“And what is the secret of perseverance? Love. Fall in Love, and you will not leave him.”
These words of a wise spiritual author have stuck with me. I think about them often.
Love. That’s the key—the “secret”—to keeping up a life well-lived, to remaining virtuous, to staying fully alive.
“Fall in love.” It seems so simple—and it is—yet remaining in love is typically the more formidable challenge. Some might say, “Show me the return on the investment. What are the dividends of love?” Love. Love is repaid with love!
Dying from Thirst
This may sound very mystical or “pie in the sky.” Yet this post is actually about something very concrete and everyday: perseverance. And the secret to perseverance—Love—can be found within us. In the words of another spiritual author, Jaques Philippe:
We are people dying from thirst while next to a well, in our anguish, fatigue, and blindness, running after a thousand things outside us while untold riches within us await discovery.
‘Til Death Do Us Part
Our journey to heaven—that journey of interior life—is quite analogous to the journey of a married couple. “‘Til death do us part.” The goal of marriage is to persevere in love until the very end: until death. Likewise, in life, we are to maintain and increase our love for God until the very end, until life after death. Throughout Scripture, the analogy between a husband and wife is used to describe man’s relationship with God. In the Old Testament, God speaks of His love for Israel as a husband loves his wife. In the New Testament, we see Christ, the Bridegroom, ardently in love with His bride, the Church.
Marriage fosters a love that perdures until death. Our relationship with God fosters a love that is everlasting.
10 Minutes Per Day
“Fall in love.” First of all, what are ways we can fall in love with our spouse, Christ? Well, like any good relationship, we need to make time to spend alone with God. We need to converse with God as with a friend. This is called “prayer.” There are many forms of prayer, but one that any person of faith cannot do without is something frequently called “mental prayer.”
Mental prayer is simply time alone with God in which we speak with Him and listen to His words for us. This can take many forms, but some have found it helpful to pray with Scripture or some spiritual book. Meditating upon a short passage can often be a wonderful way to kick-start a conversation with our beloved. I personally like to slowly and prayerfully read a passage from a spiritual book for about five minutes and then spend the next five minutes in conversation with God. I do this twice in a row for a total of twenty minutes.
For some Christians, prayer is very much centered on the Eucharist. Times of prayer can be quite fruitful when spent in front of the Blessed Sacrament—Jesus reserved in the Tabernacle—or in times of Adoration before Jesus on the altar. The Mass itself, Catholics believe, is the re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross on Good Friday. Instituted at the Last Supper, this sacrament takes us to Calvary and showers the graces of that blessed event into our souls in proportion to our ability to receive them. And those well-disposed can receive God Himself in the Eucharistic host.
Thus, it makes sense that such a beneficial and grace-filled practice should be undertaken at least weekly. But when one falls in love with the Eucharist and realizes what it is—Who it is!—how can one not ardently desire to receive Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as often as possible, even daily!
Our Mother Too
Christ is our bridegroom and He has a mother, Mary. Those of us who are part of Christ’s Church have Christ’s mother as our mother too. For it is just as Jesus told His beloved apostle, John, on the Cross, “Behold your Mother!” (John 19:27). There are many ways to fall in love with our Mother, Mary, as well. But the best way to love her—to pray for her help—is by praying the rosary frequently (even daily). Those one-hundred and fifty Hail Marys of the traditional three-part rosary recall the one-hundred and fifty Psalms. The rosary may seem repetitive and that’s because it is. But don’t we repeat the same things to those we love? “I love you” can be said a million times and yet never grows old for those truly in love.
A Plan of Life
Prayer, Eucharist, Marian devotion. These are three paths to holiness, to an authentic and deep love of God (and neighbor for His sake). But how do we keep those up over many years, especially when the going gets tough?
We need a game plan, a strategy, a plan of life. The plan of life can and should fit us like a glove, so most ordinary lay people shouldn’t feel like they need to do all the spiritual practices of a monk on day one (or really ever). If you’re not doing much right now, pick one thing and do it well for two months (that’s about how long it takes to form a habit). If you’re not doing mental prayer (conversation with God), devote at least ten minutes per day to this practice and try to increase it when you can to fifteen. Once that’s going well, do it in the morning and the evening for ten to fifteen minutes each time. Do it at a fixed time of the day so you’re more likely to stick with it.
A Virtuous Cycle
By incorporating these acts of love for God throughout our everyday lives, we begin to fall more and more in love with Him as the days go by. And by persevering in our practices of prayer, we deepen our love for Him to whom we are praying.
Once again, it is like a marriage. If we stick to practices that deepen our friendship with our spouse—like weekly date nights, time for lingering conversation each day, open dialogue about what’s really on our mind, and so on—we will fall more and more in love with him or her as the days go by. It becomes a virtuous cycle: the more we stick to our practices of spending quality time with our spouse, the more we fall in love. And the more we fall in love, the more we want to spend time with him or her.
So it is with God: if we kick start ourselves out of lukewarmness by sticking to a life of prayer (especially through mental prayer, the Eucharist, and the rosary), over time we will fall more deeply in love with Him. And the more we love Him, the more we want to spend time with Him in prayer. The two reinforce one another and we will persevere.
Fall in Love, and you will not leave him.