I am pondering the Fathers of the Desert.
An assignment by my spiritual director for the good of everybody in my range of influence, these men from the earliest times of the Church have been my companions on the journey for the last month or so. Surprisingly, they talk very little about asceticism and heaps about charity.
That is the essence of holiness after all.
Love God with your whole soul and mind and strength - and love your neighbor as Christ loved you. That's it. That's all. And that is the point of it all.
So the question comes up: What holds it up?
Or more effective: What holds it hostage?
Because on good days, I can do it. We all can. The days when the weather is fine, people are kind, my health is stable and nobody gets in my way. But what hinders the love on the other days?
Is it fatigue - when I am tired, then I'm crabby? Then my charity, my virtue, my soul-deep goodness, is only as good as the sleep I get the night before.
Or is it food? When I'm hungry, I lose patience? Then my holiness is dependent on what I eat.
Is it the behavior of other people? When someone treats me with contempt, or indifference, or just hurts my feelings, then I lose patience? Then my charity is dependent on their good behavior. (That's kind of scary!)
What is it that is my weak spot for patience? In discovering this, I discover God's call for my virtue - the skill set I need to acquire - by his grace and my very hard work - so that when tested by the devil, the world or the flesh, I can compete with distinction and gain ground for Christ.