May 11, 2006

Being a Beginner

I didn't feel like praying this morning. It's the sort of moment that teaches me that I'm still a beginner in the spiritual life. And the best we can do with such moments is to find the grace of humility in them.

If I only pray because I feel like it, it's not much different spiritually than if I got a 12-pack of PBR and watched TV all day because I felt like it. In fact, it's safer to do the latter; then one is free of the possibility of the Pharasaic delusion of holiness.

We must be mindful of our motivation at all times. I may pray because I like the idea of myself as a religious or holy and dutiful person. Or maybe my motivation is fear. In all of these we can use our so-called spirituality to bend us back upon ourselves, rather than turning us to face God and our sisters and brothers. And thus, by being "prayerful," if we're not careful, we can foil the whole purpose of the spiritual life. The devil is perfectly happy to have us pray and be religious as long as he can use these things for his own ends.

The only proper and genuine motivation for prayer is a loving response to the love of God. Nevertheless, our motivation will never be pure, and this too can teach us humility. This is one way we can take Jesus' parable of the weeds and the wheat. (Matthew 13: 24-30)

Today is also the feast of St. Ignatius of Laconi, an 18th century Capuchin lay friar. He was famous for his humility, and there are plenty of odd miracles associated with his life. The Australian Capuchins have a nice page on him. Check it out here.

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