Reflections on faith show many ways to achieve spiritual growth

Special to The Bluffton PacketJanuary 4, 2012 

One of my favorite things about social media -- sites like Twitter and Facebook -- is that the Internet comes to me. Gone are the days of "surfing the Web." Now a question can be thrown out into cyberspace and instantly be rewarded with answers ranging from the practical to the ludicrous. Often, the variety of opinions provides great conversation starters and new challenges.

Since reflections on the past are all the rage this time of year, I wanted to offer you a similar fare. However, I didn't want to be limited to my own experiences, so I asked the Twitter network what people have found the most helpful for their spiritual growth this year. While spirituality is hardly a "one size fits all" experience, perhaps you'll find some of the answers I received helpful. (If you're unfamiliar with Twitter, a crash course is to simply go to www.twitter.com and then type these names into the search bar if you'd like to see who they are and what they say on a regular basis.)

Many found a spiritual escape of some sort to be helpful, whether it was a retreat, pilgrimage or mission trip. @boboknight said, "attending my first retreat since confirmation," while @CatholicDrinkie and @TXKristan shared that their pilgrimage, "going to visit Greece and Turkey and walk in the steps of Paul. And visit Mary's house in Ephesus" was the greatest catalyst for their spiritual lives this year. @Polycarp85 shared that witnessing the charity of youth on a mission trip, "was a true grace ... it helped me gain a better understanding of a servant leader."

While people are constantly grateful for the support of friends and family, many explained the specific nature of their gratitude. @MikeSylvester13 tweeted that he found "laughing, talking and praying with ministry friends who understand that one good day replaces all the bad ones" to offer valuable perspective. Many others shared that finding a home in their local church and community provided tremendous joy and stability when lives were uncertain.

Incorporating specific spiritual habits and books was also popular. "Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence," by Father Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure was suggested by @joiafarmer as "life-changing" spiritual reading. @Cribbs incorporates "Liturgy of the Hours" into her routine, while others have started following the church's feasts for holidays and begin novenas -- nine days of prayerful preparation -- to anticipate the celebration.

Finally, others shared that simply listening to the voice of God and taking a step toward him -- in attending a school out of town or starting a new job -- caused their faith to increase because it allowed them to realize how much God provides.

While these are the highlights, there were many more suggestions. New Year's resolutions can offer much more than a healthier diet or quitting cigarettes. This year, consider going beyond breaking bad habits and embrace the opportunity to grow closer to God.

Alison Griswold is the director of youth ministry at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church. Follow her on Twitter @alisongriz. Read her blog at www.teamcatholic.blogspot.com.

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