Spirituality in the Private Life

Undoubtably, we are all so glad to be in this Easter season and finally on the other side of Lent, as this was a Lent none of us would have imagined or chosen for ourselves. I might be wrong, but when people are signing themselves up for Lenten sacrifices I don’t imagine that anyone is telling God that they have decided to spend six weeks stowed away in one house with their spouse and children, with no social activities, and with food and supplies limited to what is left on sparse grocery store shelves in the wake of pandemic-induced hoarding behavior. I’m pretty sure no one came up with that one.

At the moment we are still living with this reality, but it is Easter now. We have the opportunity to give thanks with our families for the resurrection and the hope that is ours in this world—regardless of circumstances. Whether or not we can buy toilet paper, or whether or not we can return to a normal mode of life, God is in control and heaven is our home. And during this Easter season we also have the opportunity to assess what God has been teaching us throughout this very unusual Lenten journey.  

What God actually called us to this Lent was a completely private spirituality. And if you think about it, isn’t that really hard? It’s often a lot easier to participate in our normal public religious activities, and even add to those with more public Lenten rituals, than it is to let God work on our hearts in quiet, private places or practice charity with members of our household that are draining our already depleted stores of patience. 

As the coronavirus quarantine took effect and all public events were cancelled, we started to see an influx of virtual activities. Now on the one hand that was a huge blessing. My family has been able to watch Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire broadcast of the daily and Sunday Masses over the last few weeks; and it has been a wonderful experience to continue to pray the Mass and make a Spiritual Communion when we cannot leave our houses. But we can also see that the culture of overactivity and the tendency to avoid the gift of quiet found new ways to manifest themselves during a nation-wide quarantine. 

If we reflect on this past Lent from a perspective of divine providence, I think that we can come away with the conclusion that God meant to use this time to help us work on our private spirituality, to help us get better at the most simple and domestic expression of the two great commandments: “love God and love your neighbor.” So, if this was the opportunity that we were given this Lent, how did we do? Were we able to sit with the Lord and let Him open our hearts and convert them more fully to His will? Were we able to perform acts of service and love (seen only by God and our family) in the midst of a challenging home dynamic? 

We probably had some failures and some successes, and the beautiful reality is that every moment is a moment for conversion. If we mostly missed this unique opportunity during Lent, we can enter into God’s invitation during Easter. We can realize that God opens up these private opportunities, often ones we would never pick ourselves, because it is the private spirituality that matters most. God wants our hearts more than our sacrifices or religious activities (1 Samuel 15:22). 

In his 1923 essay “Turning Inside Out,” G. K. Chesterton wrote, “All tends to return to the simple truth that the private work is the great one and the public work the small.”[1] Let’s celebrate the call to spiritual renewal in our private lives as we reflect on God’s love and provision this Easter season. Are we loving well in the private life not on display to the public? Who we are in private is who we really are. If we let God transform our private lives, I believe that we will find ourselves dynamically transformative within our public ones. 

Copyright 2020 Jessica Ptomey


[1] Chesterton, G. K., Dale Ahlquist, Joseph Pearce, and Aidan Mackey. 2011. In defense of sanity: the best essays of G.K. Chesterton. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, p. 163.

All Things New: A Reflection

During this season of Easter, the readings in the Divine Office have been taken from the book of Revelation. There is one passage that has particularly grabbed my heart and offered much fruitful meditation and consolation. Revelation 21 speaks powerfully of the “new heaven” and the “new earth,” and how God himself will come to his people to “wipe away every tear from their eyes.” Then verse five invites us to take in the re-creation, as the One on the throne says: “Behold, I make all things new.”

Do you feel the invitation to inhale this truth deeply and exhale peacefully when you read those words?

I do. I so often need to remember this truth and allow it to sink into my heart. I have brokenness, and I have loved ones with brokenness. I regularly experience the consequences of brokenness, and I have felt sorrow for all that needs to be made right. We all daily experience the reality that there is much wrong with the world. And how do we respond? We sometimes distract ourselves. We sometimes are paralyzed with grief. We sometimes bravely move forward on our pilgrim journey with great faith, despite the dismal circumstances that result from our fallen humanity. 

Whatever our response has been to the brokenness in our world, we need to inhale deeply of the truth that our Lord is the one on the throne making all things new. This is no greeting card sentiment; this is a promise that will be fulfilled.

Our God sits on the throne and is in the process of making all things new: in my life, in your life, and in all of the world. We do not see clearly how now, but we are assured of what we hope for and given evidence of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1). With that in mind, I offer the following reflection exercise that you can take with you into your quiet prayer time with the Lord:

  • Quiet your heart as you enter His presence. He is there already, waiting for you, in the space of your Interior Castle. 
  • Be conscious that you are bringing your heavy burdens with you—every one of them. Perhaps, imagine them strapped to your shoulders like a large hiking pack. 
  • Imagine the glorious light of God’s presence ahead of you. Look forward and see our Lord on the throne, in all His glory and goodness.
  • Take Him in. Take in the glory of His presence and the truth of His sovereignty over all the world. Spend a few moments with this vision and worship Him for who He is. 
  • Then, take off that heavy pack of burdens and set it at your side.
  • Open the top and take out the first broken thing you see. Walk with it toward that glorious throne and leave it at His feet. As you release it, pray over it by name, and ask our Lord to make it new.
  • One by one, take out each broken thing you have carried. Walk each one to the feet of Jesus. Ask Him to make each one new.
  • When you are finished, when you have emptied your pack of all your brokenness and all the brokenness of others you love, take in the sight before you. See all that you have carried at the feet of the King. See these things in their redeemed state; see them in the light of His promise to “make all things new.” And worship Him again for His faithfulness.
  • As you leave this time of prayer and worship, know that His presence stays with you and your burdens of brokenness stay at the foot of the throne. They are being made new. You are being made new. 

Go out in joy and peace, giving thanks to God. Alleluia!

Revelation 21:5

Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey

Wonder & Whimsy: Monkfruit?!

Now and then I like to share the helpful, enjoyable, and inspirational things that I have come across lately. Perhaps some of these might be just the thing you were looking for…

#1 — Gerard Manley Hopkins

I’ve been reading the poems of Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins for one of the Catholic Reading Challenge categories. (Stay tuned for the upcoming blog post on that category at the end of the month.) They’re so beautiful and inspiring! Here’s a stanza from one poem titled, Easter, speaking of Mary’s anointing of Jesus’ feet with expensive ointment:

Break the box and shed the nard;

Stop not now to count the cost;

Hither bring pearl, opal, sard;

Reck not what the poor have lost;

Upon Christ throw all away:

Know ye, this is Easter Day.

#2 — Meal Plans (using Excel)

I’ve been frustrated lately with my (lack of) meal planning. So the other day I buckled down and created something that seems to be a keeper. I got the idea from this blogger, and tweaked it to fit for me. Basically, I created a meal planning and grocery list all in one Excel file. Continue reading “Wonder & Whimsy: Monkfruit?!”