“Will-power. A very important quality. Don’t despise little things, for by the continual practice of denying yourself again and again in such things — which are never futile or trivial — with God’s grace you will add strength and resilience to your character. In that way you will first become master of yourself, and then a guide, a chief, a leader: to compel and to urge and to inspire others, with your word, with your example, with your knowledge and with your power.” (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way 19)
Do you ever catch yourself in a moment of candid realization that you have developed bad habits, neglected your faith and created distance between yourself and Christ? This happens to me all too frequently and after realizing I was off course during a recent visit to Eucharistic Adoration, I decided to do something about it. What I needed was to toughen my resistance and develop new “muscles” to fight my patterns of spiritual failure. I committed to introduce more intention into my life and show stronger willpower.
In essence, I committed to break my sinful habits by immediately introducing good or “virtuous” habits after I caught myself going down the wrong path. It has been a struggle at times, but I have slowly been able to see improved patterns of behavior, more focus on authentically living out my Catholic faith and a vast improvement in my relationship with Christ. A very helpful tool in this endeavor has been the Daily Examen, which I have written about before. The Examen forces us to stop five times a day to reflect on what is happening in our lives, offer up a brief prayer and make adjustments. Here is what I have been able to experience and capture for this post over the last week:
- On several occasions I found myself very busy with more work to complete than I could possibly tackle…so I prayed a Rosary and sought out the help of the Blessed Mother.
- Accumulated venial sins had been acting like a weight around my neck since my last visit to the Confessional in mid-Lent…so I went to Reconciliation and freed myself of this burden.
- On a few occasions when I found myself overwhelmed by the challenges of fatherhood, my career and the daily stresses of life in the modern age…I sought out the intercession of St. Joseph to show me the way to true Catholic manhood.
- When faced with more than a few particularly stressful business and family issues…I asked God for patience, wisdom and discernment so I could understand and accept the lessons He had in store for me in these challenges..
- Instead of delaying (and perhaps forgetting) to pray for others, upon hearing the problems of those I encountered this past week…I prayed for them immediately.
- Rather than getting sucked into the depressing and toxic secular culture through TV at home and radio in my car…I returned to my Lenten practice of turning TV and radio time into prayer, reading and reflection time.
- Rather than allowing the busyness of my typical day to impact my ability to share my gratitude for what others have done for me…I have looked for opportunities immediately after the kind acts of others to offer with greater intention my sincere thanks. No more delayed appreciation because I am busy!
Finally, I am returning to an old habit my father taught me many years ago that has fallen into neglect in light of the hectic pace I keep: doing random acts of kindness with greater intention. I recently sent a thank you note to a helpful friend who did me a kindness and called a sick friend and just listened. Perhaps I am most grateful for the big smile I received from the elderly lady who appreciated my courtesy in the simple act of opening a door for her.
Friends, I am no saint. But, I hope to convey in this brief post the need to be more self-aware about the bad habits and venial sins that weigh us down and pull us off the right path and the power of a little more intentional behavior around the practice of good habits. This new mindset and a lot of prayer will help us stay focused on Christ and our Heavenly home. I know it has already helped me in numerous ways. As I said, I am no saint, but I know you and I are called to pursue sainthood and lead lives of holiness. With our eyes fixed firmly on Heaven, let’s try to introduce a little more intention into our lives today.
“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7)