It may seem strange given all the leisure activities that exist in the modern world, but it’s now become something not for the faint of heart to carve out time each day to pray, to study Scripture, or to read a good Catholic book. Finding that time inevitably involves dropping something else. So, as we go through our day, we ought constantly to be judging how important something is to our salvation. Does it advance our salvation or retard it? The good thing is that the more we make the good choices and the more that we just step up and choose, the better we become at choosing the right thing.
I say “our” because we are not involved exclusively with our own salvation. We are carrying everyone else along with us. Now, when the baby needs to be fed or changed, of course, she is at the top of the list. However, once everyone has been taken care of, we usually have some wiggle room: five minutes here, five minutes there. Drop a TV show, don’t read a trashy newspaper, don’t surf your life away online. And we can prepare for those moments. Have some prayers written out and placed around the house; read one when you get a few moments.
That’s just for starters. We might also make a point of having statues or icons of favorite saints around the house, with some of their prayers. I say their prayers because, unless we are far advanced, we will need prayers that the Church knows are theologically sound. Praying for a new Porsche or to pass a test is something else entirely. Or how about having some true hymns ready, on paper, not necessarily to sing out loud but always to sing in our minds?
For ennobling time, reading the Scriptures is second only to performing acts of charity. If we have the Bible open somewhere where it will not be disturbed (with a heavy paperweight on it) then we can read a few verses when we have a few minutes. Of course, we might have to consciously decide to do this a lot of times before we really get into the habit. Gradually, though, we find that the words of Scripture express our deepest thoughts. Then the Scriptures take over and begin to speak back to us in turn. We become aware of being part of a community chosen by God, filled with his Spirit, stretching through time, reaching deep into our lives and all our acts.
The psalms are a great place to start because the Church knows them as true prayers and has used them intensively for two millennia. Another interesting way to start is to read the parables of the New Testament. Once you are used to reading Scripture regularly, then you can start anywhere and know that you are in communion with Almighty God and his Church. You will be learning what is good and true – something that is never wasted.
All we need to do is to look and we will also discover that we can find time for acts of charity. We unite with Christ and he acts through us in our charity. For example, we could start by strengthening our relationships to everyone in our house each time we express our love selflessly. The key lies in the selflessness. Bit-by-bit acting selflessly transforms us and the world around us.
This process must mean maturing into being the Good Samaritan, but it might even go beyond and mean performing acts as simple as saying a prayer for someone whom we see at a stoplight. I would not recommend praying while driving. It is a genuine service to the others on the road if we drive really attentively every second that we are on the road. That is our act of charity behind the wheel.
The decision to “drop something” to make time reaches far beyond shedding some activities, although there’s no way around that. It involves unlearning contrary cultural values as well. In a materialistic culture, for example, “time” is for consuming, paying for fun, and buying things. It’s part of being human that we all have to engage in many largely pointless activities. And there’s nothing wrong with some innocent fun. But it’s more Christ-like when we use our time to serve other people and God.
And there are more urgent things to drop, like risky behavior, which unfortunately is what many people regard as “fun” in America today. Binge drinking is the most obvious problem. But what about binge watching or binge surfing, just two odd developments that we are seeing spreading across the nation? Bingeing on alcohol or drugs may have more immediate bad consequences, but that doesn’t make the danger of other addictions any less.
And at a time when the traditional media and the Internet are no longer generally reliable sources of information, what may seem harmless curiosity may fill us with falsehoods. As you’ve probably noticed, the media seem to have had to become more shrill, more hysterical, in an effort to get our attention and increase their market share. Spending more time talking to the One True Good and contemplating real truth calmly will not only lead us to eternal life but to richer lives in this world as well.
Once a minute is gone, it is gone forever. So let’s consciously decide to make really good choices about how we use our limited time on earth. Those choices have eternal consequences.