Grace: To sense more deeply the possibility of deep renewal and reform in my life and the desire in God’s heart for that renewal of me.
Text for prayer: Lk. 18:18-27
Reflection: In Georges Bernanos’s classic The Diary of a Country Priest, Monsieur le Curé writes,
“No, I have not lost my faith. The expression ‘to lose one’s faith,’ as one might a purse or a ring of keys, has always seemed to me rather foolish… Faith is not a thing which one ‘loses’; we merely cease to shape our lives by it.”
The enemy of shaping our life by faith is acedia, that classic Greek concept of living “without care” (a+ kedos) of the virtues. More commonly, we refer to this as sloth or apathy. We tend toward sloth when we cease to hold our desires, actions, and thoughts up to the purifying light of God and presume to go it alone. And that is how the slow, lazy drift away from God and His plan for us occurs. We have all experienced tepidity or vague disinterest in living a life of faith and virtue at different times. So how do we to turn things around and ‘reignite the fire of faith’?
Fortunately, St. Ignatius Loyola is optimistic that reform in one’s life is possible. More important still, he is very practical in his advice. When we cease to have our life of faith shape our actions and desires – we ought to take concrete steps toward reorienting our life. Discipline in small things leads to discipline in large things. Small disciplines – such as faithfulness to praying five minutes longer when tempted to cut it short, or biting your tongue when you feel an uncharitable comment coming on – build up stronger disciplines.
Ignatius also recommends confronting fears and so-called ‘unfreedoms’ head on. Afraid of living a life of material poverty? Pray that God might make you actually poor, and give you the grace to desire such a life. Feeling desolated and distant from God in prayer? Extend your time spent in prayer. Just as vices slowly build up over time, so too do virtuous habits.
A virtuous life is more than the net sum of mistakes and successes in life. Rather it is a long road that requires patience and often difficult, unrewarded decisions for the good.
Questions for prayer: A novice classmate of mine (who also writes for this blog) once posed a good question at day’s end: How did I live my life differently today because of my Catholic faith? It is a simple question, which leaves many of us wanting. But it allows for insights into the small disciplines we must undertake to bring about larger reforms in our free-willing service to God.