To Guard Their Soul

 Prayer and fasting, worship and adoration, Scripture and sacraments and sacramentals all provide the weapons of our spiritual warfare. With them we go on the offensive against the Evil One. But the virtues provide our defense armor…They are our best defense against his attacks, for they guard our minds and hearts from his deceptions and temptations. ” Paul Thigpin, Manual for Spiritual Warfare

As parents, we instinctively prepare our children for every kind of weather, coach them on the right attitude on the field and off, all in order to keep them physically and emotionally safe. Yet are we talking to our children about their spiritual journey with the same level of preparedness? Let’s face it, their minds and hearts are just as vulnerable and less visible to the eye. And still each day they encounter innumerable decisions and temptations that propose a different or altered course for their lives.

These may come as an outright affront or more often as subtleties, small moral choices that go unnoticed. That is, until they don’t or they lead to a bigger decision in life.  Do I watch this video..and if I did, do I tell my parents? Do I join my friends in doing something I feel is wrong?  While we can never protect them from every danger, we can give them the tools to help guard their soul, with virtue.


  1. Fortitude (Courage) is the virtue that strengthens and emboldens when we face challenges and temptations overcoming fear and persecution.
  2. Justice is the virtue that entails resolute commitment to God and towards the rights and good of all persons.
  3. Prudence is the virtue of continual discernment of what is ultimately good in our lives and how to achieve it.
  4. Temperance is moderation of needed things and abstinence from things which are not needed.
  5. Faith is the virtue through which one comes to believes in God and in what has been revealed as true .
  6. Hope is the virtue that enables us to long for the kingdom of God and eternal life as our ultimate happiness. Fully aware that we could never achieve it alone but only through the Holy Spirit’s assistance.
  7. Charity (Love) is the virtue by which our love of God is above all, and through which we come to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

Virtues, like riding a bike work best not with over-corrections but with balance. Likewise what is hard to teach in theory is best witnessed in the lives of others. Take the virtue of love for instance. Someone who is loving of others to an extreme may not see the value in caring for their self or their own self worth. Likewise without love for God or one another, we can become self-centered and distant from God’s will for our lives.  Depending on the age of the child the examples can be more detailed and applicable to what they see and hear around them.

Recently, my 13 year old son approached me about a headline that had made all the news. At the center of the conversation was the action that had now defined who that person was known to be. ” How do you think that this happened?, I asked, Do you think that this person just woke up and decided to commit this crime?”
“Maybe, but there were probably other things before this, he offered, “that led him to this point.”
“Hmm, I agree. Temptations and sin are not always big things, but add up and pull us farther and farther away from where God wants us to be. Much like a doorway,  we begin to allow more and more of what is evil to enter our hearts and lives.”
“But wait..St. Michael can defeat Satan, can’t we just ask him to go to battle for us?”
“The saints are ready to help us but God asks us to strive to grow too. Satan comes in many forms, not just the creature you see pictured with St. Michael. Simply put, Satan comes wrapped in any package that tempts and lures you to go against God’s will for your life or your ultimate happiness.”
“Even a pretty girl?”, he comically tendered.
“Especially a pretty girl!”, I quipped.

After a good laugh I took a few moments to talk to him about the virtues and how they provide a good defense in our lives. Using sports terminology, he readily understood that any good offense also required a good defense to clinch the game. This spiritual battle wasn’t just being waged outside of him, but indeed required his active participation. Now I had his full attention… and so did God.


Where is my armor weakest, and in what virtue might God be inviting me to grow the most?






“Is there a quiet stream underneath the fluctuating affirmations and rejections of my little world? Is there a still point where my life is anchored and from which I can reach out with hope and courage and confidence?’ While realizing my growing need to step back, I knew that I could never do it alone.” Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Genesee Diary

What is spiritual growth but a series of surprising twists and turns that if paid due attention to are to lead us to our ultimate happiness? Some seemingly move forward, others stand still, and at times take a necessary step back . Yet, not to be confused with regressing, it is as if we are called upon to return to that place of remembering in preparation for what God has in store next.  And where ever we may find ourselves on the path it requires a dependence on, an anchoring as it were, to the one guiding it all.

Wanting to continually move forward, however, we often become impatient with the stillness. Seeking to bypass the lesson that we are to learn,  we may notice a restlessness in our spiritual journey. Yearning to go deeper, we feel ourselves a casual observer to the spiritual consolations and joys of those around us.  This time here is necessary to renew, mend, and recommit our will to His. And if we are ever to know true peace we must make peace with the still times in life.

Having said this, I like Nouwen had been feeling a number of paradoxes in my life. While remarking that work had kept me busy, I hadn’t been able to adequately enjoy down time. Even though professionally enjoying many consolations, I fixated on the unavoidable mistakes. Was God also asking me to talk less ‘about God and more with him’? Had my own witness become stale, and my prayers rote? My soul needed a bit of respite.

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” Augustine

And who better to enter into such respite with than the source of all our true happiness and longing. For happiness is more than a fleeting feeling it is resting one’s true self in the all encompassing presence of God. It is to share, even in small ways, in the love and life of God until the day we are called to meet face to face.

Finding a spot in Adoration, I at last nestle myself in a place of humble longing. Desiring to draw close, I submit all of my fears and failures, my joys and successes, my concerns and those of others. I open my heart for God to walk through, and where he gently shows, I pause to reconsider. Here, I am his child and here my soul recognizes who I was created to be. And very quickly, I begin to shed the praise and criticism of others. And if there are places where forgiveness is needed, or trials and challenges intended to grow us are to be offered- may it find its satisfaction.

For, if our Christian life is to be meaningful, it must find its ultimate meaning and satisfaction in what God desires for us. Otherwise, we may very readily find ourselves tossed by the opinions and daily events in life. Are you restless in your walk with God today? Consider spending some alone time with God, allowing him to prioritize your life and show you your value in his eyes.



On the Right Path

Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think Then you will learn God’s will for you which is pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

“Why is it that it seems when we try the hardest to do everything right that everything seems to go all wrong?”, he asked.  The question itself is a loaded one, and there isn’t an easy answer.  At its heart is an engagement of evil in the world and an assertion of righteousness. And yet, though not always privy to all the details, we can be assured that there is a multitude of underlying questions and situations present here.

In this case I was well aware of the back story.  Always the protagonist of a seemingly unending drama, choices past and present had become instrumental in determining the future.   Prior friends, and lifestyles had in fact become so constraining that the opportunity for change almost unthinkable and hope but a distant thought.

“All my hard work is just for nothing..I am beginning to wonder why I should even try.”

As a prayerful pause occupied my soul, I sought for a worthy response.

“Adam, It isn’t that you are being punished for choosing to do right here, but that life is a series of choices not just yours but that of others. The gift of free will affects not just our lives but all those around us and sets into motion consequences that may not be immediately recognizable. Doing the right thing is not simply one or two choices, but a daily decision to choose to walk in life and love. Especially when faced with disappointment and we are tempted to walk away that is when we need to recommit  and ask for help.”

This is what it means to walk and grow in virtue. As a child I enjoyed the simplicity of the proverbs. Do this and this happens, or in contrast don’t do that for it will bring about ruin. While there is profound truth here, these platitudes barely scratch the surface on the challenge of our human condition. We think that we would much rather have a detailed list of steps, a tailored prescription as it were on the right course in life and corrections where necessary. However, I wonder if that were available would we follow it or even understand it.

“I guess I get that, but I have nothing left. I am tired of the struggle, tired of working hard and having nothing to show for it. Not sure how much more I can give” After a brief discussion about concrete ways to practically approach his situation with work and finances,one thing became glaringly apparent. There was no room made in his life for anyone else but him.

“Adam, you mention all the things YOU have tried and relied upon, but do you realize you were never meant to do this alone? It isn’t all about what YOU can do but what Someone much greater than you can do. “

“Oh, you mean know I haven’t gone to church. Not sure that will work for me.”, he answered. “Well, you say that you have tried everything and that you inevitably find yourself in the same predicament. That, you cannot do this on your own, and you are running out of steam. What needs to happen before you try something different? What have you got to loose?”, I posed. “Not sure…” he responded hesitantly. “Well, Adam I will be praying for you. I am always here if you need to talk.”

Lord these are the words you wish to speak to each one of us. Oh, how you wish for us to invite you into the messiness of our lives. The path we are on can be so difficult, and made even more so by our stubborn independence. Jesus help us to reach out to you for help, quiet our fears and guide us on the right path.