Here are 7 of the many lessons which I have learned from the challenge.
The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mt 26:41) It is no surprise to me that Jesus said this to the Apostles who had fallen asleep while he was in agony praying in the garden. Overcoming my fleshly desire for 10 more minutes of sleep every morning is no small feat. At some points during the past 14 days I thought that climbing Mount Everest might be easier than forgoing my snooze button for one more day.
We need to be realistic in our goals. It is no secret to my family and friends that I am an ambitious person. My first grade teacher remarked on my report card that I was a "keen competitor"! The object of my competition is, most often, myself. At the start of this challenge, my personal goals went far beyond the scope of St. Escriva's initial exhortation - I looked down the road and saw myself up at 5AM, praying for 30 minutes, exercising, doing laundry and more. Did any of those things happen? Not exactly. My goals were completely unrealistic. Through the challenge I have learned the wisdom of setting one goal at a time and to ensure that it is an attainable one - this does not mean that reaching the goal won't be challenging, only that it is realistic. Which brings me to number 3.....
Heroism happens in the little things. My initial zeal was marked by a gross misunderstanding of heroism, virtue and holiness. Stories of great "heroic" saints like St. Joan of Arc and St. Perpetua have always inspired me, but somewhere along the way I lost the value of the concept that little things, done well, with the proper motives, can build virtue as effectively as the great acts of courage and self-sacrifice demonstrated by these heroic martyrs. St. Escriva's writings are filled with a focus on performing the smallest task at hand, with the greatest devotion and attention. I am slowly starting to realize that folding that pesky pile of clothes, or cooking dinner, or cleaning the bathroom, when it needs to be done, without complaint, does in fact constitute a "heroic" act.
-4-Success in the morning begins the night before. I learned the hard way, early in the challenge, that being able to live out the Heroic Minute in the morning requires that I have lived out a series of Heroic Minutes the night before - including going to be at a reasonable time and ending my evening in prayer. In fact, the concept of a single Heroic Minute each day is really a misnomer. In order to live out any one single Heroic Minute, we need to be striving to live out every minute of the day in a heroic, Christ-centered way.
The Lord's mercy is renewed every morning (Lam 3:21). The bottom line for me is that this challenge, like many things in my spiritual life, was hard....really hard. I think that I bounced out of bed on only one out of the 14 days, and on that particular day I was challenged to set aside my own "success" for the greater good of love. More than ever I am grateful for the mercy of the Lord, which he pours out upon us whenever we humble ourselves and ask for it. As a Catholic, I am especially grateful for the gift of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There is nothing more freeing than admitting all your failures out loud to another person and having those failures and struggles be met with love, mercy and the beautiful words of absolution.
We are in good company. From the Proverbs 31 Woman in the Old Testament, to one of the Church's most recently canonized saints, Pope John Paul II, to the Lord Himself - it seems that all those "in the know" live out the Heroic Minute by beginning their day well before dawn, in prayer. How's that for some positive peer pressure!
As we end this challenge, my prayer is that the Lord will provide all of us with the grace to persevere, through the struggles and difficulties, as we try to live out His will.