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Be the Tortoise of Devotion – Pace Yourself

May 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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Be the Tortoise of Devotion – Pace Yourself


Our Lady of Fatima (Week 8 of 8)

According to the Voz de Fatima, published at the shrine, the Blessed Mother said to her in her cell, on December 10, 1925: “Look, my daughter, at my Heart surrounded with the thorns with which ungrateful men wound it by their blasphemies and iniquities. You, at least try to console me, and announce that I promise to assist at the hour of death, with the graces necessary for salvation, all those who, on the first Saturdays of five consecutive months, confess, receive Holy Communion, recite part of my Rosary, and keep me company for a quarter of an hour meditating on its mysteries with the intention of offering me reparation.” Sister Delores made this known, and it has given great impetus to the Immaculate Heart devotion. – Our Lady of Fatima  (Epilogue, Paragraph Seven)

This is the second time I've read this wonderful, inspirational story. The first time was about 10 years ago. Each time, I felt a profound need to incorporate Our Lady's requests into my daily schedule. Everything she asked was compelling, practical and doable. As I read, I wondered why this devotion isn't more widespread. It seems such an obvious way to approach all those things in the world over which we have no control, and yet which we seek so desperately to affect. Our Lady has offered us a means to actually make a difference. A way to serve the seemingly unserveable. Yet, in the grand scheme of things, relatively few have a devotion to Mary's Immaculate Heart. Sadly, I'm not one of them. While I know Mary has offered a practical way to serve in the most profound manner, and while I know that she will absolutely keep her promises, I am quite embarrassed to admit that my own devotion has been less than stellar.

I've often told myself its because I didn't grow up with Mary. The first time I really heard anything about her was probably at a funeral I attended with my husband when we were engaged. I've excused my lack of devotion by telling myself, “Hey, this is new for me. I'm still learning. I'll get there.” I told myself that I had to develop the habit. Things like this take time. That worked for a while. But it's now been about 23 years that I've been praying the rosary on and off daily. I've been pretty intermittent to say the least about First Saturday attendance.

Sadly, this sporadic behavior isn't unique to Our Lady. My devotion to many things in life has gone in spurts.

In general, I am driven, determined and devoted….for a time. That seems to be the rule, more than the exception to my personality. Here is the most extreme example – I've run two marathons; but between training years….nothing. Not even a mile. When not training for a race, I haven't been able to find the drive to run at all. You'd think I could at least run  a couple miles a day after training up to 5-6 miles daily and 18 on the weekends. But no. Once I hung up my bib, I put my running shoes away for the long haul. Not intentionally. It just sort of happened. First, I wanted to rest for a day or two after the big race. And then the day or two became a week. And then a month. Pretty soon, two years had gone by and I'd barely run a sporadic mile, much less had a running schedule. But then, somewhere out of the blue, the drive for another marathon crept up and I was off to train again, determined not to end up out of practice and out of shape the second time around. My goal the second time was to train for the marathon while also developing a lifelong schedule for my physical wellbeing. But it didn't turn out that way.

I trained. I ran. I Quit.

And I became slothful, gluttonous, weak.

I've given my diet the same commitment as my exercise. Maybe you can relate. One month I am committed to natural foods; the following month I dive back into the comfort foods of my youth. Of course I throw in a little candy and a lot of chips for good measure.

In other words, I become slothful, gluttonous, weak.

My faith life has suffered the same ups and downs. When I am driven, all systems are go. My prayer life, my sacramental life, and consequently, my spiritual growth – all aligned and fruitful.

But when I'm not on a mission, I get slothful, gluttonous, weak. In a spiritual sense. I find myself more open to suggestion. More lax with my behavior. Less able to withstand temptation.

I know this. And yet, I continue the sporadic, roller coaster lifestyle that keeps me from making the progress I so desire.

I know many who choose a different path. They may never run a marathon, but they have walked, or run six days a week for the past 20 years. Or they use food for energy only, eating for nutrition, sometimes good, sometimes bad, but consistent in that they eat only when hungry. And they stop when they are full.

I know people who are devoted to Our Lady. They pray the rosary every day. Or they may pray a decade every day. They commit to first Saturdays. They may attend daily Mass. Or maybe they don't. Whatever their devotions, they are consistent. They don't waiver.

Have you ever noticed that – whatever the area of life – those who are consistent tend to take their commitments one day at a time? They don't get intimidated by the idea of an endless string of obligations. No one can guarantee they will jog every day for the rest of their lives. But most people could jog for a day. Few can commit to a perfect diet over the next 50 years without panicking about missing their favorite foods. But most people could commit to one day of intuitive eating. And many would be overwhelmed at they thought of praying the rosary every day for the rest of their lives. But just about everyone can pray it today.

There's a reason Aesop came up with The Tortoise and the Hare. Slow and steady truly does win the race. Our Faith is not about revving the engine. It's about getting from here to there. It's about making progress. Moving forward. If I run a marathon today and then sit for five years, I'm bound to end up in worse shape than when I started. If I am gung ho about my spiritual life for six months and then stagnant for another six, is there any progress? No. In fact, it's very possible that I am regressing. But one commitment, for today, can lead to another commitment to be met tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. Like the tortoise, I can make progress bit by bit. Isn't that how athletes do it? Don't they pace themselves, maybe even holding back a just a little to ensure that they can finish the race? So too with me. Only by pacing myself can I truly win the race. And that is what I am called to do.

Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. – 1 Corinthians 9:24


NOTE: Next week we begin a new book! We'll be reading Into the Deep, by our very own Dan Burke.


Reading Assignment:

No Assignment

Discussion Questions:

1. Have you developed a devotion to Our Lady's Immaculate Heart? If so, what are some practical ways you have tried to incorporate such devotion into your daily life? Do you have any suggestions for the rest of us – those who struggle with consistency?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!


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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 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

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