My Nine First Fridays

Friday, February 1, 2013 was an important development in my spiritual development.  I didn’t write about it.  In fact, I haven’t written anything about my spiritual life in over a month.  It’s so easy to slip into spiritual sloth.

I’m going to start a new category called “Spiritual Milestone.”  It’ll mark what I think are the major milestones in my spiritual journey.  I think it would be neat to look back five-, ten-years from now to see how much (or how little) I’ve traveled.

So, my spiritual milestone that I made on February 1st was the completion of my first set of nine First Fridays.

For those of you who are not familiar with this devotion, here are some explanations:

I was first introduced to this devotion by K. Chow, a fellow choir member at St. Peter’s Church in Shanghai.  At first, I was very excited.  “Do this, and I promise you this…”  It appealed to the business-side of me; it’s very transactional.  I proposed this devotion during my Men’s Prayer Group the following Wednesday, and I was surprised to find a lot of them pushing back on the idea — some rather forcefully, including the priest.  I was a bit dismayed because I thought there was nothing wrong with the devotion.  Then I realized that over-zealous people might make folks who don’t observe this devotion feel like bad Catholics.

I understand this Nine First Friday devotion is not for everyone.  I’m not even sure it’s for me.  I just wanted to do something to not let the fire for God die out in me.  The sense of urgency and the threat of failure were the most notable things about the process.  I needed to remember to go to Mass every first Friday of the month for nine consecutive months.  It’s easy to forget in the intervening weeks, but then there’s an urgency because I remember and I rush to make my schedule around it.  And I can’t miss it, even once, or I have to start all over.

When I completed my ninth on February 1st, I felt great.  I felt God’s grace… I felt lighter, like I was floating with joy.  I remember walking out of Mass with a big smile.  I floated down the steps of Myeongdong Cathedral that early morning.  Then, I must have sinned because that feeling seems so long ago.  That good feeling lasted about one day, if even that long.  Why is it so difficult to stay in a state of grace?  Shouldn’t I be able to stay in that lightness of being for a week?  I don’t think even the saints feel that way… I remember reading Mother Theresa’s biography and how, in her later years, she felt abandoned by God.  Yet, she continued to pray.  That’s the kind of discipline I need to build.

I’m not sure I will get those twelve promises, but that wasn’t really the point.  Not for me, anyway.  I need to discipline myself and this is just one way to do it.  Spiritual discipline sounds a lot like repetitious behavior to me… I’m suspicious of it, but how else am I going to keep reaching out to God?  How else can I invite God to stay in my life, be my Doctor and cut out the cancer that is ruining my soul?  I need Him and I need to find ways to open up my soul for Him to enter.

In fact, I want to do another nine First Fridays, but this time for my parents.  They’re getting on in years and my dad is dangerously lacking in faith.  Death is scary when you don’t have God.

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