Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology

Formation and Education for the Life of the Church

With Diligence

by Ann Cavera


Our pastor urged all of us this year, as he has done in past years, to choose a word to focus on in the coming months. Actually, I already have the word I need. In fact, it is the same word I have used the past three years. I keep struggling to live with more "diligence," and this quality eludes me. As St. Paul so famously said in Romans 7:19: "For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want."

Still, I began 2011, 2012 and 2013 determined to pray at certain hours, go to reconciliation on schedule, read a specific amount of Scripture each day and eat only healthy foods. Time could be made for all of this by watching little or no TV. After all, by being diligent in letting go of things of little value, there would be ample time to focus things of spiritual value.

When, after a week or two as usual, the diligence needed to obey all these rules began to evaporate, I decided to write about it in my journal. This same journal happened to be another promise I had made to myself. Even though I started this journal in January of 2011, less than 50 pages have been written over the past three years. I'd like to share a little of my sporadic three-year journey with you.

January 2011: "Living God's purpose means letting go of myself … not letting myself go." How does one do that? I was determined, even then, to wear diligence like an invisible hair shirt.

July of 2011: Sometimes we wander around outside the center of our lives for so long we might not even realize our lives lack focus. Yet, there is always a chance for a different life lived on a higher plane. More time for prayer, for worship. A book on fasting convinced me that a right relationship with food is a form of prayer. Couldn't that be said about everything? Surely, all of these things are good and true and within my reach if only I have thediligenceto achieve them.

January 2013: Nothing has changed regarding my habits, but I am more at peace about who I am. Somehow letting go of trying so hard to become "more" frees me to be a better, happier "am." I have always imagined there would come a day (or perhaps a year) when a switch would flip, and ta-da! I would have become this person who has lived unseen in my heart and mind for so long.

Finally: Dec. 29, 2013, with the New Year just ahead, I am, once again, about to write down a set of personal "rules" that will, at long last, get me from where I am to where I want to be. My journal also happens to be a book of daily reflections by Rachel Quillin. On the page alongside my list of rules she had written: "It's God's grace, and the Holy Spirit in us that will bring us to maturity in Christ, not human effort or faithful adherence to a set of procedures." Ouch!

"Ta-da!" The switch did flip, but what has changed is my perspective. As Brother Lawrence said long ago: "Do not always scrupulously confine yourself to certain rules, or particular forms of devotion, but act with a general confidence in GOD, with love and humility."

Perhaps diligence doesn't always have to be about rules. What if diligence is about paying attention to the Holy Spirit each moment, faithfully following wherever grace leads? When one task is done, asking: what next, Lord? Diligence isn't always doing. It means learning to listen with an open heart - one that hears the call in each moment. What freedom! What joy! Everything doesn't depend on me after all. 

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Echoes from the Bell Tower is a blog devoted to observations on Christian faith, spirituality and everyday events, by authors with a connection to the Benedictine values found at Saint Meinrad Archabbey and its Seminary and School of Theology. Contributors include students, permanent deacons, Benedictine oblates and Saint Meinrad monks. Their stories, thoughts and ideas highlight the mission and vision that ring out from the bell towers on this Hill in southern Indiana.