A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Taming the Green-Eyed Monster

Posted on: May 6, 2013

If envy were a fever, all the world would be ill.

Danish proverb quoted in The Book of Positive Quotations, 2nd Edition

We admire a car we pass as we drive, a colleague’s chic wardrobe, or even a neighbour’s perfectly manicured lawn. But are we secretly wishing that car or wardrobe or lawn were ours?

Sometimes there’s a razor-thin line between admiration and envy. And in our materialistic culture, it’s shockingly easy to find ourselves trying to keep up with the Joneses (even if they don’t care whether we’re trying to keep up with them).

We need to shift the balance from time spent worrying about the material things we lack to time spent focussing on what we lack spiritually. According to St. Thérèse of Lisieux (quoted in The Book of Positive Quotations, 2nd Edition), “Untilled ground, however rich, will bring forth thistles and thorns; so also the mind of man.”

At Mass yesterday, I learned that this is Catholic Education Week in Ontario. The theme for the week is “Growing Together in Faith.” How can we uproot the “thistles and thorns” of envy and grow in faith?

  • Study Scripture and the Catechism. If we want to become more like Jesus, we need to read the Bible to learn what God expects of us. And the Catechism can help us understand the reasons underlying our beliefs and learn how biblical teachings apply to modern issues.
  • Pray. We can ask God to change our hearts, give us strength to do his will, and help us grow in the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Go to confession. The May issue of Catholic Digest features a great article called “Confession: Getting More From the ‘Forgotten’ Sacrament.” As Brian O’Neel writes, confession “increases self-knowledge, corrects our bad habits, makes us more spiritually diligent and less lukewarm, purifies our conscience, strengthens our self-control,” to name just a few benefits.
  • Follow good examples. We can draw inspiration from books on Church fathers and doctors, such as those written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI; works about the lives of the saints, such as Voices of the Saints: A 365-Day Journey With Our Spiritual Companions; saints’ autobiographies, such as The Story of a Soul by St. Thérèse of Lisieux; and papal encyclicals and letters, which are available on the Vatican website.
  • Pursue faith education. We can learn more about the faith through a parish Bible study or lesson series on one of the gospels; a lecture series at a church in the diocese; or courses offered by a post-secondary institution such as St. Paul University, Augustine College or Dominican University College.
  • Keep up with news and developments in the life of the Church.  Today Catholic information sources abound: TV channels such as Salt & Light and EWTN, newspapers such as the National Catholic Register, magazines such as Catholic Digest, and so on. Not to mention the Vatican and diocesan websites and Catholic podcasts.
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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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