To get more out of praying the Daily Devotions, it is helpful for a man to build a routine through which he engages his soul, mind and body through meditation, making notes, and praying for God to help him.
Find the Gospel and Daily Devotional reading for the day
Begin in Prayer
Since the happiness you desire is received through God and because it is easy to become distracted by the world, it is essential for you to constantly seek to draw near to God in prayer. You can grow in the habit of daily prayer by making every moment you spend with the Daily Devotions a prayer moment in which you consciously seek to draw closer to God. What follows is a simplified routine of prayer to use when praying with the Daily Devotions; to learn more about building a rich life of daily prayer.
- Start in prayer by making the Sign of the Cross to say, “hello” to God.
- Pray the Our Father and the Hail Mary to praise and honor God and to confirm your love and obedience to Him.
- Think of several things in your life by which God has blessed you and give Him your heartfelt thanks.
- Think of several ways in which you have sinned against God in your thoughts, words and deeds, by what you have done and failed to do; confess these to God and tell Him you are deeply sorry (you may pray the Confiteor, “I confess”).
- Ask God to have mercy upon you and forgive your sins (you may pray the Kyrie Eleison “Lord have mercy”).
If you have fallen into mortal sin, resolve to receive the Sacrament of Penance at the earliest possible time, today if possible; see Receiving the Sacrament of Penance.
Meditate upon the daily Gospel
Slowly read the Gospel passage from today’s Liturgy of the Mass, thinking about the words or ideas that come to your mind as you read using vocal prayer (speaking the words). Feel free to pause to concentrate on a particular passage, to reread either verses or the entire Gospel reading. After you are done reading, spend some time in silence to better hear what God is seeking to say to you in the day’s Gospel.
You can use a pen (or colored pencils, highlighters) to underscore the key passages in your Bible or words which God is drawing to your attention. Marking or making notes in Scripture can be helpful: it is a record of how God has moved you on a particular day; it can also help you quickly recall past insights when you are reading the Gospel passage in the future; it can help you track questions or actions for follow up in your quest for holiness.
There are many approaches which men use to mark Scripture which you can research if you feel moved to do so. Here are a few simple techniques which you can use to start making your own notes in the Gospels:
- Mark the date on which you are reading the Gospel passage in the section heading or in the left margin.
- Underline (or highlight) words or deeds of Jesus which particularly impress you.
- Circle words or phrases and link them together. For example: you can circle words that repeat or that have special meaning to you; you can circle words/ideas and draw lines to connect the circles to show repetition, common themes, or logic, etc.
- Use a highlighter or colored pencils to note certain themes. Examples include using different colors to note references to: God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), Saints, Virtues and Vices, etc.
- Outline with a “box” Scripture passages that you wish to memorize which can help you grow in holiness; you can also mark with a highlighter or colored pencil to emphasize a boxed set of verses for quick reference.
- Use an “*” to note a particular set of verses which are important to you in your current battle against sin; you can page through the Gospels and quickly find verses which can help you grow in holiness.
- Mark phrases which puzzle you with a “?” so that you can follow up for further study.
- In the lined “notes” section after each section of the Gospel (Part 1), make brief notes which clarify what is occurring in the Gospels so that the next time you read the Gospel section you can remember and build upon your insights. For other types of guidance/insights which can help you grow in holiness, note these in an “action” notebook which is focused on taking action to grow in holiness.
To learn more about reading Scripture, see Drawing closer to God in Scripture.
Meditate upon the Daily Devotional
After you have prayed with the day’s Gospel, turn to the Daily Devotion and begin praying the three basic sections of the Daily Devotion: Commentary, Be Awed by Jesus, and the two Choose Happiness topics. If you are so moved, make notes in a workbook to help you engage and remember parts which impress or motivate you to pray and take action; develop your own approach to making notes (refer to the section above for some starter thoughts for making notes).
Slowly read and meditate upon the Commentary, noting and even repeating sections which impress you and that you wish to remember. If you are inclined to go even deeper in understanding the day’s Gospel passage, see Selective Resources for other helpful commentaries on the Gospels.
Meditate upon the Awed by Jesus Christ section, noting those aspects of Jesus which most impress you; pause and repeat how you might tell another person in your own words about the aspect of Jesus that impressed you.
For each Choose Happiness topic (Realize, Believe, Pray):
- Slowly read the Realize statement and consider how it can help you grow in holiness; repeat the phrase out loud after reading it if it is something with which you struggle regularly.
- Read the Believe section and challenge yourself to confirm that you do truly believe what the Church teaches; if you are unsure, review the paragraphs in the Catechism if you have time, or mark the section to remind you to study the section later.
- Recalling that you are in the Presence of God, pray the prayer from the Pray section, confident that you need God’s help, that God hears you and that by praying you are taking a concrete step in your ascent towards holiness.
Make your other petitions to God
Having made two petitions to God (the two Pray prayers), speak to God and ask Him to help you in other areas of your life where you need guidance and help. Simply speak from your heart, using your own words, entering into a one-on-one conversation with God; God loves you and is filled with joy when you speak to Him.
If time allows, you can also turn to the Drawing closer to God in prayer for other prayers to help you receive God’s help; the Every Catholic Man Litanies of Virtue may be helpful in offering a focused prayer to God to seek His help in battling some sin/vice and to grow in the needed virtue.
Rest in the Presence of God
The experience of contemplation is a gift of God which is given to each soul who seeks it, based on the soul’s ability to receive the gift of being drawn into union with God; different souls ascend to different levels of union with God, from the simple man to the Saint.
No matter where you are in your ascent towards Heaven, before returning to the world after your holy time with focused prayer to God, sit silently and seek to hear what God is saying to you; you may also simply just sit in silence with God, being blessed to simply be aware of His Presence. Linger in this blessed time for as long as your vocation allows.
End with the Sign of the Cross
As you began, end by making the Sign of the Cross, reaffirming that you are an adopted son of God and your willingness to pick up your personal cross to follow Jesus in your day’s spiritual combat.