Faith is a fast, it is a refusal to put anything in the place of God, and an acceptance of the consequent sense of deprivation.
Moderate, sustained ascetical practices are of far greater value than spurts of a more drastic kind. Enthusiasm can carry us over the more spectacular feats—night vigils, severe fasts—but enthusiasm doesn’t last. It lasts as long as we get a kick out of these things and when the kick goes so does the enthusiasm.
It is far better to have established simple, prudent rules for what to eat, how long to sleep, and so on, and keep to them. Better moderate, unspectacular discipline than outbursts of sensational penance which do little more than gratify our sense of having done something worthwhile.
We are not likely to get much satisfaction from our small, but constant acts—on the contrary, we are likely to feel ashamed of their inadequacy—but if they are kept up for the love of our Lord, to express in tangible form that we want God to be our heart’s love they are of great value and efficacy.
The danger with immoderate penance is that it diverts us from what matters most, the continual waiting on God to see what he wants of us: fidelity in this duty, kindness to that person we don’t want to be kind to, application to the work we are set when we want a change, and so on.
To undertake special acts of penance can give us the illusory sense that we are generous people, that God matters a lot to us, when all the time we are struggling to keep him and his demands out of earshot.
Sr. Rachel, O.C.D. (Ruth Burrows)
4. Opening to the Gift of God: Very ordinary things (excerpt)
Burrows, R & Jones, M 2019, Ruth Burrows: Essential Writings, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York.