The experience I remember the most from the first time I ran the Heroic Minute Challenge two years ago was the following early morning encounter:
Around 5AM, I was awoken by a bright light streaking through the bedroom window, followed by a loud burst of thunder. Not three seconds later, my daughter arrived in our bedroom, accompanied by a pillow and two stuffed teddy bears. "I'm scared", she whispered and climbed into bed. My little one was 10 at the time, and as she snuggled in besides me I contemplated how few of these childhood moments I have left. We both drifted off to sleep to the sound of the rain pounding against the window. When my alarm rang just a short while later I quickly shut it off, and immediately got out of bed. Proud of my stunning accomplishment of living out of the "Heroic Minute" on that rainy, gloomy morning, I began to tiptoe out of the bedroom - only to hear my daughter cry "Mommy, don't leave me!" UGH...I thought about the challenge; I thought about the quiet time that awaited me; I thought about how much I could be accomplishing - and then I crawled back into bed and held my daughter.
A Heroic Minute failure? I think not.....
Mortification, the Heroic Minute and Love
A mortification is an act of voluntary self-denial of something good, in order to free ourselves to pursue, or receive something better. St. Francis de Sales describes the benefits of mortification in the following words:
"The more one mortifies his natural inclinations, the more he renders himself capable of receiving divine inspirations and of progressing in virtue."In practicing the Heroic Minute, we mortify ourselves of our desire to remain resting for a few more minutes (a good thing) in order to begin our day in a self-disciplined way, with our eyes fixed on the Lord. (a better thing). As St. Escriva points out, this simple mortification does not harm our body, but it does serve to strengthen our will - something that is essential for us in the pursuit of virtue and holiness. The more our wills become accustomed to this type of voluntary self-denial, the more readily we will be able to face greater challenges as they come our way. The less we give in to even a seemingly innocuous desire to hit the snooze button, the more in-tune our hearts will become to seeking out the will of God in our lives. Not a bad way to start the day!
The challenge I had that morning two years ago, and one that we all face in our desire to grow in holiness, is that acts of piety, self-denial and mortification, must always be subordinated to love. St. Paul makes this very clear in the his letter to the Corinthians where he warns:
" If I speak in human and angelic tongues* but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing." (1 Cor 13: 1-3)Could I have lived out the Heroic Minute that rainy morning? Yes... and that would have been a good thing. However, by subordinating that good thing to the demands of love, I was blessed- through God's grace - to have chosen the very best thing.
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