Don’t Stifle the Good

Right now I’m going through a phase that involves making some changes and finding new rhythms…spiritually and otherwise. (Hmmm…funny that it happens to be the middle of Lent.) Changes can be hard for those of us who struggle with perfectionism or are naturally high-achievers (Ahem…). It’s hard, not because we don’t welcome the change and betterment, but because we don’t tend toward moderation. For some strange reason we tend to only think of improvement on a large scale, missing the opportunity to make a one small and gradual change at a time. We like hitting the metaphorical “overhaul” button.

It’s probably an issue of pride. I’m finding that just about every fault seems to be rooted in pride. Perhaps we are actually lacking in the virtues of patience or temperance too; I’m not exactly sure. But what we are effectively doing is setting ourselves up for failure. We are stifling the good that could begin to take root with the passionate desire for complete transformation. I’m reminded of Voltaire’s aphorism:

“The better is the enemy of the good.”

One interpretation of his meaning is that when our mindset is “perfection or bust” we bust; and we miss the chance to accomplish a more moderate good. In trying for unrealistic goals, we often never get going or don’t make it very far. Had we tried instead for a more attainable end, we would have been successful in cultivating a lasting good, which we could then build upon later. 

I think that we need to embody G. K. Chesterton’s famous phrase: “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” The thing of it is that we actually become the people that we want to be by practicing who we want to be. That means that we are going to start off doing a poor job of things and learn, by doing, how to make things better. Remember, practice makes perfect; we don’t get to perfection without a lot of practice.

This goes for both the secular and the sacred. We don’t decide to become healthy and instantly have no cravings for sugar and lots and lots of bread. We don’t decide to start practicing mental prayer and immediately (or ever) become St. Catherine of Siena, experiencing ecstatic visions with Christ. Change takes time, and the joy of important changes is only experienced over time. I’m learning this (slowly), and I’m trying to embrace the pace of implementing grace-filled incremental changes so that I don’t stifle the good that God wants to cultivate in my life.

The Circle of Christian Life

Our 7-week-old Stella Maris was baptized on Saturday. It was so beautiful. It was a small gathering of our family and Stella’s godparents in our church’s chapel on the hill that was built in the 1700s.

Attending a baptism is always a powerful and moving thing. There is no question that something “other-worldly” is happening as the stain of original sin is removed from this little soul and she enters into the eternal life of the church. This realization is certainly intensified when the child is your own, when you are personally responsible for guiding her journey here on earth.

I tried to take it all in with fresh eyes, as her forehead was marked with the sign of the cross, her chest and head anointed, and the cleansing waters blessed and poured over her. Finally, her baptismal candle was lit from the Easter candle, signifying the transfer of the light of Christ that has now come into her life and given it new birth. She now carries that light with her on her journey — however long that journey may be.

We had to exit the chapel fairly quickly, because a funeral was taking place right after. As I took Stella’s gown off and packed her up in her car seat, people began filing in and the Easter candle was moved in front of the altar in preparation for the Mass. I was suddenly struck by the circle of the Christian life that was playing out before my eyes with these sacred and sacramental events in close succession. Continue reading “The Circle of Christian Life”

Wonder & Whimsy: “Weekend Coffee”

Now and then I like to share the helpful, enjoyable, and inspirational things that I have come across lately. Perhaps some of these might be just the thing you were looking for…

#1 — Quote from Bishop Robert Barron

I get Bishop Barron’s daily Gospel reflections (which you could sign up for here) delivered to my email. He had a beautiful take on the Transfiguration from Sunday’s Gospel passage:

“The Jesus who is both divine and human is the Jesus who is evangelically compelling. If he is only divine, then he doesn’t touch us; if he is only human, then he can’t save us. His splendor consists in the coming together of the two natures, without mixing, mingling, or confusion.”

#2 — Book Lists!

I am a sucker for a slug line that promises a curated list of books, and I find Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy to have good suggestions and well-organized lists. Ladies, here is one that sparked my interest: “25 Must-Read Classics for Women.”

I heartily agree with many on the list…Little Women, Kristin Lavransdatter, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables… How many have you read on the list? How many are on your TBR list?

#3 — “Weekend Coffee”

So, I love good coffee, but good coffee beans are hard on the wallet, especially if you brew them daily. So I have invented “weekend coffee” for myself. 🙂 I had my husband pick me up a bag of Kenyan beans from a local roaster/coffee shop (Vigilante) around the corner from his school. I think it was probably $20 (!), but I deserve that two mornings a week. My new moto: **parent hard-play hard.** (During the week it’s Aldi organic/fair trade for $5/bag.)

Do you have any favorite finds to pass on to me? Post them in the comments, please!


Copyright 2018 Jessica Ptomey