path to virtue…

Today’s Gospel reading is of the Beatitudes from Matthew 5.  I love the “BE”- attitudes which all speak of virtues that we should be striving for if we ever have the hope of heaven.  Tonight at adoration, I read the 4th chapter of the Imitation of Mary.  A couple of lines caught my eye as I reflected on that chapter.

…for the good man must strive daily to become better…

…On the path to virtue, not to advance is to go backwards; not to gain is to lose…

These two phrases summed up the whole chapter for me.  They speak of how Mary didn’t settle for just being born full of grace.  Instead, she chose by her actions throughout her life to continue to live a life of grace and virtue.  For by living a life this way, she came even closer to God and even more filled with grace.  She is our example to follow!

This caught my attention because I realize that I have been just cruising along at a set speed.  I go along living life one day at a time taking things as they come and trying as much as possible to plan ahead to avoid difficulties.  But, have I really stretched myself?  Have I moved out of my comfort zone?  Have I improved myself in any way?  I didn’t think I was going backwards, but after reading this, I realize that I am — for “not to gain is to lose’.

So, how do I move forward?  In what ways am I being called to move forward at this point/season of my life?  An easy answer to that is prayer.  We’re always being called to move forward and to improve our prayer life.  But, I think it is much more than that.  Much more difficult than that.

Lately, I can honestly say that I have been working hard on my difficulties with fasting and abstinence.  I LOVE my food and it is one of the pleasures of my life (especially chocolate).  Those who have read any of my previous posts know that I have been following a new eating protocol guided by my doctor since Easter Sunday.  I have lost 26 pounds but I am now in a “stabilization” phase and learning how to maintain at this weight for a period of time.  That is much easier said than done!  I am finding that just little things (like not drinking my usual 3 Liters of water) or eating more salt or not exercising that day really throws the balance into a tizzy.  When I gain, I have to fast all day with nothing to eat although I can drink water or tea as much as I want.  Then, in the evening, I get to eat the largest steak I can eat along with a large apple or large tomato.  That’s it — until the next day.  Easy to say.  Hard to do.

I am learning how to ignore hunger.  I give myself credit for that much at least!  I was never able to ignore hunger.  If I felt even the slightest bit hungry, I would get something to eat.  If I was out and about, I would get fast food or stop by the store.  If I was home, I would get a snack.  I felt like I was always thinking about food.  Now, with this new knowledge of how to ignore hunger, I have broken some of that unhealthy attachment to food that I had.  I’m not saying that I am over it totally, but I can see improvement.  So, at least in this one small area, I see a small gain.  I pray that over time, I am able to conquer more of this food trap I have been in for years.

I have a pack of cards that I used to use with the girls with school.  We would each choose one virtue to work on each week and then do something each day to work to improve within that virtue.  I think I am going to pull those cards out and work once again on that goal.  For how else do we move forward until we first identify where we are on the path.  It is hard to take a step forward if we are blind and can’t see which way is forward and which backward.

So, one baby step at a time.  Thank God it isn’t a race!

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