I thought of that today on my little visit to the local colony of semi-feral cats, which seems quite lively upon my return to Rome and full of medium-sized kittens from the explosion of births that seemed to happen right at the end of spring.
Among the kittens I saw was this little guy:
Could this be the same kitten as this one?
No. They have to be different kittens, because these pictures were taken three months apart. Feral kittens either grow or die, as I have learned.
I might feel like I'm looking at the same kitten, but I can't be, because time has passed. It reminds me of an encouraging image for the spiritual life that I picked up somewhere along the way. Often we feel like we're going in circles, struggling the same things, making the same little bits of progress over and over but then falling into the same traps and distractions and sins, etc. It might feel like I'm going around in circles, but really it's like a spiral staircase. We come around to the same coordinates over and over according to one axis, but on another we are in a deeper or higher place (depending on whether you prefer the ancient metaphor of the spiritual ascent or the modern metaphor of the spiritual excavation.) One of the important practices of spirituality is to keep our view of ourselves wide enough to see not only the axis on which we come around to the same challenges over and over, but to see that at the same time we are also in a different place, closer to God and deeper within ourselves.