Tag Archives: virtue

5mm: Hope is an anchor… and some apple streudel

I was at a beautiful benefit banquet the other night. I could spend pages telling you how inspiring it was and how wonderful the company was at my table. But I would like to tell you about the dessert. It was apple streudel, with a strawberry sitting in a dollop of whipped cream, with some yummy looking rum sauce on the side. And it was sitting on the elegantly set table when we first sat down.

I think the dessert set out on a formal place setting is like the virtue of hope. Hope, St. Paul says, is an anchor. It roots us in the reality that heaven is waiting for us once we get through this valley of tears. It reminds us that there is something greater than what we can see before us.

One other reason I think dessert is a good analogy is because the dinner we had wasn’t something I had to suffer through. I like salad, the bread was warm and yummy, and dinner was a delicious chicken, potatoes and veggies. Sometimes Christians get a bad wrap for looking toward heaven all the time, as if it indicates that we hate this life. No way! Sometimes in our own sorrows we can forget that this life is beautiful and think that it is something we have to suck up before we get to die. While we do have pain in this life, sometimes overwhelming pain, this life IS good. And it is full of joys in their due time.

Having dessert on the table reminds us not to get too full of the good things in front of us and save room for what is to come. (For instance, I didn’t finish all my potatoes just for that reason). We need to enjoy what we have here on earth, but without becomming so attached to these things that we no longer want heaven. I think this is what it means to be “in the world” but not “of the world”.

And the streudel WAS tasty!

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5MM: The leaf that toppled my tomato plant

This year I attempted something that I never imagined I could accomplish: I grew tomatoes from seeds. Partially due to my neighbors’ magic potion they fed them while I was on vacation earlier in the summer, (I’m pretty sure), they have grown taller than me. I have even gotten some tomatoes off of them, though they are slow to make the transition from green to red. After a good harvest in mid August, there is now a new class on the vine, all green, playing beat the clock with the impending frost. I have my heart set on eating those remaining 15 or so tomatoes!

So, imagine my dismay when I went out on the deck yesterday to find one of my plants completely toppled over! Apparently, my makeshift method of propping up the 5-ft-tall plant finally gave out. That last leaf grew which was too much for my dear plant and it fell over, caging and all.

I have been working on my moral theology homework this week, where we have been studying virtue. Virtue is a habitual inclination to do the good. And, like a tomato plant, is built over time. Yes, we get supernatural grace for supernatural virtue, but grace still builds on nature. The ordinary way we gain virtue is through practice. We need to get used to doing a good act over and over, in all kinds of different circumstances.

The same is true for vice. We slowly build such a habit by practicing the bad act, over and over. Which is why we should not be surprised when a dysfunctional relationship suddenly boils over, or a situation which seemed under control yesterday now seems out of control. Like my tomato plant, it was just one leaf away the whole time we were adding vice to vice and it finally fell over.

Once we build up a habit of vice, we need to back peddle through all the acts we’ve built up, and that is hard! Grace aids greatly, but the acts still need to be committed rightly, over and over.

Well, after cutting off every branch that wasn’t already nurturing a tomato, I got my plant back up yesterday. Today, though, I have a more real-world situation to deal with before it bubbles over. Can you say a quick prayer for me for courage to practice virtue? Thanks!

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