Friday, January 4, 2013

New Year's Resolution: Sanctify Your Time

The concept of sanctification of time is nothing new, and it is an idea that is found not only in Christianity but also within other religions.

In the Jewish faith it is an important concept. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once said, “Judaism is a religion of time, aiming at the sanctification of time.” 

For Christians, the sanctification of time takes on a new meaning because we believe God not only created time, but also entered time. In a General Audience in 1997, Blessed John Paul II said that "with Jesus eternity has entered time."

A common understanding of sanctifying time is to set apart time in our day for God. For Christians, particularly because God entered time, we believe it is possible to give our time in a radical way to God.

Unfortunately, most Christians have a very limited idea of sanctified time. An hour or two on Sunday is usually the most we feel we need to give to God.  Conveniences have multiplied so we have more "free time," but we quickly fill it up with more conveniences, entertainment, work and technologies. As a result, we give less and less time to God.

We are a culture of "no time."

When I first entered the convent, one of the sisters shared with me her philosophy on time: "I do not consider my time to be my own any more. My time belongs to God."

Theoretically, this is a pleasant enough concept. Put into practice, this is not for the faint of heart. 

To live from the notion that our time belongs to God is to not only set aside time for prayer, but to consider all of our time as belonging to Him.

What does this mean practically?

1. Live in Conversation with God

We do not have to spend 24 hours a day in a church to give our time to God. Instead, He simply asks that we constantly refocus our attention on Him, in even the smallest details of our life. God is interested! We do not have to be scrupulous; God rarely gives clear signs for every move we are to make. But simply acknowledging His presence allows us to act with Him, rather than on our own. As Brother Lawrence wrote in his classic, The Practice of the Presence of God: "I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard to God, which I may call an actual presence of God; or, to speak better, a habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God."

2. Frequent the Sacraments

It is the sacraments that increase sanctifying grace in our soul. Sanctifying grace is like the glue between us and God. The more we take advantage of the great gift of the sacraments, the more we are united with God dwelling within us through our baptism. The more united we are to God, the more God can work through us, sanctifying all we do and say. 

3. Accept Unscheduled Surprises with Joy

This is perhaps the most difficult for me as I like to organize my time and I do not like surprises. But, as my superior often reminds me, it is Jesus who acts through the unscheduled moments in our lives. When we are asked to help with something, or we have to do something unexpected, it is often Jesus who is asking us to set aside our plans and ideas and follow His plan for the day.

4. Get in Touch with the Timeless

The Book of Ecclesiastes has a beautiful verse about time: “[God] has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts” (Eccl 3:11). We are creatures bound to time, and often we forge extra manacles of schedule to bind us. But God has made us with a thirst for eternity. This is one of the most important things that separates humans from the rest of the animal world. We understand forever. If we live with our eyes on forever, with our hearts connected to God, who is outside of time, but inside of our souls through baptism, we can live a life that is not a slave to time.

_ _ _ _

My prayers are with you in the New Year. May we all grow closer to God, until all of our time is lived in union with Him. Please pray for this intention for me as well!

Please feel free to comment with ideas for how to sanctify our time in the New Year...


Pam Manners said...

After reading so much garbage and hatred via social media today -- sadly, much from those who claim to love God -- THIS post was a breath of much needed fresh air. Thank you so much for this.

Grace & peace,

Anonymous said...

Read Heschel's The Sabbath for a more detailed explanation. Though the Mass is the Passover, it is also the successor to the Sabbath....and a blueprint for the rest of time.

Daria Sockey said...

The Church has given us the ideal way to sanctify our time. It's title makes that clear: it's called the Liturgy of the Hours. The Vatican Council constitution on the Liturgy specifically stated that this system of prayer is "so devised that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God."(#84)If you don't already pray any of the hours on a reglar basis, I invite you to do so. and are free sites that make this easy. Both sites offer apps for mobile devices as well. I've been blogging about the Liturgy of the Hours for several years, hoping to interest more laity in sanctifying time in this manner. Do give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Great article, Sr Theresa
Who is God?
I think He's the Master Scientist, Artist, Poet, Lover, Musician, Mystic, Wit, Philosopher, Healer, Listener, Forgiver, Friend, Energizer, Companion, Soul Mate, Spouse, Brother, King, Lord and Saviour. And, infinitely, more.
The ultimate Fire, Light, Salt and Colour. The infinite and ultimate everything.
Therefore we have to try and devote every minute to the Divine. And besides all the Divine joy, peace and
unconditional love, it's, also, exciting (consider the ecstasy of the soul of St Francis of Assisi and Teresa of Avila and son on). God is everything. Everything else outside God is nothing and utterly meaningless.
God bless, Ed (UK)

Anonymous said...

That we need formal prayer (and sacraments of course) as well as spontaneous prayer, shaping our lives so that they will become - one big prayer, overall, please God.
For two great books on prayer, i highly recommend "The Hermit" - Torkington, and "The Fire Within" - Dubay.
Ed (UK)

tagnes said...

@Pam - Thank you! That is my prayer when I write.

@Anonymous - I will check that out, I did see references to it when I was reading some things online for this, thank you!

@Daria - Thank you for pointing this out! It is true that aside from the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours if one of the best ways we can sanctify our time. I did not mention it because I was speaking of a complementary approach, but perhaps I should have.

@Ed - Yes! That our life become "one big overall prayer" - that is the goal! Please keep me in prayer for that and I for you.


Sr. Theresa

Daria Sockey said...

Oh my! Dear Sr. Theresa, I read the post (after seeing the link on New Advent), and replied to it without even realizing that you were a nun! (I didn't notice the "About Me"section.) Forgive me for seeming to be instructing a religious about the Liturgy of the Hours. I thought the post was written by a layperson. I am hugely embarrassed!

tagnes said...

@Daria - Oh no need to be embarrassed. I am just a few years into religious life so you probably know more about the Liturgy of the Hours than I do :) And it was a good point, it made me think of another way I could have written the post but perhaps next time!

Marcus Allen Steele said...

Sr. Theresa,

Thank you for this wonderful post. It reaffirms my habit of talking to the Lord constantly but also is instructive in that I have work to do. God Bless

Justin said...

Great article!

I recently posted a blog on redeeming the time that you might also be interested in.

God bless

Fr Shane Johnson said...

@Daria... The hard part is making sure that we're really focused on sanctifying time when we pray the Liturgy of the Hours and not just getting caught up in the prayers and psalms, isn't it... But prayed correctly, it can become this beautiful life project of praying for the Church and the world and sanctifying every hour until He comes again...

Anonymous said...

Sr Theresa,
I get a buzz (wrong word, can't think of better) when i get a prayer request and carry it out (i've spent 10 mins praying for your intentions, will spend another 20 today and tomorrow). I guess the "buzz" is about tapping into that great cosmic, spiritual pool where we pray ("Our Father" not "My Father") for each other whether family, friend, enemy, the poor, people we don't even know, whoever / wherever.
Any other prayer requests, please let me know.
God bless,
Ed (UK)

tagnes said...

@Marcus - Thank you Marcus, so glad to hear that. I will keep you in prayer for this intention, please pray for me!

@Justin - Thank you for sharing your post, I enjoyed it and agree with you completely that when we perform the smallest acts with love and unite them to Jesus' sacrifice, God gives many graces to souls who need them. It is important though, in my opinion, not to become scrupulous about it. For me, it is more about following the inspiration of the Spirit throughout the day than feeling the need to perform specific devotions x number of times a day.

@Fr. Shane - I could not agree more. It is easy to do many things, including attending Mass, in a way that is not sanctifying time but checking off something we need to do.

@Ed - Thank you for your prayers my friend! And amen - the Body of Christ is a beautiful, powerful thing.

May everyone have a blessed Epiphany,

Sr. Theresa

Magdalen Dobson said...

My New Year's Resolution for my spiritual life this year is to keep a chart of my daily prayer time.
Since I'm one of those people who operates in a "spiritually dry" state, missing prayer really does me harm, and I do it all too often.

Sr. Lorraine said...

Thanks, Theresa, for this insightful post!

The good use of time was an important theme for Blessed Alberione.He stressed it a lot; he seemed to be very impressed at how our life on earth is a preparation for heaven.
For him it was also an important aspect of religious poverty, and related to mission as well. He said, "God has given us time, precious years, in which we should collect pearls, roses, and lilies--how have I used it?" (I think the reference to pearls etc. is his way of putting what Jesus said in the Gospel about storing up "treasure in heaven."

tagnes said...

@Magdalen - Thanks for sharing your idea! I will keep you in my prayers. Dryness is prayer is not easy. I recently read something about how we should desire darkness in prayer because the further we get from what we understand, the closer we get to God. Easier said than done, but I thought I might share that with you because I thought it was a beautiful way to look at it.

@Sr. Lorraine - Blessed James is so inspiring. I love those quotes! I think the idea that he talks about - living the Christian life at "high tension" is really inspiring to me, and definitely one of the inspirations for me in thinking about sanctifying my time.

In Jesus,

Sr. Theresa

Monica @ Equipping Catholic Families said...

Nice post and nice blog! I love The Practice of the Presence of God.