Faithfulness in daily duties can strengthen us for the times when greater sacrifices are required of us. Maria Goretti had established disciplined habits in her young life. These habits of prayer, hard work, and sacrifices for the good of others prepared her for the ultimate sacrifice she would be challenged to make. Thankfully, she found herself well-prepared.
We may not all be called to martyrdom, but we are all called to holiness. God chose us in Christ before the world began to be holy and blameless in his sight. (See Ephesians 1:3-6.) Quite simply, we are called to be saints. How does faithfulness figure into our own spiritual journey to being saints? Are we faithful in our prayer life? Are we faithful in loving God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength? Are we faithful in loving our neighbor as ourselves? In the day-to-day routines of life we can truly assess who we are. As the old question goes, "How do we act when we think no one is looking?"
If we are firmly set in the ways of God, the virtue and gift of courage will be there for us when we need it. Faithfulness in small things establishes a pattern of living which guides us in the bigger issues. Courageous action in a difficult circumstance will be a natural response because we have been living courageously all along. It will be the ordinary response to an extraordinary situation.
Let's put this into the context of chastity. How do we live a pure and wholesome life when the culture bombards us with every lustful temptation available? Let's be honest, the challenges are very real. The statistical evidence of males being addicted to pornography is staggering. This affliction acts as a severe detriment to developing and nurturing successful marital relationships. Basically, how do we remain pure and chaste according to our state in life when there are so many different assaults attempting to take us down?
Some people call it old fashioned, but it might more appropriately be called wisdom. Guarding our senses to maintain holiness is a very prudent thing to do despite what the naysayers may tell us. For example, what types of television programs do we watch? Worse yet, how do we protect ourselves and our children from some of the commercials that come on even during family friendly programs? It used to be sexual innuendos that we just hoped the children wouldn't understand. Now there is nothing subtle about the products be pitched into our living rooms. How do you explain erectile dysfunction to your child after one of those charming commercials enter the airwaves? Furthermore, what does it mean when there is a man and a woman in a bathtub in the commercial and the announcer is talking about being ready when the time is right? In my mind, it means "the time is right" to turn the TV off.
Do you want to go to the mall? How do you feel walking past a store like Victoria's Secret with your children in tow? I never thought I would find myself hoping that we would just go look at toys when my children were young, but after realizing Victoria hadn't left anything to being a secret, I was grateful when the toy store arrived in view. People watching at the mall is a whole different issue. Modesty isn't a word that would come up very often as a description for the way many folks dress. By the way, when was the last time you heard a homily based upon the "near occasion of sin"?
Internet pornography is a plague upon our civilization--plain and simple. It sucks more and more individuals into unchaste lifestyles than we can imagine. What would have been unthinkable at one time in our history now seems to be the norm. Pornography generates a huge amount of money and perpetuates unhealthy lifestyle choices in many different ways. I have heard politicians say, "It's the economy stupid." Well, if this is how we keep the economy going, we are in a sad state of affairs.
What shall we do? First, it would seem that faithfulness begins with prayer. Let's ask God for the gift of purity and chastity. Let's turn to prayer immediately upon experiencing temptation. Flirting with the temptation leads to disaster. The temptation needs to be rebuked immediately with our hearts and minds turned towards God. Years ago we would have been instructed to offer up an "ejaculation" at the time of temptation. If we use that word now it seems that we are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Say a quick prayer at the time of temptation. How's that?
Second, let's be faithful in the daily routines of life. Custody of the senses is still a positive way to go. Are we looking at things that are pure, wholesome, and holy? The eyes are the window to the soul. What is entering into our soul through our eyes? How diligently are we protecting the purity of our soul by guarding what we allow our eyes to see? This includes TV programs, movies, concerts, clubs, the beach, and a multitude of other places that promote lustful appetites. Some would say that we basically can't look at anything; that is a justifiable concern in modern society. I am not suggesting that we go hide in a cave and never come out. I am simply encouraging diligence in evaluating what we have come to deem as acceptable in regard to what we allow pass through the lenses of our eyes.
Continuing on with faithfulness in daily life, how do we speak? Do we use our tongues to give glory and praise to God, or do our words spew out profanities, blasphemies, and sexual vileness? The words we use matter; we are either building up the Kingdom of God or tearing it down. Have we become accustomed to speaking in a way that is less than stellar for building up the Kingdom?
Third, do we have a desire to be holy and blameless in the Lord's sight? Who are our friends? Do they bring out the best in us? On the flip side, do we bring out the best in others? Do we have someone that holds us accountable for our actions? How would people describe us simply based upon the company we keep?
Fourth, do we continue to grow in wisdom, grace, and knowledge of our faith? Are we faithful in forming our conscience correctly? Do we know what the Church teaches about sexual morality? We have heard more about contraception in the last year since the HHS Mandate was issued than what we had probably heard in years. That is just one facet of the Church's teaching on sexual morality. Do we have an understanding of the Church's stand on pre-marital sex, masturbation, fornication, adultery, abortion, invitro-fertilization, etc.? How can we form our consciences correctly if we don't take the time to understand the depth and breadth of these issues? We have a responsibility to be students of our faith continuously.
Finally, when was the last time we did a thorough examination of conscience and sought forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation? We have to know where we are to determine where we are going. Do we see ourselves growing closer to God with each passing year or drifting farther away? Staying close to the Sacraments of the Church empowers us to live more fully in God's grace.
St. Maria Goretti demonstrated courage and it is my hope that her feast day will inspire us to seek God in a pure and wholesome manner. If we have not followed her example of purity, may we be earnest in seeking forgiveness and amending our ways.
St. Maria Goretti--pray for us!