Tag Archives: spiritual reading


Perfectionism is the enemy of efficiency

“An old adage says that ‘the best is the enemy of the good.’ The meaning is that a person who is never content with anything less than perfection may end up accomplishing little or nothing. A psychologist probably would rephrase the maxim to read, ‘Perfectionism is the enemy of efficiency.’

We need to be able to say, ‘It is good enough’

There is a fable of the sculptor who having carved a fine statue, was dissatisfied with his work. He made one more cut with his chisel. This necessitated another cut, and this in turn still another. Gradually the statue diminished in size until finally it had disappeared, with nothing left but a pile of stone fragments.

Whether we are carving a statue, writing a book, arranging a business deal or scrubbing a floor, there must come a time when we say, ‘It is good enough,’ and get on to something else.

We are never ‘good enough’ as far as our spiritual growth is concerned

This principle has an application in our spiritual lives. It is true that we never are ‘good enough’ as far as our spiritual growth is concerned. Since Jesus has set for us the ideal to ‘be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,’ we never may establish a lower goal for ourselves. However, we can and must learn to be content to be as good as we can be today.

Sanctity is the art of the possible

Sanctity, like diplomacy, is the art of the possible. A saint is above all a realist. He does not waste valuable time and energy in dreaming of great things which he may do for God tomorrow or next year when circumstances may be more propitious. He concentrates on doing the little things which he can do for God today and under the circumstances in which he presently finds himself.

The late President Kennedy, in one of his speeches, quoted the proverb that a long journey begins with the first step. That is something which we must learn, we who are far from sainthood but who do have good will. A parent may say, for example, ‘I wish that I had more time for spiritual reading and prayer. I am sure that when my family is raised I can be a much better Christian.

That, of course, is nonsense. The busiest parent (and non-parent, too) can be just as good today, in proportion to his opportunities and circumstances, as he can [at a later stage]. All too often we use the promise of our future imagined goodness to excuse ourselves from present effort.

Today matters

Five minutes of daily spiritual reading now will be more pleasing to God than the hoped-for hour twenty years from now. A periodic and fervent, ‘My God, I love You,’ during today’s hectic rush will mean more to God (and to self) than hypothetical hours of contemplation in later leisure years. One or two less cigarettes or drinks today will be more spiritually profitable than a projected complete abstinence ‘when I’m not under so much tension.’

Proceeding to do it

With some of us it may be a form of perfectionism; with others it may be simple procrastination – this making of future imagined greatness an excuse for neglecting the lesser but real possibilities of the present. Whichever it is, perfectionism or procrastination, we shall have made a long step towards heaven when we have learned to be content to do what we can do for God today – and proceed to do it.

God is well aware of all the limitations which surround us

Whatever the present circumstances of our life may be, we have not come to those circumstances by accident. Unless we have involved ourselves in an adverse situation by our own sin, we know that our present status is God’s will for us. It cannot be, either from His viewpoint or from the viewpoint of of our own ultimate best interests, an hour unfavourable environment. It is the environment in which we can and must grow in holiness.

We shall do so by making use of whatever small opportunities each day may offer. Above all we shall do so by accepting whatever limitations our state in life, our work and responsibilities may place upon us. God is well aware of all the limitations which surround us. He asks only that we do for Him what we can – today. 

– Fr. Leo J. Trese, One Step Enough, 1966


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• Perseverance is the work of the soul. Wantonness and lasciviousness flee where there is commitment.

• Every sin is committed through pleasure. Every pardon comes through sorrow, hesychia [ascetic life and watchful inner stillness in prayer] and silence.

• The revolt of the flesh stems from little esteem for prayer, abstinence and good hesychia.

• The good fruits of hesychia are silence, abstinence, spiritual reading and pure prayer.

• Spiritual reading, praying, hesychia and silence, abstinence and genuflections purify the mind from every sin.

• Evil, that is, sordid passion, rooted in the heart of men, necessitates a lengthy and laborious sorrow. Habits once rooted in the heart are overcome with great effort.

• Those who work with reason, equilibrium and attention, never feel the weariness of monastic work.

• Hesychia and monastic work, perseverance and generosity purify the conscience.

• Fasting and vigils, hesychia and silence, abstinence and bows, singing and spiritual reading, all calm the arid soul and defeat the flesh, which does not want to surrender.

• The prompt assistance of God will be like a reward for those who persevere in hesychia. If something should be lacking in your cells, be patient! The Lord, our God, will send help to those who await Him on the day of sorrow, because “Wait a little, in fact, just a little, and He who must come will come and will not delay.”
– Published in “De Vita Contemplativa” (Monthly Magazine for Monasteries) year V – Number 7 – July 2011


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O Lord Jesus Christ, open thou the eyes of my heart, that I may hear thy word and understand and do thy will, for I am a soujourner upon the earth. Hide not thy commandments from me, but open mine eyes, that I may perceive the wonders of thy law. Speak unto me the hidden and secret things of thy wisdom.

On thee do I set my hope, O my God, that thou shalt enlighten my mind and my understanding with the light of thy knowledge, not only to cherish those things which are written, but to do them; that in reading the lives and sayings of the saints I may not sin, but that such may serve for my restoration, enlightenment and sanctification, for the salvation of my soul, and the inheritance everlasting. For thou art the enlightenment of those who lie in darkness, and from thee cometh every good deed and every gift. Amen.
– St John Chysostom

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Posted by on September 14, 2013 in Prayers for Ordinary Time


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One goodness ruleth by its single will
all things that are, and have been, and shall be,
itself abiding, knowing naught of change.
This is true health, this is the blessed life.

Here, O ye prisoners of empty hope,
minds kept in bonds of pleasure, haste ye to return.
Here, here your rest, sure rest for all your hurt,
eternal harbour for your quiet anchorage,
shelter and refuge for unhappy men
that’s always open.

This is the Father, and the Son, and the kind Holy Ghost,
one King omnipotent, one called the Trinity.
One love, O thou that readest, that shall be
thine to eternity,
that sent this mighty gift of books
that reading, thou mightst recognise the Maker,
King, Maker of all things, Father, Redeemer,
the Saviour Christ, to whom be glory.
– Alcuin of York, 8th century


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The ashes used today come from the branches blessed the preceding year for Passion Sunday.

Lord, you are merciful to all, and hate nothing you have created. You overlook the sins of men to bring them to repentance. You are the Lord our God. The penitential rite and the Gloria are omitted.


• Let us pray [for the grace to keep Lent faithfully] Lord, protect us in our struggle against evil. As we begin the discipline of Lent, make this day holy by our self-denial. or

• Let us pray [in quiet remembrance of our need for redemption] Father in heaven, the light of your truth bestows sight to the darkness of sinful eyes. May this season of repentance bring us the blessing of your forgiveness and the gift of your light.

Joel 2:12-18
Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn.

“But now, now – it is the Lord who speaks – come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.” Let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn, turn to the Lord your God again, for he is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in graciousness, and ready to relent. Who knows if he will not turn again, will not relent, will not leave a blessing as he passes, oblation and libation for the Lord your God? Sound the trumpet in Zion! Order a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, call the people together, summon the community, assemble the elders, gather the children, even the infants at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his bedroom and the bride her alcove. Between vestibule and altar let the priests, let the ministers of the Lord, lament. Let them say, “Spare your people, Lord! Do not make your heritage a thing of shame, a byword for the nations. Why should it be said among the nations, ‘Where is their God?'” Then the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land, took pity on his people.
The word of the Lord.

Psalm 50
R. Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.

1. Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offence. O wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin. (R.)

2. My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned: what is evil in your sight I have done. (R.)

3. A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit. (R.)

4. Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervour sustain me, O Lord, open my lips and my mouth shall declare your praise. (R.)

2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2
Be reconciled to God…now is the favourable time.

We are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God. For our sake God made the sinless one into sin, so that in him we might become the goodness of God. As his fellow workers, we beg you once again not to neglect the grace of God that you have received. For he says: At the favourable time, I have listened to you; on the day of salvation I came to your help. Well, now is the favourable time; this is the day of salvation.
The word of the Lord.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
and give me again the joy of your help.

Matthew 6:1-6; 16-18
Your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win men’s admiration. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites: they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room and, when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.
“When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.”
The Gospel of the Lord.


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Born in Florence in 1515, Philip Neri passed most of his life in Rome. He was very much a man of the Renaissance, and yet a true Christian: he spent hours in discussion with the young men of the city; he worked for the sick and poor and for prisoners; he was a man of prayer, and especially devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. In 1551 he was ordained, and formed the Oratory in which services of spiritual reading and singing were held. His Christianity was full of joy and vigour in the service of God.


You continually raise up Your faithful
to the glory of holiness.
In Your love
kindle in us the fire of the Holy Spirit
who so filled the heart of Philip Neri.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.


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