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SpiritualDirection.com / Catholic Spiritual Direction

The Field of Battle

June 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

The first thing to do when you awake is to open the windows of your soul. Consider yourself as on the field of battle, facing the enemy and bound by the iron-clad law – either fight or die.

Imagine the enemy before you, that particular vice or disorderly passion that you are trying to conquer – imagine this hideous opponent is about to overwhelm you. At the same time, picture at your right Jesus Christ, your Invincible Leader, accompanied by the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph, whole companies of angels and Saints, and particularly by the glorious Archangel Michael. At your left is Lucifer and his troops, ready to support the passion or vice you are fighting and resolved to do anything to cause your defeat.

Imagine your guardian angel thus spurring you on: “Today you must fight to conquer your enemy and anyone who tries to ruin you. Be courageous. Do not be afraid or cowardly. Christ your Captain is here with all the power of Heaven to protect you from the enemy, and to see that they never conquer you, either by brute power, or by trickery. Hold your ground! Do violence to yourself, no matter how painful it is. Call out for the help of Jesus and Mary and all the Saints. If you do this, you will be victorious.” – Spiritual Combat, pg. 51. (TAN Version – Corresponding quote in Sophia Press version is found on pg. 50-51, beginning with As soon as you wake…certain to gain the victory.)

As I fell asleep after reading this book a few nights ago, I prepared myself for a new beginning. One in which I would wake before the rest of the family, kneel at my bedside and pray, imagining Jesus to my right, while building the courage to notice the Devil at my left. I would call out to my Lord, all the angels and Saints through prayer to guide me along the right path, to help me conquer my SELF, and beg for the grace to be vigilant with every breath I take. Once I’d taken these few moments to “arm” myself, I would stand, ready for battle, and head off for my daily duties as wife and mother. This was the day I would lay siege on my vices!

My alarm was set. I was determined. I was resolute. But somehow, the road of life, while paved with good intentions, is never smooth, and I was derailed on Day One.

At 4:30 that first morning, my cat woke me with her usual crazy cat concert in my bedroom. And although this is virtually a daily occurrence, I’m embarrassed to say that between my grumbling and inner frustration, I had something to confess by 4:45. Less than half an hour later, my three year old showed up in my bed, tripping me up before my alarm even have a chance. So much for determination.

There’s always someone who needs Mom first thing in the morning (or earlier). Although at times I’ve had success with waking early, it seems more often than not, the earlier I set my alarm, the earlier the kids show up in my room. With the demands of motherhood beginning before I’ve had a chance to get my bearings, there are many days when I offer no more than a nod of acknowledgement to our Lord as I open my eyes. Then I’m off to the races, hustling my son to the restroom and situating him so I can shower, making breakfast for the family, waking the older kids, coaching them through their mornings, supervising piano practice, taking care of the baby and beginning morning chores.

So how am I supposed to “open the windows of [my] soul” when my day begins before I’ve even had a chance to raise the shades?

Believe it or not, it did occur to me that I could wait until the kids are grown and I can “focus” in the morning.  But waiting for my children to move out so I can grow in holiness seems to completely miss the point. I’d sort of miss the whole “lead by example” part of motherhood, among other things.

What to do in the meantime? Well, I’m not so sure Scupoli is implying that I need to take a lot of TIME to “open the windows of [my] soul.” Perhaps what I need is an instant of “recognition” and a call for help in the battle.  According to St.Therese of Lisieux, prayer is “an outburst from the heart; it is a simple glance darted upwards to Heaven…” Our Lord knows my heart. I don’t have to run a litany of morning prayers to “prepare early for the battle.” Rather, I can instantly open the windows of my soul by picturing the battlefield and calling the “troops” to my aid.

Of course, on those mornings when I can sneak out of bed before the kids, saying all my morning prayers would be ideal. But in the event that my day begins before prayer time, I have a feeling the Good Lord might have something to do with it. If I wait for circumstances to be perfect, I’ll never grow in holiness. Rather, I need to follow His will and serve my family first thing in the morning. Through His grace, I can be ready for battle even without all the “formalities” of prayer.

For Discussion: What challenges do you have that might keep you from preparing for battle and how can you address them?  Are there any other topics we've read thus far that you'd like to address for discussion?  Please feel free!

PS: For those of you who are catching up: Click here for the posts explaining the book club and to get oriented to where we are!

Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

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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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