Monday, July 20, 2009


There is the story of a priest who went to visit the monks of an abbey. He marveled at how they were able to live such rigorous lives. Every day they woke, worked, prayed, recreated, and went to bed following a rigid schedule and always behind the walls of the abbey. “How can you do this?” the diocesan priest asked in wonder, “this is a very difficult life. I don’t think that I could do it!”

A monk with a look of surprise on his face marveled back, “How can we live like we do? I should think your life so much more difficult! How do you face temptation day after day without the kindly walls of the abbey to protect you and the wise schedule to guide you?”

This story came to mind last week when I was traveling in Prague. It was a challenge to keep up with the Office, rosary, other prayers and Mass as days were distorted during over-seas plane rides, exhausting days of being on the road and, to be quite honest, the temptation to do other things than to stop and pray. At the end of ten days I was quite happy to be home and in my schedule that provided ease in these matters and a community life that supports it.

During a walk along the river this bit of graffiti was spotted:

Some find it humorous but I found it very sad. Perhaps this is because of the many similar confessions heard. Along the same lines are a couple of lines that jotted down in my quote journal from my reading over the years:

Then, at the end of his strength, he would sink down in an easy-chair; his body relaxed, his eyes half closed, he would enjoy his sin by little sips, murmuring to himself in ecstatic remorse, ‘Ah! I am damning myself! I am damning myself!’” - Alphonse Daudet

So the deluded youth, enticed by the siren voice of pleasure, hesitated at the threshold of the house of death, and then sets his feet in the way to hell with a smile.” - Rev. Daniel March

It was written here before that it generally does not do to solely pray to God that He wipe a temptation away. It also often leads to failure when we decide to white knuckle a problem by ourselves. “I am going to beat this if it kills me!” Rather it is always a cooperative effort with God: His assistance and our cooperation with it.

Yet there is one more element. It is that of the community. The poor man (I assume the person male) that scribbled that note on the wall would have such an easier go of it had he a community to whom he was responsible. There is the risk of abuse here. Someone might take it upon themselves to police rather than aid. That may be a leading cause of people striving to be so independent. But the price of independence is also heavy. The pillar that stands alone is much more easily toppled. Our strength as Church is that we are also community. It is an ideal to better cultivated it seems but in such a mobile society is it possible?

It is a matter to ponder . . .


Adoro said...

Fr. V.! You're back!

Incidentally, so am I. And yes, the rigorous schedule of a convent IS hard!

But it was really easy to pray.

Anonymous said...

Discipline and a schedule do free us to do what we ought. Thanks for the reminder to make prayer a regular priority.

Cheryl said...

We discussed the community vs. isolation at a recent study; one person's reaction to "megachurches" was that they thought that people were hiding there - they could get lost in the crowd and not be accountable to anyone for anything. My feeling was that, though this may be true of some, that many go because, even as they get involved in various groups there, they still escape the "Church Lady" holier-than-thou attitude that was, sadly, often associated with smaller congregations where people were aware of others' weaknesses - that instead of being support, too often, others were judges.

"Confess your faults to one another", as long as the others are supportive instead of judgemental, is a passage whose wisdom is far too often overlooked by those of us in denominations that do not practice confession.

Anonymous said...

Not only physically going someplace that is a near occasion of sin is the problem. I am dealing with resentment in my heart. I "go" there so often. I confess my fault to Lord and vow not to think of it again but one minute later, I find myself "there" again.

Patrick said...

One step at a time...

The individuals of the community have to be aware of themselves, to prevent themselves, from pushing thmselves off the cliff of temptation.

That comes with time. Going to Mass or increasing their spirit-strngth by faith and prayer in our Lord.