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Debra Black recalls how she procrastinated going to Mass for 11 years. She didn’t stop talking with God; she simply quit visiting Him. 

I cast myself down I know not how, under a certain fig-tree, giving full vent to my tears; and the floods of mine eyes gushed out an acceptable sacrifice to Thee. … How long, how long, tomorrow, and tomorrow? Why not now? Why not is there this hour an end to my uncleanness? (Saint Augustine, Confessions, p. 80) 


We can all feel Augustine’s pain. Whether troubled by a serious sin or a weakness that perpetuates, it can seem suffocating. I recall the decade of the 1980s working long hours, then coming home to sit on the couch watching TV all night. Although I would intend to snack on just "a few" chips, gluttony would immediately take over and I’d munch until the dip was gone, too tired to stop. I can also recall what it feels like to rely solely upon my own self-discipline: very limiting. Even if I succeeded at restraint, rather than feeling recreated I simply experienced the absence of the gluttony or sloth, and perhaps a little health improvement too. There was also a false idea that my good deeds and discipline in some parts of my life were sufficient to make up for my lack of discipline in other areas. My life had become "good enough." 

That was the decade I quit going to Mass. I didn’t intend to quit. I just procrastinated each weekend ... for 11 years or so. But even under the weight of that sinfulness, there was still a little piece of something inside me that said I needed more discipline simply because it was the right thing to do. I hadn’t stopped talking with God; I simply quit visiting Him. So, while in my psyche I battled sloth and gluttony, and won sufficiently to keep it under control on my own, in my soul I experienced the weight of its burden at the same time as the light (albeit faint) of God giving me His fortitude to keep going.  




Now suppose there should be a soul that did not have to endure many labors and temptations, from whatever direction and in whatever wise God may grant them. No virtue would be tested in it; for virtue is tested by its opposite. (Saint Catherine of Siena, Letters, p. 135) 


Receiving the sacraments of Eucharist and Confession, and spending time in mental prayer with Him, one can experience the difference of the Holy Spirit’s work: A self-discipline that doesn’t come from me is not limited to me. And when I would fall back into those old bad patterns, at first old habits would tempt. But it was easier to resist and I also began to recognize the difference between me fighting off chips & dip, and me (with the Holy Spirit in me) rejecting them. 


Click to tweet:
There was also a false idea that my good deeds and discipline in some parts of my life were sufficient to make up for my lack of discipline in other areas. #CatholicMom


Intention does matter. He won’t force His way into our problems, and there really is a difference when temptations are fought with a heart desiring God rather than simply armed with one’s own ideas. The sacraments are necessary for all of this. Lent brings the opportunity to review and change not only our behaviors but also our intentions.  


It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ [Jesus]. (Philippians 3:12) 

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.



Copyright 2024 Debra Black
Images: Canva