If Lent teaches us anything, it’s that the spiritual life is hard! Do you sometimes feel like the on failed Catholic in the world who just can’t make it for 40 days? Believe me – you’re not alone!
Just trying to stick with a sacrifice for 40 days is difficult enough. Sticking with a long-term program of conversion and spiritual growth can sometimes seem too daunting! When we’re tempted to give up on ourselves, it’s good to remember that developing the virtue of perseverance is in itself part of our spiritual growth.
But while we need to forgive ourselves for our weakness and failure, we also need to make the choice to give our spiritual lives our best effort.
We have certain work to do for our bread, and that is to be done strenuously; other work to do for our delight, and that is to be done heartily; neither is to be done by halves or shifts, but with a will; and what is not worth this effort is not to be done at all. There is dreaming enough, and earthiness enough, and sensuality enough in human existence, without our turning the few glowing minutes of it into mechanism; and since our life must at the best be but a vapor that appears but for a little time and then vanishes away, let it at least appear as a cloud in the height of Heaven, not as the thick darkness that broods over the blast of the furnace and rolling of the wheel. -Ruskin.
Sometimes we get impatient with ourselves because we expect that grace should bring us perfection right away. We fall for the mistaken assumption that real Christians don’t struggle with sin or weakness. But while God cleanses us from Original Sin in Baptism and forgives our sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, conversion of our hearts is still a process. God wants us to struggle to embrace His goodness. That struggle strengthens our choice to truly love Him.
We also have to understand that the process of conversion happens by degrees. Every small choice we make for goodness leads us closer to the goal of holiness.
There are no such prevalent workmen as sedulity and diligence. A man would wonder at the mighty things which have been done by degrees and gentle augmentations. Diligence and moderation are the best steps, whereby to climb to any excellency. Nay it is rare if there be any other way. The Heavens send not down their rain in floods, but by drops and dewy distillations. A man is neither good, nor wise, nor rich, at Once; yet softly, creeping up these hills, he shall every day better his prospect; till at last he gains the top. Now he learns a virtue, and then he damns a vice. An hour in a day may much profit a man in his study when he makes it stint and custom. Every year something laid up, may in time make. a stock great. Nay, if a man does but save, he shall increase; and though when the gains are scattered, they be next to nothing, yet together they will swell the heap. He that has the patience to attend small profits, may quickly grow to thrive and Purchase: they be easier to accomplish, and come thicker. So he that from every thing collects somewhat, shall in time get a treasury of wisdom. And when all is done, for man, this is the best way. It is for God, and for Omnipotency, to do mighty things in a moment: but degreeingly to grow to greatness, is the course that He hath left for man. -Felltham.
So don’t give up! Keep striving for holiness. When you fail, pick yourself up again and make the choice to continue turning your face toward God. Slowly, by degrees, grace will work on you as you choose to follow Him.
Quotations taken from A Rosary for Lent by Miriam Coles Harris. This book is in the public domain.
Also published on Medium.