little while to work up the courage to go, but I did. At first it was awkward and I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do or say. Sometimes, I still don’t – but I can tell you that I find a great sense of peace when I go.
Is it the same for everyone? No, but if you you open yourself up to having a real conversation with Jesus, He will make His presence known and lay things on your heart. These may be good and enlightening things, or hard things that perhaps you have been running from – but have courage. He is with you! You will be filled with peace and joy!
Step 6: Rediscover the Beauty of the Catholic Faith
Knowing my faith has certainly increased my joy a thousand fold. Finding tons of Catholic resources to help me along that journey has been SUCH a blessing. I was always worried that if I learned too much I would find out something that would lead me away from what little faith I had. However, I have experienced just the opposite! The more I know, the more I absolutely LOVE being Catholic! The more I LOVE my faith, the easier it is to spread the truth.
I have mentioned many times about how sheepish I was about standing up for the Church and Her teachings. Mainly, because I didn’t understand them myself and I wasn’t prepared to defend them. However, the more I know, the easier it is to share and defend the faith.
The most eye-opening thing I have learned through my journey, is that Jesus wanted all Christians to be one. The thing that was leading me away from Jesus, is all the division among Christians. I often wondered, what makes them so sure that they are right?
Once I started to realize that Jesus came to establish a Church, one Church, His Church – the more I realized that I need to know more and share that information with others! The truth is Jesus wants us to be united through Him, with God the Father. He even prayed for that very thing right before His Passion and death! He prayed for His Apostles and then He prays for His Church:
I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be within us, so that the world may believe that y ou have sent me. The glory which you have given me, I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. – John 17:20-23
The more I learn about the Catholic faith, the more “on fire” and Joy Filled I become.
Step 7: Get to Know the Saints
I thought learning about the saints would make me feel terrible about myself. I mean they are the holiest of holy, right? I thought that their lives, would make me feel like the biggest failure on earth. While there are plenty of saints that led very holy virtuous lives, throughout their entire lives – there are also plenty of saints that did not start out so holy! I mean, if Saint Augustine of Hippo could turn things around, surely there is hope for me.
Want to start learning about saints? Try this fun Saint Name Generator, a project by Jennifer Fulwiler, to randomly discover new saints. I love using this tool and have learned about many different saints!
Step 8: Pray! Pray! Pray!
Why should we pray? The short answer is because God wants us to. It is how we communicate with Him and discern His will for our lives. In the Gospels we see Jesus praying often – having conversations with God the Father. Jesus teaches us to pray and even gave us the Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
Imagine knowing there is someone who loves you more than you could ever comprehend, that they want to lavish graces upon you, grant your requests, give you wisdom and peace to get through troubling times. Would you just ignore that person? Never talk to them – not even to send a text?
Of course not! If we are to be Joy Filled Catholics, we must converse with God. He wants to hear from His children – and not just on Sunday. The more you pray, the easier it is to pray.
Can’t find time? I used to think that too but I remember hearing Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle say on a program, that mothers “pray as they go.” I just absolutely LOVED that and I think of it all the time. When I am doing laundry, cooking dinner, sitting in line – I try to do it prayerfully. There are times that I am better at this, than others but it is something that becomes a part of all you do, the more you do it.
Step 9: Serve Others & Get Involved
Serving others brings joy because when we do it, are doing God’s will. It is a beautiful way of thanking God for all he has blessed us with.
As each has received a gift, employ it for one another,
as good stewards of God’s varied grace.
1 Peter 4:10
Getting involved in your parish community is very important too. When I came back to the Catholic Church, I had an intense desire to know the people in my parish community and to allow them to get to know us. I didn’t just want my family and I to show up Sunday after Sunday without really feeling like we were part of the community.
I participated in a few vibrant Protestant communities and I really wanted that, but I wanted to find it in a Catholic parish. I wasn’t even sure that these types of ministries even existed – but they do. I know that ministries vary from parish to parish – but we found our place in ours.
My family and I started by staying after Mass for coffee and donuts and we participated in other parish events. Our pastor, would take time to talk to us whenever he saw our family, and we also starting meeting other families in our parish. I became a Lector and over the years we have all become very active members in our parish and parish school.
Being around other Catholics who are happy to be Catholic and are active in living out their faith, has been a HUGE blessing to us and has enriched our faith lives tremendously.
Step 10: Evangelize
Once you are a Joy Filled Catholic, you just can’t help but want to share what you know with others. My main focus has always been on evangelizing myself and my family – but I have a growing desire to reach others as well! That’s why I started this blog.
For my family though, I really want them to know and understand why we are Catholic. I also want to prepare them to answer objects that they will get from non-Catholics and non-believers. I want them to have the courage to stand up for what they believe in and not back down, just to “fit in”.
Evangelizing doesn’t always mean having heated debates. Sometimes your best witness as a Catholic is being a good example, and joyfully living out your faith.
I have so much more that I could write on each of these steps and I have so many other tips to share as well — but I will leave that for future posts. Please check back soon!
May Christ’s Peace be with you always!