The priest who said the mass on Friday spoke about working on spiritual vices by replacing them with virtue. Virtue is a habit of behavior showing high moral standards. Father recommended that we pick out one of the seven deadly sins (pride, gluttony, sloth, wrath, lust, envy, greed) – the one that vexes us the most – and work on it during the upcoming week. “We should work on it,” he said, “by replacing the sin with virtuous acts.”
I knew immediately upon which vice I should focus. When things are going pretty smoothly in my life, spiritual laziness often sets in. Just last week, I felt that God was calling me to go to mass. It was first Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart. I rationalized that I was simply wiped out by the food drive I had just orchestrated. I loaded and unloaded canned goods from my car, and was exhausted. It was only 8:30 in the morning! I also used the excuse that I had lots of work to do. I did! I thought that surely God would understand. Shortly after this mental conversation with God, I ran into a friend of mine who said, “You are going to mass for first Friday, aren’t you?” I said, “Well, uh, what time is it?” “A quarter to nine,” she said, “Whatever you have to accomplish, you have fifteen minutes to get it done.” “OK, Lord, I hear you!!” I thought.
When I went to mass, my friend sat beside me. She had the most thoughtful, lovely gift for me. Of course, all of the readings of the day, and the homily seemed to speak directly to me. God had used my friend to get me there – to hear His words – to gift me with His presence. I began to quietly sob. “How could You be so good to me, Lord, when I am so wretched?” “You continue to be patient with me, and continue to call to me even when I try to avoid You.” God is so good…so, so GOOD!
I had another wake up call during the summer months. I was experiencing a kind of
“dry spell” with saying my rosary. I have to confess that it is not my prayer of choice. I do, however, know that it is something that Mother Mary wants of me. I became a bit lazy in that regard – watching television at 8:30, instead of praying the rosary with Mother Angelica and the Nuns at Our Lady of the Angels monastery. I was avoiding the Blessed Mother – replacing our time together with a lame, mindless television show:(
We have a lovely picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe in our den. When I have fresh flowers in my garden, I like to go out in the backyard and pick the most beautiful blossom to show my love for her. One afternoon, I was in the backyard with the scissors. I walked up to a flower, and thought to myself, “Hmmm. I wonder if she would like this one.” Then I went to another flower and thought, “Oooo! This one would be perfect.” Just then my thoughts were interrupted. “All of the flowers of the world belong to me. What I really want are your prayers.” Busted! Needless to say, I went back to saying the rosary.
I have a tendency to be led by my emotions – how I am “feeling” at any given time. This is not good in the realm of the spiritual. Can you imagine if we only prayed or went to church when we felt like it? Our spiritual practices can not be dependent on our moods or whims. There has to be some degree of discipline involved in order to replace vice with virtue.
I do think that spontaneity is important as well – like when you see something beautiful, and feel an overwhelming sense of awe. That’s when you might be moved to praise God. On the flip side, in a moment of distress, you would naturally call out to God for help. These are very important prayer moments. Outside of the extremes, however, we have to make prayer enough of a priority to schedule it – yes schedule it – just like we do every other event in our busy lives. If we don’t put it on the “To Do” list, it just might not happen.