Like many people, I have, at times in my life, found myself thinking, “life would be so much easier if…” When I was first married, I recall thinking that it would be much easier to have a prayer life as a Benedictine monk (which I almost became) – that is, until I mentioned it to a Benedictine priest, to which he replied that he had often thought the same about marriage.
I recently read this passage from St. Francis de Sales’s Introduction to the Devout Life which not only addresses the need to fully engage one’s present life, but also how frivolities cloud the heart, making it difficult to focus, spiritually.
Part III, Chapter 37:
Everybody knows that we must guard against desiring evil things, for the desire for evil things, for the desire for evil things itself renders one evil. Philothea, you must not even desire dangerous things such as balls, certain games and pastimes; nor must you desire honors, responsibilities, visions and ecstasies, which cause vanities and illusions; nor things that are too distant or only remotely possible. Such desires fatigue and distract the heart by exposing it to tormenting restlessness.
Tell me, I beg you, what good is it for a young man to aspire to some position before the moment for obtaining it has come, or for a married woman to desire to be a nun? Do I not waste my time wishing to buy my neighbor’s property before he is disposed to sell it? And when it is not in my power to do so because I am bedridden and suffering, is it reasonable for me to wish to preach, say Mass, visit the sick – in short, to do what healthy priests do? Ought such vain desires take the place of those which I ought to have at the present moment and which God wishes to see me practice: knowing how to be patient, resigned, mortified, obedient, peaceful amid suffering?
Such useless desires distract the heart, preventing it from being focused on what is essential.
Do not aspire for the cross, either, Philothea, except in the measure that you have supported well those crosses which have been presented to you already; it is a delusion to ask for martyrdom when you do not have the courage to endure even the slightest injustice! … In our imagination we fight wild African animals, but for want of attention are killed by the little snakes which are right there on our path.