It seems to some that perfection is an art which can be learned quickly. They think that it is easy once you have found its secret. They fool themselves completely. In fact, the only way to perfection is to work hard and struggle faithfully in the exercise of the love of God. One must unite oneself solely with Him. (Spiritual Treatises IX; O. VI, p. 152)"Slow and steady wins the race."
The story of the tortoise and the hare is a study in irony: the speedy hare, haughty and self-confident, loses to the slow and steady tortoise…with a lesson that sober persistence is the key to success. The concept is so foreign to our present thought.
Even within the confines of our Church, there are clear signs that slow and steady wins the race. Following the Second Vatican Council new movements and organizations sprouted and flowered based on divergent interpretations of the documents. Many religious congregations threw off conventionality and tradition and embraced the age. The Church, they stated, had thrown open the doors to reform, and the faithful in droves embraced the new and novel. Those heady days of reform have proven short-lived as their aging proponents slowly succumb to time and the demands of succeeding generations for Tradition, devotion, and orthodoxy. Congregations that embraced modernity are dying; only those embracing the truths as divested by the Magisterium thrive.
As balance returns, we who cling to the Rock must be vigilant in our resolve to draw our strength from the Church. Even at this time, there are distractions and divergent paths. Modern-day "prophets" claim apparitions and messages; some have turned popular devotions into near-idolatry. Others insist that a return to the Latin Mass or turning the priest away from the congregation is the answer to the woes of the Church; a fair portion believe the Second Vatican Council was illegitimate and every pope since. We have a penchant for extremes. We must defer to Mother Church.
St. Francis de Sales encourages us to sober persistence: slow and steady wins the race. The Church has faithfully guided us, as promised, and will continue to do so. Our faithful obedience and humility will win the "race". Why is it so hard? Why do we rush from this to that, with itching ears? There are no spiritual "Cliffs Notes"…we have to read the book, pray the prayers, and turn our hearts to God day after day. We have to face the challenges of life with sober persistence. There are no Gnostic "secrets", no shortcuts; no easy answers or solutions.
As we near the feast day of our beloved saint let us ask for his intercession that we may humbly and obediently embrace the Magisterial teachings of Mother Church, recognizing that in the Body of Christ lies our strength and hope. May we be protected from the waves of dissent and divergent opinion, seeking the gifts of wisdom and discernment and the guidance of the Church.