Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
|Bishop Robert Morneau
Discipline guides us throughout life
The disciplines of prayer, rest, play and meaning contribute to fulfillment
August 26, 2001, Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. What role does discipline play in your life?
2. Do the disciplines of Blessed John XXIII speak to your
3. Why has discipline fallen upon hard times?
For some people, discipline is a "dirty" word. It speaks of inhibition, subordination, restraint - realities that Sigmund
Freud was not keen about. But God's word is not afraid to
articulate the need for discipline.
Jesus responds to the question of whether or not many will be saved by answering: "Strive to enter through the narrow gate." In the Letters to the Hebrews we are told not to disdain the discipline of the Lord and that every loving father (and mother) disciplines their children for their own good. And Isaiah, in speaking of offerings to the Lord knows that discipline underlies this practice.
Blessed John XXIII was a disciple who practiced discipline. In
Peter Hebblethwite's biography Pope John XXIII: Shepherd of the
Modern World we read: "One of his secrets was that he was
orderly. 'Most long-lived people,' writes Desmond Morris, 'have a
sense of self-discipline. This does not mean driving the self
despotically but 'imposing a pattern on the ordinary events of
the day.' Roncalli had his Breviary and his afternoon nap in a
chair. He also had the other qualities needed to age well: 'a
twinkle in the eye,' a sense of humor and impishness, and
something to live for.'" (269)
The disciplines of prayer, rest, play and meaning all contribute
to not only living longer but more fruitfully. When we don't take
time to communicate with God, tend to our needs, enjoy life and
have a cause, things do fall apart.
The writer Madeleine L'Engle also speaks of discipline in regards
to the art. "Someone wrote, 'The principal part of faith is
patience,' and this applies, too, to art of all disciplines. We
must work every day, whether we feel like it or not, otherwise
when it comes time to go out of the way and listen to work, we
will not be able to heed it."
The ministry of Jesus, that is, the life of discipleship, is one
of work. It is not grounded in how we feel but in the performance
of our Christian duty in season and out of season. Discipline
does not deny emotions but becomes their governor, not their
slave. Without discipline we will go with the flow and wind up
over the dam.
A final comment on discipline: "The distance is nothing; it is
only the first step that is difficult." (Marquise du Deffand)
Though we have hyperbole here, the point is well taken. For the
marathon runner the distance is something (over 26 miles) and the
first step, though important, is not all that difficult. Rather,
it is the three months of intense training prior to the big race
that gets a runner in shape. Then the distance becomes "nothing,"
because one has taken so many first steps prior to it.
As disciples of the Lord, the distance to Jerusalem is long. But,
if we take it a step at time and live deeply the sacrament of the
moment, then we can be assured that this discipline-this graced
discipline- will get us home.
In the responsorial psalm we pray: "For steadfast is his kindness
toward us, / and the fidelity of the Lord endures forever." Here
is supreme discipline, here is supreme grace. We ask for the same
steadfastness and endurance in our Christian lives.
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)