November 4, 2009

St. Charles Challenges

As they do each year, the words of St. Charles Borromeo hit me hard in the Office of Readings this morning:

One priest [or anyone] may wish to lead a good, holy life, as he knows he should. He may wish to be chaste and to reflect heavenly virtues in the way he lives. Yet he does not resolve to use suitable means, such as penance, prayer, the avoidance of evil discussions and harmful and dangerous friendships.

That's the story of my own Christian mediocrity. I think that I desire holiness and to devote myself to God, but when it comes to the innumerable little unglamorous, daily decisions to use the "suitable means" to get there, the project falls apart. And so the flaw is revealed: it is not God or sanctity that I am in love with, but the idea of being holy. Oh yes, sanctity and the image of oneself as devout can be as much of an idol as anything else, and perhaps even more insidious because of the inherent dishonesty.

When we fall in love with someone, we make it our constant aim to seek the company and the good pleasure of the beloved. So it must be with God. All of the plain and unnoticed decisions about our speech, our schedule, our work and recreation must be arranged around our desire to be with and to please Him.

For the saint preaches sermons by the way he walks and the way he stands and the way he sits down and the way he picks things up and holds them in his hand.

(Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, 193.)


Julia said...


A common struggle, to be sure.

KAM said...

Holy smoke, that snapped me around. Thanks for helping me come face to face with my own shadowy idea and image of myself, and I'm only a secular franciscan. Here in the machine shop, to keep Our Lord God front and center, all day, with the guys, challanging for sure...