When it comes to being a Catholic, you can’t always get what you want or do whatever you want just because it feels good. We may not see ourselves as vain or self-centered, but the desire for approval, or ways to boost our own ego can come when we least expect them. The best way to counter those desires is to deny ourselves and follow God’s will, no matter how hard that may be. In other words, we need to practice the virtue of prudence, otherwise known as knowing what the right thing to do is, and choosing the best way of doing it.
One of my favorite saints who understood the value of prudence is Saint Therese of Lisieux. As a child, she grew up in a loving Catholic family, but she was a bit fussy and came off as spoiled to strangers and her peers. However, when Saint Therese got older, she learned to practice the virtue of prudence, or knowing the right thing to do no matter what she felt. This spiritual practice became known as “the Little Way.” Part of the Little Way includes being willing to abandon oneself to God’s will. In one of her letters Saint Therese said:
“When Jesus will to take for Himself the sweetness of giving, it would not be gracious to refuse. Let us allow Him to take and give all He wills. Perfection consists in doing His will and the soul that surrenders totally to Him is called by Jesus Himself ‘His mother, His sister,’ and His whole family [Matthew 12:5]...”
Saint Therese led an ordinary life and most of it was spent living in a cloistered Carmelite monastery. In spite of that seemingly simple lifestyle, Saint Therese found many opportunities to practice self-denial. She dedicated herself to doing the ordinary tasks of convent life with great love.
There was one instance where Saint Therese escorted an elderly nun to dinner, but found herself caught in a daydream in which she
“pictured a drawing-room, brilliantly lighted and decorated, and richly furnished. Young ladies, elegantly dressed, exchanging a thousand compliments, as is the way of the world.”
In spite of the daydream she had, she was able to fulfill her duty.
“Our Lord so illuminated my soul with the rays of truth...that for a thousand years of such worldly delights, I would not have bartered even the ten minutes spent in my act of charity.”
It was a small instance of self-denial, but as someone who constantly gets caught up in daydreams, I admire Saint Therese for her diligence and her prudence.
It’s not easy to detach ourselves from what the world calls having a good time. But bars and clubs are nothing but rooms full of empty promises. I’ve heard countless stories of women who sought fulfillment in the bottom of a beer bottle or through intimacy with a stranger, only to wake up the next morning with a hangover and a sense of emptiness. The “squeaky-clean” lifestyle may seem boring at first glance, but trust me when I say that a life spent serving Christ is a lot more fulfilling.
Today, I hope that you spend some time looking for opportunities to deny yourself and follow God’s will. It’s not gonna be easy, but the graces you will receive will be worth it, sisters in Christ.
Why do you think prudence or self-denial is such a hard thing to practice?
- Have you ever had an experience when practicing self-denial worked out in the long run?