I have learned quite a few things this week already, and it’s only Tuesday! God is good.
Sunday, as I may have already posted, I listened to an excellent sermon by St. Alphonsus de Liguori on avoiding the occasions of sin. Yesterday, in the process of reading “The Catechism Explained”, I learned about happiness, and today about how that happiness can only be gained in the knowledge of God. And, on a slightly unrelated (but still pertinent) note, I have been watching a children’s show produced in the 90’s called “Adventures from the Book of Virtues,” which never fails to illuminate and illustrate the many natural virtues that man should strive to possess to have peace with himself, with his neighbor and with God. Yesterday and today, I watched episodes of the show pertaining to true friendship, and to integrity. There are many insights I would like to share with you, but I’ll try to keep the explanations to a minimum. I am so excited! +Deo Gratias!+
On a personal note, in the process of all of this studying and thinking, I have come to the conclusion that one of the virtues I must strive the hardest for is selflessness. In light of a few personal experiences in my recent past, I have come to this sad conclusion. I suppose it shouldn’t be saddening…I am human, after all. It should prick me to make me work harder at attaining this beautiful virtue, but not make me angry or sad or upset with myself. These strong emotions do nothing but cloud reason, and they are also signs of hidden pride. “How could I have fallen so far into this vice of selfishness?” No. Count it as a grace, friends, when God reveals to you your faults that you were previously unaware of. He has given us the first and often the hardest step towards transforming the vice into virtue, and with the help of His grace, and perseverance, we can and must turn it to virtue.
In learning about true happiness, and realizing (for the thousandth time, it seems) that it is not connected to material goods or even relationships, but rather to the knowledge of God, it struck me that I could do without some things, or at least detach myself from some things. I do think it is beneficial to have some sort of small daily penance so that we are constantly detaching ourselves, even in just a small way, from the earthly goods that seem to have the most sway over us. For me, I know these goods tend to be sugary foods, coffee, and sleep. (Raise your hand if you, too, are a coffee-aholic!) If we can narrow down our focus to the things that have this sway over us, we will make much better progress, I think, if we just chose some other thing to give up that we don’t really care for to begin with. For instance, it is no penance to give up asparagus if we do not like it. But our penances do not have to be great. Often it is in little daily sacrifices that great piles of heavenly treasure are created. When we sacrifice our will here, give up some treat here, lose an hour of sleep for someone else’s good here…God counts these things as much as the great works of saints and martyrs, so long as we sacrifice self in charity.
The lessons from “Adventures from the Book of Virtues” were also intensely beneficial. Yesterday’s show on friendship reminded me of my duty to be a loyal friend. If we want to find a true friend, we must first be one ourselves. Scriptures tell us that a true friend is worth more than all the gold in the world, and the show made an interesting comparison between old and new friends; new friends are as silver, whereas old are as gold. Older friends tend to have been tested more, have been through more with us, have stuck by us through good weather and bad, and have never abandoned us. The show makes use of fables, myths, biblical accounts, and other literature to pull examples of virtues from. For friendship, possibly the most striking tale it drew from was the story of Damon and Pythias. Damon and Pythias grew up together, becoming steady friends. Eventually the two noticed the injustices being done to their countrymen by their monarch. Pythias stood in public, trying to convince the people that they needed a new ruler. When Pythias was taken by the guards, Damon also went with him. The monarch, upon hearing Pythias’ criticism, sentenced him to death but gave him one last wish. Pythias wished to return home and say goodbye to his family, but promised to return. Damon offered himself as the collateral: if Pythias did not return, the monarch could kill Damon in his place. The monarch agreed. Pythias ended up returning right before the monarch was to execute Damon, begging his friend’s forgiveness, because he had been delayed by bad weather and robbers. The monarch, so moved by the loyalty and friendship between the two, released them both under the condition that they teach him to be worthy of such friendship.
“Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (St. John 15:13, DRA). How selfish, then, have I been, who have withheld compassion, withheld the sacrificing of my will for their good? How can I claim to love my friends if I do not make sacrifices for them? How can I claim to love God, Whose friendship I claim, if I am not willing to give up those things which would separate me from Him, and if I do not trust Him with my whole being, as Damon trusted Pythias, a human, to return, with such patience and fidelity? Ah, God is good to point out to our feeble eyes and understanding the places wherein we need most to improve. Often we do not and cannot see it for ourselves. Let us pray that God would enlighten us, show us where we must get better, and grant us grace to advance on the path of those virtues we are most lacking in. And let us praise Him for His kindness. He is our truest Friend, and His friendship is worth everything we are, worth much more than we can give Him. So let us give Him what we can, Him Who died for love of us.
In the next post, I hope to connect what I have learned here with what I have also learned about integrity. I hope you are enjoying these posts, dear reader, for I do enjoy writing them and sharing them with you. May God bless you!