Over the past couple years, the topic of self-care has risen to the surface of many people’s minds, and with good reason as we’ve experienced things from elections fraught with fear and division to a pandemic. As Catholics, we are called to be in the world but not of it. This is a tall order and can sometimes leave us wondering what it means to be a practicing Catholic, not just at Mass on Sunday but in our daily lives as well. Recently a question came to my mind and heart: Does being a Catholic make a difference for our self-care?
The God we worship is the great Creator, and the way we participate in the material world is a way we can offer worship to him. The Church doesn’t invite us to ignore the world we live in but rather to take a sacramental approach — to recognize that there is a connection between the “stages of natural life and the stages of the spiritual life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1210).
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We are invited to incorporate the Faith into our daily lives, baptizing common acts and practices into faithful living. In doing so we can find meaning in everyday living, including from how to approach work, to making room for silence, to developing Sabbath practices, to finding a way to root self-care in sacramental living.
So, what does it mean to root our self-care in sacramental living?
Receiving the Eucharist and reconciliation
Confession and Eucharist are the two sacraments that we receive regularly as Catholics — sometimes so regularly that we can forget what they are really offering to us.
“Every Mass is a healing Mass,” my parish priest recently said in his homily. “Every Mass is exciting.” He was drawing our attention to the fact that at every single Mass we attend, it is God himself who joins us in the Eucharist. It is God himself we receive week after week.
Meeting Christ in the Eucharist and in Confession are two ways to experience God’s healing power and mercy regularly. While our lives can become heavy so quickly, God’s physical grace is only a short drive away most of the time.
The next time you are carving out some space for yourself, check for a daily Mass or confession time and kick off your “me time” by participating in the sacraments. Not only will you receive the grace you need for your particular circumstances, but you will also head into your self-care time with the company of God’s peaceful presence.
Allowing sacramentals to be present in our homes
I’ve had a bottle of holy water on my shelf for what seems like forever. I always thought I’ll save it for when I “need it.” This summer I finally started using it — sometimes to start the day by crossing myself, sometimes at the end of the day before going to bed.
The Church, recognizing the body-spirit connection, gives us sacramentals as a way to sanctify “a great variety of circumstances in Christian life” (CCC, No. 1668). The use of sacramentals is a way to ground our self-care and daily living in Christ and the sacraments. It blesses us in the moment but also invites us to remember the larger picture — life in Christ through his Church.
Other sacramentals include blessed candles, rosaries, scapulars or crucifixes. When stocking your self-care supplies, consider adding one or two sacramentals as a way to remain open to God’s grace, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed, tired, stressed or uncertain.
Remaining faithful to daily prayer
While it may seem like a stretch to say that remaining faithful to daily prayer is a form of self-care, when you think about it, it truly is. Only when we are ordered to God can we be ordered toward others and ourselves properly as well. When we choose to stay faithful to our daily prayer time, we choose to let God work in us — sometimes offering healing, rest and consolation, at other times offering strength and grace for difficult moments. Our time in prayer may not look like what we think it should look like, but God reminds us over and over that it is faithfulness he asks of us, not perfection or mastery.
By rooting ourselves in sacramental living and prayer, we allow our self-care to turn outward to God and others. The time we spend taking care of ourselves becomes less about us and more about an ordered life where we treat God, others and ourselves as we are called to. In allowing our daily lives and spiritual lives to be brought together through sacramental living, we allow the peace and hope we have in Christ to permeate our daily lives.