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When pursuing virtue, try the buddy system

If you open the drawer of Catherine Warner’s entertainment center, you’ll find a stack of books about patience.

“I’ve read them all,” said the 25-year-old in her Denver apartment. “It’s been something I’ve tried to work on my whole life.”

A lack of dependable family relationships and a need to control and plan life impacted her faith.

“Nothing ever happens when I want it to,” Warner said. “That has really impacted my faith over the years when something doesn’t happen when I want it to—I struggle a lot with that.”

Once she joined a virtue team through the nonprofit ministry Catholic Young Adult Sports, www.CatholicYoungAdultSports.com, Warner gained friends who became accountability partners in her pursuit of virtue.

Every month the teams meet, or stay in touch via email, to read from a spiritual book about virtue. They formulate goals and deliberate how to overcome obstacles to practicing certain virtues.

Some team members said such a support group has been pivotal to their spiritual growth.

Last summer, Warner faced looming questions about job prospects, moving to Denver and exercising patience with her family. Looking back, she said she “was a mess.”

She joined a virtue team with other women, which she now leads, and they studied patience.

“That same week exactly when we read about patience, I said, ‘OK, I need to take the passenger’s seat and not do all the driving,” she said. “Sometimes you have to be patient with what God has in store for you.”

She now has a job at the Ball Corporation, an apartment in Denver and improved relationships with her family.

“I realized God can serve you the most when you don’t have an agenda,” she said.

 

Prayer

Jeremy Stallmo, 33, joined a men’s group a couple of years ago to advance with his goals. He meets with the others monthly to discuss and share goals in obtaining a virtue or overcoming a vice.

“It’s a way for me to become more responsible,” he said. “It makes me more likely to do the right thing.”

The St. Louis Church in Louisville parishioner said prayer was something he struggled to do regularly.

“I wanted to kick into gear on praying,” he said.

His original goal was to say 10 minutes of prayer three to four days a week.

“Normally, when I got to bed I wanted to say my prayers but it was always so easy to get tired,” he said. “It’s hard to stay awake.”

After meeting with his group, he changed his goal. He decided to use time in between getting off work and helping lead a religious education class weekly at Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Broomfield.

“Before I would just go home and not do much until I had to go to class,” he said. “I thought, ‘Why not just make it an hour and do it before going to class?’ It has allowed me to focus and pay more attention.”

Stallmo hit a snag when his religion class took a summer break. Praying became difficult.

“If my habit gets broken, it’s easy for me to come up with excuses,” he said.

This fall, he began teaching again. With his schedule, he’s begun to pray again weekly.

“I do it on my own now,” he said.

The group motivated him to set prayer time. He sometimes looks forward to prayer and is better able to face obstacles.

“Sometimes I feel like I really do have a stronger relationship with Christ and I feel better,” he said.

 

Lifetime of virtues

After struggling to achieve patience with herself and others, Warner decided to develop an approach.

When her patience was tried at work or with family, she said she took a deep breath and instead of quickly reacting, she took a moment to respond.

“It really made a difference and I didn’t feel so overwhelmed,” she said.

She shared her struggles with her virtue team and said that time was crucial.

“After I gave into the virtue of patience, everything fell into place,” Warner said. “Now I’ve moved and I love where I live; my relationships with my family and friends are a lot more settled.”

She said she learned that the virtue was already within herself but it was something she had to uncover. She said the accountability of the team changed her life for the better.

“It’s funny—last night I opened all the books in my drawer and I started smiling,” she said, “because as much as I’m now patient with my job and family, I think it’s always something I need to work on.”

She added having the foundation of patience aided by the virtue team “helped me grow close to God in every aspect of my life.”

 

 

 

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