This is one in a series of meditations on passages from the book An Unexciting Life, by Michael Casey, a Trappist monk. For the rest of the series, click on "an unexciting life" in the Topics section on the right side of this page.
Today's passage from the chapter "The Value of Stability" is about the ongoing challenge of maturing in the faith, or as we Catholics describe it, ongoing conversion.
"This mature and ongoing formation comes about chiefly by our wholehearted embrace of conversatio [continuing fidelity]: liturgy, prayer, lectio divina, work, community involvement. These are the unexciting buttresses that support our commitment. To keep practicing them, in turn, involves a fair degree of fidelity to the elements of traditional discipline that safeguard and protect the way of life: regularity, silence, self-denial, and obedience."
This was written for monks, so might seem a bit severe for those who don't live in such an ordered environment. But it does point us to the things that can help us to grow in holiness. To the degree that we take note of the level of regularity, silence, self-denial and obedience in our lives, we can strive to improve our experience of them. How often do we allow ourselves a time of conscious silence? How often do we consciously practice self-denial or obedience? When we do these things consciously we reap the reward of deeper faith, of greater stability. That should be a positive motivator to practice these things more often!
Anyone can create a Rule of Life to help them reach a greater level of internal stability. By attempting to be obedient to my Rule of Life (I'm by no means perfect at it!) I have found a much deeper level of peace, and a greater discernment as to what is important in a given moment and what is not.
To the degree that we seek to include liturgy, prayer meditating on the Word, work and community involvement in our lives we will grow in righteouness, or as we say in spanish, rectitud. This is, of course, a lifelong process. Perhaps my own example might be helpful to one of you readers. An old friend recently asked me how I have managed to be consistent in prayer and after some thought I told her that my prayer life improved tremendously when I learned the habit of praying the same prayers every day before I even get out of bed.
I start by orienting myself to God through the Church - that is, thanking him for creating the church to be our teacher and guide - and then focus my attention on thanking him for creating me, adopting me into his family, and surrounding me with his love. Then I offer my life to Jesus to do whatever he wants with it. I thank Mary for being a role model for me, and Joseph for being a human father for me (I never had a relationship with a human father, so now I'm learning how to have one through my relationship with Joseph). I pray for my husband, for the specific things he asked me to pray for, and end with asking God to grant me what I dare not ask for myself. Then I get out of bed.
Because I don't need to come up with new words every day I am freed to enter into the spirit of these prayers, and I often start praying before I am fully awake. Amazingly, even if I fall asleep again, I remember exactly where I was in my prayers before I drifted off, so it's a perfect start to the day. Once I've gotten up and done some "first thing in the morning" tasks, I sit down and spend time meditating on the Word, using the morning readings from the Magnificat. Then my husband and I read the day's scriptures for the mass together.
Even if I don't follow my Rule of Life for the rest of the day, that has gotten me off to a great start, orienting me toward God every day. And it doesn't even take any extra time - just the time you'd otherwise spend reading something while having your morning coffee.
I'm sure that you readers can think of many instances in your own lives of the rewards of faithfully practicing one or more of the things mentioned in this passage. What treasures they offer! May these treasures be embedded deeply in our lives.