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Book Club – Imitation of Christ Week 4 of 10

January 15, 2013 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

 Running to Win

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 The Imitation of Christ Week 4 of 10

For a pittance men will travel a great distance, but for eternal life many will scarcely take a single step. They look ahead to puny gains and sometimes shamefully wrangle over a single penny; neither do they hesitate to wear themselves out working day and good portion picture1night for some foolish promise or trifling object.

But for the good that never changes, for the prize beyond all prizes, for the highest honor and the glory that never ends, men, alas, are too lazy to put forth the slightest effort. You should be ashamed, lazy and evergrumbling servant, when you see other men more eager to lose their souls than you are to gain life! They find greater joy in chasing after empty dreams than you have in pursuing the truth. – The Imitation of Christ, Book III, Ch. 3, pg. 76.

I’m a jogger. Correction. I USED to be a jogger. Now I’m someone who likes to slip my jogging experience into a conversation as though it has any bearing at all on my current lifestyle. Nevertheless, when I USED to jog, I took my time. I looked around, enjoyed the scenery, and walked every now and then, never really pushing myself. Often I sped up or slowed down based on the speed of music rolling though my iPod at the time. Even when I trained for a marathon, I developed a rather relaxed schedule, walking through it day by day, step by step until the morning of the race. My goal was always to finish – never to win.

The above passage from The Imitation was quite an eye-opener for me. I’m saddened to admit that I’ve been pursuing heaven like I pursued jogging. I casually examine my conscience at the end of the day; I try to keep my prayer and reading schedule; I participate in the sacraments. And my passion for Christ ebbs and flows depending on the spiritual book I’m reading at the moment. But there’s No drive. No discipline. Little passion (and my passion for knowledge probably works against me).

This begs a question: If I continue on my current path, will my pursuit of heaven end up like my pursuit of jogging – a mere reminiscence?

On the other hand, consider the athlete who runs to WIN. There’s such a grand difference between that athlete and, well, “me”. He has his eyes fixed on the finish line. He’s not there to take in the scenery. He’s completely focused on THE GOAL. His mind and body are one. He is aware of the steadiness of his breathing, the muscles in his legs, the rhythm of his body and the ground beneath his feet, whether soft or firm. Throughout his training, he is careful about everything that enters his body. Nothing gains admittance unless it contributes to his overall fitness. Most importantly, he LOVES the sport. He is passionate in his pursuit and his DESIRE TO WIN outweighs every obstacle. He’s not sidetracked by other objectives – he has only one in mind – TO WIN.

Will he win? I don’t know. But at this rate, his chances are much better than mine.

Saint Paul says, ‘Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.’ (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

Heaven is a GOAL, above all other goals, and I must pursue it with passion and purpose! My eyes must be fixed on the finish line. I must not become to attached to the things around me. I must be completely focused on THE GOAL. My mind and body must become one in the pursuit. Because I am in training, I must be careful about everything that enters my soul through my senses – whether a movie, commercial, picture, story or conversation – nothing may gain admittance unless it be edifying and contribute to my sanctification. Most importantly, I must LOVE the pursuit. I must LOVE my Beloved and desire to be with Him more than anything else. I cannot be sidetracked by the things of this world – I have only one GOAL – HEAVEN.

Can I develop the passion and determination necessary to WIN? I am confident that through God’s grace, I can, because I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I’ll be praying for that grace through the course of this book.

What about you? Are you running the race TO WIN? Do you LOVE our Lord and desire to be with Him in heaven more than anything else? Ask yourself whether Thomas à Kempis has a point. Do others find greater joy in chasing after empty dreams than you have in pursuing the truth?

 

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you find that you are “running to win” or are you “going through the motions”?  Regardless, how get yourself or keep yourself on track?

2. Open discussion: Feel free to comment on any topic from this past week's reading.

 

Reading Assignment:

Week 5: Book 3 Ch. 12-23

 

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

For More Information on the Book Club: http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the SpiritualDirection.com book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at pelicansbreast.com

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  • Robert Kraus

    Great metaphor this week. Unfortunately, I do feel like I go through the motions, and there are times I’m astounded at myself. If I’m truly seeking union with God and eternal life, I’m sure not acting like it. I feel like I “ho-hum” it, waiting for that trigger that’s going to suddenly turn me into a holy monk or such. But a race requires dedication, purpose, planning, training, fatigue, slow and steady progress. I guess, to get on track, I should be like the runner who slowly increases their distance each week or so, and try to move deeper into a relationship with my Creator.

  • KAACD

    Sometimes I will “travel” far for something that is earthly, instead of pursuing the goal, which is eternity in heaven. That peacefuly place with Jesus. My travel’s usually involve my children, which makes it hard because maybe I put them first. I need discipline like training for a race to reach my goal. It is hard sometimes to place my children’s future behind my devotion and love for God, even when I want the “goal” so badly.  

    • Vicki

      I know what you mean.  I tend to put my family ahead of my spiritual life very often – it seems there is always something to do, whether spending time together, managing activities or just sweeping the floor.  I’ve often noted that there is never a time that I should “legitimately” sit down – there is always something to do.  My husband has said the same applies from his perspective.  One book I read that really helped me is Holiness for Housewives by Hubert van Zeller.  The idea of praying for someone as you iron their shirt was a wonderful concept for me – my life doesn’t have to stop in order for me to offer prayers and supplication to our Lord.  I’m not always good at this, but I notice that over time, if my prayer life is suffering, I’m not doing my family any favors:).  As I noted above, I’m not the best at keeping heaven as my focus – but when I can remember God as the purpose for doing all that I do as a mother (as I do it), that is when I most feel like I’m keeping my “eye on the prize.”  

      • KAACD

        Thanks for the response Vicki

  • mickie72

    This book has ( and continues to be) such an eye-opener for me. I too feel like I am just going through the motions and am striving to feel more like how Christ wants me to be.. I am blessed to have a Spiritual Director who is helping me to see how to continue to work towards the ultimate goal of Heaven. Many times I do end up putting so many things ahead of God and prayer such as my children, work, volunteer ministry.I am trying more and more to remember to be more and more of how God wants me to be when I am in these places. I am blessed though to have a small commute each day to try to work on focusing towards that goal. I also have many friends, even though we are told not to depend on anyone except God, that help keep me on the right track also through Bilbe reading, conversations and the like. God Bless

  • carl641

    That’s a real dilemma, Vicki. It seems that at times I’m
    more tuned into all of this than others. Sometimes, I’m not tuned in at all and
    even neglect doing some of it; it’s an ebb and flow with me I suppose. The main
    thing for me is to persevere, that’s hard enoughJ.

    I was at reconciliation one day and I had missed going to
    mass a couple of weeks before and confessed that. The reason I had missed was
    because I had taken my wife on a weekend trip to get her out of the house and
    have a change of scenery. I could have looked up a church in the area and gone
    to mass, but I didn’t I was lazy. Afterwards, I started feeling guilty and
    when I went to reconciliation next, confessed it. The priest said something
    interesting to me. He said, ‘God understands what’s in your heart. If you need
    to do this for your wife, say a prayer to Him and He’ll understand.’ He wasn’t saying don’t go to mass or use what he was saying as an excuse not to go. I
    understood it to mean that our practice of the faith is about the state of our
    heart and all the things we do are just helpful aides we use to draw us closer
    to the Lord and our neighbor, they’re not an end in themselves. Love trumps
    rules and we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves. (not suggesting not to follow
    the rules)

    So where I’ve ended up with this is, God knows my heart. If
    I’m doing the best I can (and the way I know that is my heart doesn’t tell me
    otherwise) then God understands what I have to do. If I listen, He’ll let me
    know what I should be doing, or not. All I need to do is pay attention, do what
    he puts in front of me, and love Him as best I can. It’s taken me quite awhile
    and a number of hard knocks to wake up and realize this, but I’ve noticed He
    has a way of bringing what I need to be doing into my life without any help
    from me. My problem is getting myself and my will out of the equation so I can
    see his hand in my life clearly.

    • LizEst

      Dear Carl – I commend you for trying, for your good intentions and for having the desire to do better…and for trying to get your wife out of the house and give her a change of scenery. All good things.

      You really need to get a good spiritual director to help you with all of this. I’m sorry to say that your confessor did not do you any favors by not instructing you properly about the seriousness of missing Mass on Sunday.

      Yes, the state of our hearts is very important. I once confessed something similar. A good confessor told me gently but firmly that Sunday is the day! The reason we worship on Sunday (or the Vigil Mass Saturday evening) is because it is on Sunday that Christ rose from the dead. We owe the Lord everything. We owe Him that thanksgiving. We owe it to Him both privately and corporately, in other words, as a community. Keeping the Sabbath holy is one of the ten commandments. And, a person does damage to their soul and the Church when they do not attend. It divides us when we are supposed to be one Body in Christ. The devil likes nothing more than disobedience and separation from the Truth.

      Your confessor has unintentionally helped you rationalize your outlook on life so that, if you miss Mass in the future, you will think it’s OK because you were doing thus and such, which your heart (your conscience) tells you is good. The problem with that is that a misinformed conscience cannot tell you what is good because it has not been formed properly. A good Catholic spiritual director can assist you in correcting this situation. Please, for the sake of your soul, seek one out and ask for help with this.

      • carl641

        thanks for the feedback, Liz. I appreciate it. I don’t want to create the wrong impression about mass attendance, I didn’t express myself well. I understand the absoluteness about the Sunday mass attendance. I very much want to go to mass and do. Since I converted 12 years ago, there have only been 3 or 4 times I didn’t attend Sunday mass, and that was for reasons like the one I mentioned above. Usually when I’m out of town I find a church and go. 

        I very much appreciate your comments. I’ll start trying to find someone for spiritual direction. 

        • LizEst

          Good for you, Carl. It’s easy to let ourselves slip, if we’re not careful. Having a spiritual director is a help and I commend you for this good intention. God bless you in this and all your endeavors.

  • bltpm

    I love St. Therese’s way of running towards the goal.  Allowing God to do all things, and becoming little and completely abandoned to His will and providence.  Didn’t she say she was Christ’s little ball to play with and that she would be content whether He played with her or left her alone in the corner somewhere.  My personality is extremely drawn to goal setting and achievements, and so my spiritual director is constantly anchoring myself to God’s will and providence. My struggle is to think that because I DO things then I’m sort of entitled to Heaven, and I’m not.  God gives it to me as a gift, and I follow His will not to earn heaven, but because I love Him with my whole heart and with all my strength and with all my mind.  

  • THERESAEVENBLY

    Right now I feel like I’m running a race to keep up with the pace you’re going (just kidding). Seriously though. I’m still deep into this book and thank you so much for recommending it. I had decided it was going to be my Advent read and well, with the holidays it is taking slightly longer for me to go through each chapter because I deliberately slow down and ponder and meditate upon the chapters (I’m still on Book 1, Chapter 16).  Sadly, I’m NOT an exercise enthusiast. I see that ugly E word and I turn tail. But I love spending time in contemplation before our Lord. Savoring each word, each nugget, each syllable, each inflection. And I ponder and reflect A LOT.  So much that it flows into a prayer or I have to run to the Adoration chapel to lay it there as I study the mystery.

    This book, The Imitation of Christ, is much like that.  I have chosen to be deliberate, to be methodical. My faithwalk has peaks and valleys, highs and lows and other roller coaster moments where I just hold on tight and scream with all my might. But I also know that I ALWAYS have a safe landing in Jesus Christ.

    So will I ever catch up and be at the same point you guys are in the this book club? Probably not (I’m still amazed that you guys can! My days are just as hectic but I fear I’m more inept at juggling all the balls). Still I love reading your commentary and add that for more heavenly food to fodder upon.  And That is okay too. I’m sure God has more than enough patience for me and thank God He’s not finished in teaching me the lessons I need to learn for this journey.

  • Wow! This hits closer to home for me than I really like to admit. I will need to keep this close as a reminder. Thanks Vicki!

    It also brings me to Book 3 Chapter 11 which I had marked and highlighted back in September.

    “Christ: My child, you stil have many things to learn….

    “That you conform your desires and affections to My good pleasure, that you be not full of self-love, but a zealous follower of My will in all things…. you should consider whether you are moved mainly for My honor or for your own interests….

    ” There are times when we must use violence and courageously resist our sensual appetite, having no regard for the likes and dislikes of the flesh; but rather, making sure that the body, despite its protests, becomes subject to the spirit.

    “…until it learns to be content with little, to delight in simple things and not to complain at any inconvenience.”

    I must ask am I moved mainly for the honor of God or for my own interests. Am I content with little? Do I not complain at any inconvenience?

    Oh, I am so far from this. I believe the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius address this. They say that we should practice not forming an opinion on anything until we have first asked God what his will is. If we are naturally inclined or disinclined to some activity, that will affect what we may perceive to be God’s will. It is very difficult to come to God in a truly neutral and objective position. I suppose that is why a spiritual director can be so helpful. I don’t have one and I must rely on my judgement which is so easily influenced by my appetites and attachments. I have been praying for about five years for God to provide a spiritual director. I am waiting for his timing and Providence. I can see that my idea of what spiritual direction means has changed from five years ago. I know he continues to prepare me. I thank God for people like you on this site to help in forming me during this time.

    • Sylvia_DeJesus

      Thank you, Jeanie, for your comments. I had trouble understanding this last section in the book. The version I have is written in the “thy” and ” verily” language 🙂 so i couldn’t quite make out the meaning. God heard my confusion and spoke to me through you! God Bless!!
      I also agree that Vicki, the Holy Spirit was working overtime through you when you wrote your comments:) Thank you so much for such great insight!!

  • selizabeth

    I never comment on the blog but is just the BEST one you have ever written…I’m so inspired Thank you Vicki!
     

    • Vicki

      Thank you for your kind words – my thanks to God that this particular post spoke to you:).  And I encourage you to comment on your reading in the future – the discussion is edifying for all of us!

  • Scott Kallal

    Thank you Vicki for nailing one of the most crucial points from Imitation this week. I too can let myself get off track, so I’ve got a whole host of ways for bringing myself back. Like all of you, I don’t use all of these with 100% consistency, but by having multiple pathways, I do seem to be staying the course for the most part, and repetition helps me to stay locked in more even when I let an individual practice slip. What do I do?

    Everyday I have a morning offering that reminds me of the goal and a nightly examination of conscience. Every week, I plan my schedule based on God’s will for each major area of my life. Every month, I go on retreat with my brother Apostles to check on my progress. Every year we have our spiritual exercises together to go back to the fundamentals. And it certainly doesn’t hurt to live in community with 6 other guys who are all pursuing holiness and to have regular spiritual direction.

    I know not everyone will be able to do all of these, but maybe they can give you some ideas of things to try and add to your spiritual repertoire. 

    The thing that most surprised me as I read through the meditations together is how often Thomas used contrast: listen inside, not outside; listen to Jesus, not other prophets; be hungry, not hardened of heart; recognize your need for God rather than being prideful and complacent; power comes from loving Christ, not yourself; wisdom focuses on the Giver’s love, not the Lover’s gift; follow Christ, not your feelings; seek God, not yourself; the goal is Christ, not creatures; serve God, not the world; desire God’s honor, not your own…

    Each one brought me back to the same decision of choosing Christ above all else, especially above myself, because that is the key to my happiness. Wild. Beautiful. Awesome. You all remain in my prayers.

    God bless,

    Fr. Scott, AVI
    Apostles of the Interior Life

    • KAACD

      Thank you for bringing up the contrast used, like “wisdom focuses on the Giver’s love, not the Lover’s gift.”

      • Scott Kallal

        You’re welcome KAACD

    • Vicki

      Thanks so much, Fr. Scott, for sharing your practices.  I don’t think I could do the monthly retreat (although it sounds like a wonderful idea), but you have inspired me to seek a retreat for my husband and me – as we, too, are trying to pursue holiness together.  So far, we’ve attended them separately so one of us could watch the kids.  

  • Plevesque

    i think I must have a different translation. But I can agree with Vicky that I am finding it very difficult to give the toil needed to win the race. I’m always telling my children to keep trying, to never give up, wether it’s school, sports, or prayer; but do I say this to the one I see in the mirror. Is heaven truly my goal? I am consoled by the next few lines in Chapter 3 that say What I have promised I will give.. provided a man continue to the end faithful in love! What words of hope.

  • talby

    Thank you Vicki for your awesome comments… it’s amazing how fitness analogies are so related to the spiritual (even St. Paul used them as you quoted from 1 Corinthians!). Both are about discipline/perservance – keeping momentum, not giving up, pushing through the discomfort of new things, and in the end being stronger than when we started.  The end result is about how much effort and dedication that was applied to make us “fitter”… 

    I am enjoying readings the different posts on this section this week. For me, this week’s readings focused more on Chapters 5 & 6…Christ’s Love, our imperfection and the perservance through our own sin and spiritual trials.  As chapter 5 goes into detail about that Love and Chapter 6 explains that we are weak (and prone to weariness) we need to stand firm and not give up at the least of trials, the importance is to rest in Christ because the journey would be impossible without Him… “Hold firm your purpose firmly with a straight intent toward God. It is no illusion when you are at times suddenly borne to height and as quickly brought back to the heart’s usual follies. For these you bear with rather than set in action, and so long as they do not satisfy you, and you resist them, it becomes a gain and not a loss.”  I definitely want to “win” this race! I love the prayers that are in these sections… I am going to be using them!  As I looked through scripture… in Hebrews 12:1-13, it relates exactly what this is saying to me… “…let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith…(1, 2)….So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.” (12-13).

    Everyday is a new day to me on this journey. In my weak self I’d fail miserably every day, but it is only with Christ that I can make through the day…with my eyes on Him, I am more aware of my failings but also of my longing to be closer to Him.

    God Bless,
    Terrie

    P.S. I have an older copy of the book (1952) and the language is a little different….

  • Cmvg

    Thank you Vick for this great opportunity to read together, share and inspire us all in our journey.
    About this last post, I am not sure if I’m getting seriously confused…. I am the runner who enjoys the running experience – with discipline and purpose but also enjoying the air in my face and the pain in my muscles- Is that wrong?…
    I am not a competitive person and I am struggling to put myself into this position of Winner of a race.
    I think that our journey to Heaven is full of wonderful and challenging life experiences that will hopefully take us there. If we only keep our eyes in the right path. Jesus showed us the way and we will do the best to try to “imitate it”. I want to live accordingly to God’s Devine Will. Hopefully I’ll take the right path every time and all the time and make it through. Period. If we make it to Heaven, only God knows. I truly hope so, but don’t want to live because of the reward at the end but for the journey itself that God Our Father so generously and loving has given to me.

    • CeciliaMarks

      CMVG, in this case the “runner” is the Christian in the race for heaven which St. Paul used to explain the Christian’s life journey. If we take this symbolism further for the spiritual life, you would then have the personality who enjoys the study & what is expected to achieve the spiritual goals (running experience). When the winds of negativism blow from others, it doesn’t bother you rise to the challenge because you are prepared.
      Did I misunderstand your question? If so, I apologize…..

    • Vicki

      No, you are certainly not wrong.  My analogy is merely that – an analogy.  When I ran, I very much enjoyed the experience, the weather, the very feeling I got from exerting myself, etc.  And I am absolutely not saying that I was wrong.  But when it comes to heaven, I think Thomas a Kempis is making the point that we must be on a mission, with heaven as our goal.  I was particularly moved by the comment that heaven is the “prize above all prizes.”  That made me think of a competitive runner – which I’ve never been.  I’ve enjoyed reading about athletes through the years, and I find their drive and determination very admirable.  I was merely noting that when I look at my life, I don’t see that same drive that I would if I were seeing heaven as THE GOAL.  Don’t get me wrong – I live a sacramental life, and God is certainly in the center of our home.  But Thomas a Kempis is still speaking to me when he says there are “men more eager to lose their souls than you are to gain life.”  On my life’s journey, I have been distracted – it’s a struggle to stay on course.  And when I ran, I daydreamed – I don’t imagine competitive athletes do a lot of that when they are competing.  I imagine that if I would pursue heaven the way an athlete pursues the finish line, my focus would bear much fruit.

  • I’m going to start by saying how much I loved this section that we read.  I was enraptured by the descriptions of Jesus’ love for us, especially the passage in Chap. 5, “Love is ever watchful; it rests but does not sleep, though weary, it is not tired; restricted, yet not hindered.  Although it sees reason to fear, it is not dismayed; but like a spark of fire or a burning flame, it blazes upward to God by the fervor of it’s love, and through the help of His grace is delivered from all dangers. . . . You are all mine and I am all Yours.”  This spoke to me as exactly how it feels when, even though faced with challenge after challenge, you know that your life is completely under the Lord’s care.  You can be weary of dealing with trials, but you aren’t giving up;  you can see the real dangers of a situation, but continue on, knowing that you are under Divine protection.  The whole chapter read, for me, like a love story.  The very best love story that could ever be written because the Hero is the True Lover, the only Lover who will never hurt our feelings, never leave us, and will always be with us, for all eternity.  There is no thing and no person who can ever do this for us, but Him.

    I have to admit that, while I like the running analogy, I did not get that in here at all – probably because running is something that is just not part of my reality, in any way.  I do understand it though, particularly in St. Paul’s passage which, of course, I’ve heard before.  We have to discipline ourselves to keep on going, even when things are hard and everything in us is telling us to give up.  I also liked that section of Chap. 3 where it spoke of people who will do so much for such trivial things but not make even the slightest effort to work for the only thing that can truly help them.  I have been so puzzled by this in my life.  So much time, money, and effort spent on beauty products, entertainment, surgeries, counseling, drugs, etc., all just to “fix” someone’s problems, to make them feel better, to raise their self esteem.  When none of those things work, they’re handed a prescription for anti-depressants.  I’m not knocking medications where they are needed (I have a son on meds for ADHD) but people spend so much time looking for happiness in all the wrong places but, if you try to talk to them about religion, they won’t even consider it.  Religion is all well and good for us but they’ve been hurt, they don’t agree with this or that, they believe in God but not in organized religion,  I’m not sure how one ever gets through to someone like that.  I suspect that we can’t.  We have to pray for them and be an example.  Then, when they ask us why the heck we’re so happy, we can share God’s love with them.  It has to come from within.  They have to realize that the emptiness they feel inside can’t be filled with any earthly thing.  The only way to truly fill that emptiness is with the Love of God.  Like the saint said, “My heart is restless until it rests in You.”  

    There were so many other things I liked in here.  In Chap. 6, #2, how wise lovers value not the gift, but the Giver; that no gift He could ever give, means more than He Who gave it.  Chap. 7, where we are advised to seek out and do only what God asks of us because we can actually lose grace by taking things on that we are not supposed to and that God has not asked of us.  And in Chap. 10, how beautiful it is that God gives us everything we have so that we can serve Him, but then He also serves us through the gifts that He’s given us; He serves us through the very things He’s given us.  There’s so much more but I think I’ve given at least my two cents, maybe more like 10 cents.  25 cents?

    Deo Juvante, Jen

    • Victoria Campbell

      Jen, your comments about struggling to reach to others was a topic this week In Mondays’ Good News Ministries another Catholic forum that I frequent.  The reflection from Monday emphasized the importance of community and how God uses not just one single person to lead others to faith but uses others too. http://goodnewsreflections.blogspot.com/2013/01/14.html  We are not the savior just an instrument in God’s plan for salvation.  He is working from the inside and we can be beacons of light from the outside but sometimes we are called to just be steadfast and persevere even when we feel like we are not making headway.  At that point, we turn to hope and prayer that God will continue to work and trust that God will make possible that which we in our limited abilities cannot do alone. 

      • So very true.  We can’t ever make someone believe or convert.  We simply must live out God’s will for us to the best of our ability and let God work on their heart.  I’ll check up on that link.  Thanks!!

  • BeckitaMaria

    I appreciate your candor and wisdom, Vicki. Thank you.

    My best approach for getting and/or staying on track is weekly confession, daily communion and daily Eucharistic adoration for I am a sinner through and through. My spirit revives with the graces from the sacraments as all manner of encouragement, gentleness, healing and inspiration impel me to s-t-r-e-t-c-h my spiritual muscles as a committed competitor.

    I also remind myself I am only and always a beginner. Thomas a Kempis says it so much better: “We ought every day to renew our resolutions and excite ourselves to fervor as if this were the first day of our conversion and to say: Help me, O Lord God. in my good resolution and in Thy holy service and give me the grace now this day perfectly to begin, for what I have hitherto done is nothing.” (The Imitation of Christ, Book 1, Chapter 19)

    I have given my slothful times to Jesus in confession knowing my failures are not the end of the story. His Infinite Redemption trumps my misery.  “The greater the sinner, the greater the right he has to My Mercy.” (Diary of St. Faustina, 723) 

    Then in the words of one of my dearest mamas, St. Theresa of Avila, I often pray: “O my God! Source of all mercy!  I acknowledge Your sovereign power. While recalling the wasted years that are past, I believe that You, Lord, can in an instant turn this loss to gain. Miserable as I am, yet I firmly believe that You can do all things. Please restore to me the time lost, giving me Your grace, both now and in the future, that I may appear before You in ‘wedding garments’. Amen.”

    Reading the chapters in Book 3 has piqued my interest to gather some background information about Thomas a Kempis and his times. It has also spurred me to reread the chapters through which we have travelled thus far for his book is literally packed with gems for pondering.

    One Lenten season I had a vision of me carrying my cross; I was stunned to see my cross was comprised of me! “And this must be our business to strive to overcome ourselves and daily gain strength over ourselves and to grow better and better.” (The Imitation of Christ, Book1, Chapter 3)

    It has been said that St. Therese of Lisieux started to intently read The Imitation of Christ around the age of fourteen and that she kept the book with her constantly. I call upon her intercession as the depth of her spirituality is contained in her words: “… my way is all confidence and love.” She wanted to go to heaven by an entirely new little way. She said, “I wanted to find an elevator that would raise me to Jesus.” The elevator, she wrote, would be the arms of Jesus lifting her in all her littleness.

    In all my nothingness I am gratefully and delightfully humbled to climb into the arms of our Jesus in the shadow of my dear friend, St. Therese.

    St. Faustina, St. Theresa of Avila and St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.

  • CeciliaMarks

    Vicki, I believe the key words are: “but for eternal life many will scarcely take a single step.”  If we go with the idea that life is a journey to our goal of heaven, then the journey may start out w/very little zeal in that direction. Its when grace kicks in and we make the decision to train more diligently and to increase the pace. In most races there are spectators in the stands or along the side of the road cheering and watching the runners. Many of the spectators know they must “get in shape” and train for such a race and many do not want to put in the effort or do not believe themselves capable of such an activity. In any case, the runners are being watched and giving witness to watchers.
    My husband worked in research for years as a mathematician. He’s one who lives his faith quietly. Fellow workers would come into his office and say, “You’re Catholic, what’s your opinion about this.” or “I know you are Catholic, so will pray for my son?” He was always amazed when these things happened and would ask me, “how do they know this about me?” Folks are aware by one’s actions–the fruit–if we are truly running toward our goal and if we want others to join us….

  • Victoria Campbell

    Without question my spiritual practices lack consistent discipline like the type of training  that aptly  is sometimes compared to an athlete in training.  Sometimes, I feel like Pope John XXIII describes in his Journal of a Soul where he keeps setting goals for himself and falling short of the mark. I set goals to follow the readings for the day, say the rosary more frequently, read the catechism for this year of faith etc and some days go well and others I fail completely. All these failures yet still there has always been for me an interior yearning for greater understanding and faith and a good measure of Catholic guilt which I was taught by my father! Thomas Kempis chiding is a powerful reminder of my need to first resolve to love God above all else and to discipline myself out of love for him. I find that I have gained quite a bit from being a part of the Cursillo movement which is very strong at our church.  Our weekly group meetings where we discuss our piety, study and apostolic action and failures challenge me to be faithful each week to  nurturing my faith and keeping fixed on my goals as a Christian in this life hopefully en route to the next.

    The other part of this week’s reading which I find myself pondering comes from the 7th chapter.  “He who gives himself up entirely to enjoyment acts very unwisely, for he forgets his former helplessness and that chastened fear of the Lord which dreads to lose a proffered grace. Nor is he very brave or wise who becomes too despondent in times of adversity and difficulty and thinks less confidently of Me than he should.  He who wishes to be too secure in time of peace will often become too dejected and fearful in time of trial.”  This speaks to my tendency to become sometimes complacent when all is going well and to become lax in my devotion especially in prayer and study.  Sometimes too when faced with adversity, I become overly focused on solutions which are more worldly in nature such as  the advice of others.  I find myself sometimes giving into feelings of hopelessness rather than turning in this weakness to God with confidence that he will guide me through. In these times, God is compelling me to cast my cares on him to put my trust in him. 

  • GHM_52

    On reading this I was reminded of all the things we are willing to spend energy and effort on as well as on those most of us do not. I have often pondered on the meaning of nearly empty churches during the week, or the lack of bodily reverence upon entering a church, or the lack of lines outside of adoration chapels versus full-to-capacity discos, the reverence shown to politicians, or artists, and the major lines outside shops even at pre-dawn on Black Fridays…The way we carefully hunt for and pick articles of clothing to impress one another at parties, weddings, or other social events, but go to Mass in shorts and flip flops, or in the very first articles of clothing we pick up from the closet in a hurry…Why do we do this? I can’t avoid the feeling that we must be hurting God…not because he cares about clothing and shoe brands, but because we do not give Him our all, but the scraps from our abundance. This book is painful to read, but such a blessing! It shows us how little faith we have! How little understanding of and commitment to the Truth we have! Thank-you for the work you are doing!

    • BeckitaMaria

      Gladys, your comment: “This book is painful to read but such a blessing!” resonates within my soul. Thank you.

    • LizEst

      When we were young and at home, my mother would not let us wear something before we first wore it to church for Mass. There is much wisdom there. It trains the mind and heart to give our first and best to the Lord. It also meant we couldn’t wear stuff that wasn’t appropriate to church…or elsewhere. It would be nice if more learned this.

      • Vicki

        Liz, Now I see where all your wisdom comes from – the apple never falls far from the tree:)!

        • LizEst

          Thanks for honoring my mother with your comment. The glory, of course, goes always to the Lord, from whom all good things come. God bless you, Vicki.

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