“Now I Begin!”
Say then with boldness, “Now I begin,” and go forward constantly in God’s service. Do not look back so often, because one who looks back cannot run. And do not be content to begin only for this year. Begin every day, because it is for every day, even for every hour of the day, that the Lord taught us to say in the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses,” and, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
-Venerable Bruno Lanteri
In any time of discouragement, when you feel that you have failed yet again, that there are irreversible consequences, that it is too late, that you will never change, say, “Now I begin!” And say it with boldness — boldness because God’s grace is always with you, because he loves you, because it is never too late, because nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37). There is nothing you can ever have done, nowhere you can ever have been in your life that can ever stop you from turning right now to God, asking forgiveness if you need it — a forgiveness that God delights to give, rejoices to give, is eager to give (Luke 15) — and beginning again. I have seen this counsel of Venerable Bruno give hope to many.
“Do not look back so often, because one who looks back cannot run.” Try this! Try to run while looking back over your shoulder. You will quickly laugh and give it up — or fall over! Do not allow your heart to dwell so often on your past failings. It is more important and more blessed to begin now, to look forward, to follow where God is leading now.
Do this not once a year, not even at the start of every day — both wonderful practices — but even every hour of the day, with hope and trust in God’s love. Can you try this? Can you see the difference this will make? The hope this will bring? The courage you will feel to fulfill the tasks God has given you? Then forgiveness and the daily bread, the daily nourishment we need for our bodily and spiritual lives, will gently and joyfully enter our hearts.
Guard Against Discouragement
Be on guard against discouragement and lack of trust. Strive to do well all that you do, but do this with respect for your humanity, without striving for an impossible perfection, focusing simply on the day at hand. Remember that “the just man falls seven times a day,” and so you will find blessing in beginning not only every day, but every hour.-Venerable Bruno Lanteri
The great obstacle in the spiritual life is discouragement. For those who love the Lord and sincerely try, with all their failings, to follow him, this is the great danger. And so Venerable Bruno begins here: “Be on guard against discouragement!” Are you discouraged these days? This day? Be aware and watchful against this feeling.
Yes, strive to do well all that you do — your prayer, your work, your relationships, your service to others, your life in the Church — but do it with respect for your humanity. If you find yourself straining to get that last good task done in the face of utter exhaustion; if you find yourself taking on one more responsibility when you know that you are already too stressed; if you consider undertaking a further spiritual practice that you know will only be possible when nothing unforeseen interferes — and you know that unforeseen things will occur — know that God is not asking this of you right now. Yes, strive to do well all that you do. God does want this of you. But God also wants you to respect the humanity he has given you, the humanity that he himself took on and that he loves.
Nor does God ask you to strive for an impossible perfection. Rather, focus simply on the day at hand. Do what God has given you to do today. That is enough. That is your path to holiness; it is all you need.
I have come to love the biblical affirmation that the just man falls seven times a day (Prov. 24:16). We do! That is why we have a penitential rite at the start of every Mass: “I confess … that I have greatly sinned.” That is why Night Prayer in the Liturgy of the Hours begins with an examination of conscience. That is why we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Our failings should neither surprise us nor discourage us. Once again, Venerable Bruno encourages us to begin again — and not only every day, but every hour.
Think of God in a Spirit of Goodness
We should always keep in our hearts this saying of the Holy Spirit: Sentite de Deo in bonitate (Think of God in a spirit of goodness) (see Wis. 1:1). And so we should seek sentiments worthy of God first in ourselves so as then to inspire them in others, and attain the goal of loving him and bringing all to love him.-Venerable Bruno Lanteri
de Deo in bonitate. This verse from Scripture was a leitmotif
for Venerable Bruno, repeated over and over again. Are you afraid of God? Do
you follow him with faith and love but also with a burden in your heart? Are
there gray areas on the margins of your heart, places where you feel, with sadness,
that God is disappointed with you, that he would wish to see you make more
progress, overcome that defect more firmly, cease to fail in that area? Sentite de Deo in bonitate! Think of God in a spirit of goodness! Let your heart expand in knowing
his understanding, his eagerness to forgive and to heal, the delight he takes
in you, and simply his goodness. Yes, sentite de Deo in bonitate — and share these sentiments with others.
Think of God in a spirit of goodness, in a way worthy of who God truly is. As we do, we will grow in love of him and bring others to love him as well.
Don’t Be Troubled By Your Failings
I urge you to begin each day leaving the past to the mercy of the Lord, and the future to his Divine Providence. Do not let yourself be troubled by anything, not even by your own failings, taking care to overcome them immediately by an act of love of God.-Venerable Bruno Lanteri
Begin your spiritual journey anew each day. What will help you do this is to leave the past — any failings, sins, weaknesses, and failures — to God’s mercy, the best hands in which you can leave them, and the future to his Divine Providence, again the best hands in which you can leave it. In this way, both worries about the past and concerns for the future slip from our shoulders, and we are the more ready to begin again today, in this present moment that God gives us.
“Do not let yourself be troubled by anything, not even by your own failings.” By anything. Not even your own failings. Often, it is precisely our own failings that most trouble us. “I wish that I were stronger, more patient, more constant, less wavering, less prone to fall, less overwhelmed by discouragement.”
This was the experience of Peter after the catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11), when through this sign he realized that the divine had come close to him in Jesus. There in the boat, filled almost to sinking with fish, he fell on his knees before Jesus and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” In other words: “I can’t be this close to you. I am a sinner, a sinful man. Let there be more distance between us.” I have always loved Jesus’s response. He does not argue with Peter. He simply says the words that Peter most needs to hear, “Do not be afraid,” and confirms Peter’s belonging to his mission. “Do not let yourself be troubled by anything, not even by your own failings.”
Rather, “take care to overcome them immediately by an act of love of God.” Once again, that word, “immediately.” Do not hesitate. Do not wait. When you see your failings, simply turn your heart to God and express your love for him. And these failings will be overcome.
This article is an excerpt taken from Fr. Gallagher’s Overcoming Spiritual Discouragement: The Wisdom and Spiritual Power of Venerable Bruno Lanteri. It is available as an ebook or paperback from Sophia Institute Press.