I am a vicious man.
That is, I recognize that I have many vices. I’m often envious of others’ achievements and consequently less grateful for the talents and graces God has given me. I am prone to both understandings of sloth, busying myself too much to do any one thing well or simply being too lazy to do anything at all. I can be greedy and gluttonous too, in excess of moderation, and I fall guilty of a whole slew of vicious habits and dispositions of which I am increasingly mindful during the Lenten season.
In my previous blog post, I reflected on the rigors of life at St. Louis University High School (St. Louis, MO). I confess here that the stress of being a first-time high school teacher contributes to the ease of slipping into these vices; being “good” or virtuous requires a lot more energy than I usually have by the end of the day (or by 10:00 am, at times). I brought these and other concerns and sins to Confession recently, and I was met with a rather surprising response and penance from the priest.
He told me that we often think Lent is just a season which demands that we focus on our sins and on how better to repent for them. He reminded me, though, that Christ’s time in the desert consecrated this season as a way for us to be renewed—and even nourished—by our own sacrifices. Lent is not simply a time to give up things and to focus on avoiding wrongdoing; it is also a time to pursue the good and virtuous practices which enrich our relationship with God.
It was surprising to consider Lent as a time to seek nourishment. I was tasked with reading the Book of Psalms throughout the season, and to let the “highs and lows” of the Israelites speak to me in my life now. This seems a daunting although welcome task which will, hopefully, make me more mindful and appreciative of the moments of virtue and consolation, as well as those of vice and desolation as ways that God’s grace can enter into my life. I find this a welcome practice to bring into my life as an ASC: it is easy to get caught up in the minutia—day-to-day of school work, extracurricular pressures, the struggles of community and personal life—without taking time to give thanks for all the blessings that come in those daily moments.
I hope that moving into the last quarter of my year of service, I can take the time to remember that it is worth it to strive to be a virtuous man, too.