I love Lent. The way I look at it, in His great wisdom, God gave Lent to us at the time of year when most of our fresh New Year’s Resolutions have lost their oomph: we have started to settle into a dull, daily routine, going through the motions but not really progressing in much at all.
For my spiritual reading this Lent, I chose the 1913 classic by the Very Reverend P. Lejeune, Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers (Roman Catholic Books). I have literally owned this book for decades. Shamefully, it has been one of those titles which I have started numerous times but never finished. At the beginning of Lent, I resolved to complete it during this holy season. For me, it has been a book to read slowly, just a few pages at a time. The reading is easy, but the lessons are rich. In between my reading sessions, it has been fruitful to consider prayerfully where I should be making improvements in my life, particularly in my noble vocation of motherhood.
I recently finished the chapter entitled Good Resolutions. As a paraphrase would not do the passage justice, I will simply quote it in full:
My daughters, do you know what a resolution is? Do you not often confound it with a simple desire? For example, you may have a wish to visit some friend who lives many miles away, but the difficulties of the journey prevent your undertaking it, and you postpone the project to some later date. Relative to the journey, you entertain only a simple desire. When will you have formed a resolution then? When you have determined to make the journey; when you have said: “I am going to visit that friend, and I shall set out on such and such a day.” …A resolution, then, is an act of the will demanding execution at an opportune moment, while a desire is only a dream, which is cherished with more or less complaisance, but never leads to action. (127)
Too often, the modern culture urges us to “Dream!” We are bombarded with that message through countless blog posts, T-shirt slogans, and retirement savings commercials – as if dreaming is enough. Too often, the fact that we humans were created in the image and likeness of God, through His gifts of our intellects and our wills, is forgotten. As such, we have a God-given responsibility to develop our intellects, and in the process of doing so, to form rightly-ordered wills, with our primary end being the salvation of the souls of our spouses, our children, and ourselves.
Remember well, my daughters, that the saints are saints only because they were men and women of strong and vigorous will. So few of us today know how to use the will. Does this not explain why the standard of sanctity has fallen so low? The generality of men are affected by a malady of the will. Because this faculty does not guide the helm, they go on at random, and become the sport of the winds of caprice. By reason of this vacillating state, they are as incapable of great good, as they are of great evil.
I must denounce this malady of the will so as to fortify you against it, and incite you to combat it both in yourselves and your children. Teach your children from their earlier years how to will manfully, and how to make resolutions which are not mere velleities. Make them put their resolutions into practice as soon as they have made them.
Remember, my daughters, that God of Himself cannot construct our edifice of perfection. He has absolute need of the co-operation of our will. Yes, we must place as a cornerstone to that edifice, an energetic “I will.” Without that, all the solicitations of divine grace are vain; they are choked by the inertia of the will. We are bound, then, to cooperate with God; and in what does our cooperation consist, if not in the resolution to cooperate with His grace? (129-130)