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Hector, First of the Nine Worthies

Amongst the stone filigree of the 13th century city hall of Cologne stand statues of men called the “Nine Worthies.” These exemplars of chivalric virtue were first presented by Jacques de Longuyon in his 13th century work, “The Vows of the Peacock.” Also known as the “Nine Good Heroes,” these warriors are Hector of Troy, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Joshua, King David, Judas Maccabeus, King Arthur, Emperor Charlemagne, and King Godfrey of Bouillon, representing three pagans, three Jews, and three Catholics. The first of these Nine Worthies, Hector, serves as an introduction to virtue. What does it mean to be virtuous? In Greek, the term for virtue is arête, meaning “excellence.” While its ancient etymology is somewhat obscure, it may be derived from Ares, the god of war, and reveal the primal origin of virtue as prowess in combat. Hector, as presented by Homer in the Iliad, exhibits this virtue as the stalwart defender of Troy. Hector is lauded as having slain “nineteen kings in hand-to-hand combat.”[1] The prince of Troy and general of her armies was the first into the fray and the last to retreat. He is, without doubt, the most skilled warrior of Troy. Yet, is the virtue of Hector reducible to his skill in combat? Homer offers the juxtaposition of Achilles. Achilles is colored by rage and fights for his own glory. Hector fights for Troy and his beloved Trojans. Achilles stands idly by watching his own countrymen die to assuage his pride. Once he does rejoin the war, his aptitude for combat is equaled only by his cruelty and bloodlust. He slaughters men begging at his feet for mercy, denies his enemies their proper burial rites, and offers Trojans as human sacrifices. Ultimately, Hector, “the breaker of horses,” dies by the hand of Achilles, “the breaker of men.” If arête found its fullness in proficiency of war, then Achilles would be presented as the triumphant protagonist. Yet, Homer brings the Iliad to a close with the funeral rites of Hector. Neither the triumph of Achilles over Troy nor his death are recorded. Homer arguably turns the primal notion of virtue on its head by ending the narrative with praise and honor for the warrior who lost the duel. The virtue of Hector certainly included courage and military might—but it also encompassed his love for Troy and her people. It was the latter that animated the former into something praiseworthy and beautiful. The death of Hector serves as an introduction to true virtue. The primordial form of virtue blossoms in the writings of Homer and develops throughout the ages of Alexander the Great and Caesar. In fact, the presentation of the Nine Worthies can be seen broadly as an ongoing perfection of virtue. The paganism of antiquity and its heroes exhibits a certain flourishing of the nature of man and his natural excellence. This natural arête is then coupled with the virtue of following God’s self-revelation as shown by the heroes of the Old Testament. Finally, our nature is healed and elevated by the sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ allowing worthies such as Charlemagne to seek the supernatural perfection of the theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. Thus, the Nine Worthies serve as an illustrative instruction on the formation of virtue, a pedagogy—especially for boys and young men—in cultivating a chivalric spirit configured to Jesus Christ. And one of the first tests of an adolescent’s pursuit of virtue is whether he esteems the bravado of Achilles or the death of Hector, first of the Nine Worthies.   [1] Jehan Wauquelin, The Medieval Romance of Alexander, trans. Nigel Bryant (Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, 2012), Appendix Three.

10 Uses for Mortification

These are the dim days of Lent, where the shining lure of slipping back into the modern comforts of life is ever enticing. With Easter Sunday in sight, the temptation of slowing the pace of our ascetic practices creeps into our thoughts. However, it is not the time to shorten our stride, but to increase our momentum to run as to finish the race. When motivation lags and our will seems depleted, it is good to remember the purpose of our mortification and to recall our desire for God alone. Let us remember the plan and motivation we had on Ash Wednesday to offer up prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving throughout the full 40 days of Lent. To assist us in this recollection, we can turn to the writings of Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church.  In his book, The Secret of Sanctity, written with the assistance of Father Jean Crasset, a French Jesuit theologian who is known for his writings on asceticism, Saint Francis de Sales lays out ten benefits and advantages of mortification deserving serious consideration.  

10 Uses for Mortification

1. We cannot care for our spouse, children, or neighbor if our appetites dominate our will and are a liability for making rational decisions. By quieting our appetites, we are able to focus our concern for others rather than ourselves. As Saint Francis de Sales says, “These [passions] must be, I do not say altogether removed, but effectually crippled, before we can hope to make much progress.

2. Sin blinds us. It turns our desires selfishly inward, perverting the prayer of the Our Father from Thy will be done to My will be done. Through the grace-filled purification process of mortification, our spiritual vision is heightened so that we may see all our imperfections.

3. Mortifications of all kinds help us to obtain power with God. The world was redeemed by suffering and suffering in this life unites our will to God, allowing us to carry out His mission to make disciples of all men.

4. Mortification intensifies our love. Voluntarily denying ourselves produces an atmosphere for charity to grow and thrive. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).

5. We are not made for this world. Mortification reminds us that the reward we should be striving for is not in this world but in the next. “Nothing is in itself so unworldly as mortification, because it is the killing of everything that the world most prizes and cherishes.”

6. Francis de Sales tells us “perhaps the chiefest danger in the whole spiritual life” is leaving the first stage of purification (often called the via purgativa) too soon. When rightly ordered and done out of reverence for God, mortification is a virtue. And since it is a virtue, it must be developed out of habit. In the early stages of the spiritual life, many try to take on too many ascetic practices at once and lose their motivation, causing them to quit the practice altogether. This is a mistake and should be avoided.

7. There is a strong connection between mortification and prayer. All day long we distract ourselves from our duties in life with our mobile devices, social media, and email. Is it really a surprise that we find ourselves distracted in prayer? “How many complaints are we daily hearing of the difficulties of mental prayer! If we do not mortify ourselves, why complain?

8. We must not get complacent in the spiritual life. Mortification continues to build and strengthen our sanctity by developing habits of a holy life. This relates to what was stated above about not trying to get out of the via purgativa too quickly.

9. Without disciplined exterior mortification, it is foolish to think we will ever achieve the higher grace of interior mortification. “It is the greatest of delusions to suppose that we can mortify judgment and will, if we do not mortify our body also.

10. The last use of mortification St. Francis de Sales mentions is to develop the virtue of discretion. As Saint Francis de Sales beautifully states, “The truly mortified man will as little think of not listening to discretion as he would think of listening to cowardice.”

With the aid of Saint Francis de Sales, let us use this time the Church has given us, in Her wisdom, to strengthen our desire to conform ourselves closer to Christ through prayer and mortification -- for there can be no true or enduring love without it.

The Bond of Mother & Child

The expectant mother is intimately connected with her developing child, and that connection unites the entire family in the waiting. Throughout pregnancy, the family recognizes the communication between mother and child, mother to father. This mother/child communication can be observed at the cellular level. That there is a flow of communication from mother to child through the placenta has been known for decades. Less well-known is the two-way flow of fetal cells to the mother, and maternal cells to the fetus. In fact, there are more fetal cells being sent to the mother than vice versa. Fetal cells enter the mother’s circulation and persist in various organs for the lifetime of the mother. Microchimerism (Mc) refers to the existence of lesser amounts of DNA in an individual that originated from a different person.  We may be aware of the rare condition of chimerism where substantial amounts of DNA transfer leads to conditions such as a person with two different colored eyes. Microchimerism is a common occurrence when a fetus absorbs cells from the mother, and the mother absorbs cells from the child. Following this exchange, the exchanged cells can migrate to different body areas. In the mother, fetal cells can mature into specific cells with specific functions. A 2012 study (Mc in Maternal Brain) found that 65% of mothers contained her male child's DNA nestled in her brain. Studies indicate that fetal DNA able to cross the blood/brain barrier may provide protection from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease or brain cancer. Other studies suggest that fetal cells in the mother have decreased the occurrence of breast and thyroid cancer and have assisted in the repair of liver damage or heart disease. Maternal DNA has been observed in the immune system cells of the child (Benefits of Shared Mc). These studies suggest that cells exchanged between mother and child have mutually beneficial effects. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that we can begin to know God through His natural world. The mutually beneficial exchange of DNA between mother and child is a lesson that is counterintuitive to the general immune condition, where the presence of foreign material is recognized as "non-self" and initiates a rapid "search and destroy" response. Our God has planned for us before our days were numbered with an intricate level of detail. He who knit us together in our mother’s womb knows that He is before us, and behind us, and has His hand upon us. Surely, we have been placed like a seal upon His heart. We can say with the Psalmist, "I was cast upon thee from the womb. From my mother's womb thou art my God" (Psalm 21:11, DRB [Psalm 22:10 in most modern translations])

St. Thomas’s Prayer Tips

The Church has always emphasized prayer as one of the spiritual practices that we should undertake during the season of Lent. So, it’s worth our while reflecting a bit on it. And we can let St. Thomas Aquinas be our guide. Aquinas has many things to say about prayer.[1] But here are three practical things that are worth highlighting. First, our prayer shouldn’t only be mental. We should practice vocal prayer as well.[2] Our verbal words keep the mind focused on the meaning of the prayers, which in turn increases our affection for God. Moreover, using verbal words in prayer serves God with all that God has given us, both mind and body. Second, don’t stress over whether you’ve been fully attentive in your prayer. It’s true that Aquinas says continued attention is necessary in order that the end of prayer—i.e., union with God—be better attained. But, as Aquinas points out, our lack of being fully attentive in prayer doesn’t mean our prayer isn’t fruitful.[3] The original intention with which one sets about praying is sufficient, both with regard to the prayer’s merit and the effect of our request. Third, the duration of prayers needs to be guided by reason.[4] Although prayer should be continual with regard to the desire of charity, which Aquinas identifies as prayer’s cause, prayer considered in itself, which is understood as the actual saying of prayers, need not be continual. Aquinas teaches that our prayers need to be commensurate with their end, which is to arouse fervor of the interior desire for God. This being the case, Aquinas counsels that if our prayer “exceeds this measure, so that it cannot be continued any longer without causing weariness,” we should stop.[5] For Aquinas, our attention doesn’t have to be forced if we’re unable to keep it up. So, there’s no need to fret over whether your prayer was effective because you got distracted or weren’t fully attentive to the words. Let’s try to keep these practical points in mind from the Angelic Doctor so that our Lenten observance of prayer can bear the fruit that our Lord wants it to bear.
[1] See Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae II-II, q. 83. [2] See ST II-II, q. 83, a. 12, resp. [3] See ST II-II, q. 83, a. 13, resp. [4] See ST II-II, q. 83, a. 13, resp. [5] ST II-II, q. 83, a. 14, resp.

The Way of Spiritual Compromise

King Solomon is known for being the son of King David, and his name carries with it the connotation of peace.  He was able to build up peace in his reign, yet it did not end well with him.  He left the tribes of Israel in a state of division and idolatry that would only escalate after his death. It is a jarring thing for us to consider that any one man could have 700 wives, but it would be a failure on our part not to consider this behavior similar to a type of addiction and spiritual compromise.  There are all sorts of problems with Solomon’s actions here, but to focus on one, I’d like to briefly examine his failure to put God first.  Solomon, who was seeking peace with other nations, married these women of royal heritage in order to foster good relations with the nations outside of the elect.  One compromise after another adds up, and the heart of Solomon slowly faded away from a true worship of God.  In his seeking to please and build a worldly type of peace, he forgot to first pursue a peace that can only come from God. We could, I suppose, reflect here on the notion of true peace, and the worldly type God doesn’t command.  Rather, I would like to bring to light the phenomenon of moral and spiritual compromise that slowly erodes the faith away.  We only look so briefly at the beginning of Solomon’s rule and its end, yet should also recognize that there was a series of compromises taking place in the midst of these two points in his own personal history.  The same is true for each one of us.  We need to do a spiritual inventory from time to time of the little or perhaps big compromises that we have chosen, and ask ourselves:  how have they changed our love of God? This discernment should not be conflated with a type of rigid adherence to external behavior per se.  Rather, it is about an internal compromise, a sin that occurs within us.  Such compromises have the effect of turning our heart and mind away from God.  The sad thing is, the wisdom Solomon had in the beginning of his mission as King was lost, and he could not even recognize that it was lost.  A type of dark forgetfulness clouds his mind, as does all vice.  This descent into error begins often with small actions, small compromises. As we approach Lent, may our focus not only be on manifest areas of sin that we struggle to overcome.  May we also be focused on the little sins that add up and add to the force of these temptations.

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Hector, First of the Nine Worthies

Amongst the stone filigree of the 13th century city hall of Cologne stand statues of men called the “Nine Worthies.” These exemplars of chivalric virtue were first presented by Jacques de Longuyon in his 13th century work, “The Vows of the Peacock.” Also known as the “Nine Good Heroes,” these warriors are Hector of Troy, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Joshua, King David, Judas Maccabeus, King Arthur, Emperor Charlemagne, and King Godfrey of Bouillon, representing three pagans, three Jews, and three Catholics. The first of these Nine Worthies, Hector, serves as an introduction to virtue. What does it mean to be virtuous? In Greek, the term for virtue is arête, meaning “excellence.” While its ancient etymology is somewhat obscure, it may be derived from Ares, the god of war, and reveal the primal origin of virtue as prowess in combat. Hector, as presented by Homer in the Iliad, exhibits this virtue as the stalwart defender of Troy. Hector is lauded as having slain “nineteen kings in hand-to-hand combat.”[1] The prince of Troy and general of her armies was the first into the fray and the last to retreat. He is, without doubt, the most skilled warrior of Troy. Yet, is the virtue of Hector reducible to his skill in combat? Homer offers the juxtaposition of Achilles. Achilles is colored by rage and fights for his own glory. Hector fights for Troy and his beloved Trojans. Achilles stands idly by watching his own countrymen die to assuage his pride. Once he does rejoin the war, his aptitude for combat is equaled only by his cruelty and bloodlust. He slaughters men begging at his feet for mercy, denies his enemies their proper burial rites, and offers Trojans as human sacrifices. Ultimately, Hector, “the breaker of horses,” dies by the hand of Achilles, “the breaker of men.” If arête found its fullness in proficiency of war, then Achilles would be presented as the triumphant protagonist. Yet, Homer brings the Iliad to a close with the funeral rites of Hector. Neither the triumph of Achilles over Troy nor his death are recorded. Homer arguably turns the primal notion of virtue on its head by ending the narrative with praise and honor for the warrior who lost the duel. The virtue of Hector certainly included courage and military might—but it also encompassed his love for Troy and her people. It was the latter that animated the former into something praiseworthy and beautiful. The death of Hector serves as an introduction to true virtue. The primordial form of virtue blossoms in the writings of Homer and develops throughout the ages of Alexander the Great and Caesar. In fact, the presentation of the Nine Worthies can be seen broadly as an ongoing perfection of virtue. The paganism of antiquity and its heroes exhibits a certain flourishing of the nature of man and his natural excellence. This natural arête is then coupled with the virtue of following God’s self-revelation as shown by the heroes of the Old Testament. Finally, our nature is healed and elevated by the sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ allowing worthies such as Charlemagne to seek the supernatural perfection of the theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity. Thus, the Nine Worthies serve as an illustrative instruction on the formation of virtue, a pedagogy—especially for boys and young men—in cultivating a chivalric spirit configured to Jesus Christ. And one of the first tests of an adolescent’s pursuit of virtue is whether he esteems the bravado of Achilles or the death of Hector, first of the Nine Worthies.   [1] Jehan Wauquelin, The Medieval Romance of Alexander, trans. Nigel Bryant (Rochester, NY: Boydell & Brewer, 2012), Appendix Three.

10 Uses for Mortification

These are the dim days of Lent, where the shining lure of slipping back into the modern comforts of life is ever enticing. With Easter Sunday in sight, the temptation of slowing the pace of our ascetic practices creeps into our thoughts. However, it is not the time to shorten our stride, but to increase our momentum to run as to finish the race. When motivation lags and our will seems depleted, it is good to remember the purpose of our mortification and to recall our desire for God alone. Let us remember the plan and motivation we had on Ash Wednesday to offer up prayer, sacrifice, and almsgiving throughout the full 40 days of Lent. To assist us in this recollection, we can turn to the writings of Saint Francis de Sales, Doctor of the Church.  In his book, The Secret of Sanctity, written with the assistance of Father Jean Crasset, a French Jesuit theologian who is known for his writings on asceticism, Saint Francis de Sales lays out ten benefits and advantages of mortification deserving serious consideration.  

10 Uses for Mortification

1. We cannot care for our spouse, children, or neighbor if our appetites dominate our will and are a liability for making rational decisions. By quieting our appetites, we are able to focus our concern for others rather than ourselves. As Saint Francis de Sales says, “These [passions] must be, I do not say altogether removed, but effectually crippled, before we can hope to make much progress.

2. Sin blinds us. It turns our desires selfishly inward, perverting the prayer of the Our Father from Thy will be done to My will be done. Through the grace-filled purification process of mortification, our spiritual vision is heightened so that we may see all our imperfections.

3. Mortifications of all kinds help us to obtain power with God. The world was redeemed by suffering and suffering in this life unites our will to God, allowing us to carry out His mission to make disciples of all men.

4. Mortification intensifies our love. Voluntarily denying ourselves produces an atmosphere for charity to grow and thrive. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn. 15:13).

5. We are not made for this world. Mortification reminds us that the reward we should be striving for is not in this world but in the next. “Nothing is in itself so unworldly as mortification, because it is the killing of everything that the world most prizes and cherishes.”

6. Francis de Sales tells us “perhaps the chiefest danger in the whole spiritual life” is leaving the first stage of purification (often called the via purgativa) too soon. When rightly ordered and done out of reverence for God, mortification is a virtue. And since it is a virtue, it must be developed out of habit. In the early stages of the spiritual life, many try to take on too many ascetic practices at once and lose their motivation, causing them to quit the practice altogether. This is a mistake and should be avoided.

7. There is a strong connection between mortification and prayer. All day long we distract ourselves from our duties in life with our mobile devices, social media, and email. Is it really a surprise that we find ourselves distracted in prayer? “How many complaints are we daily hearing of the difficulties of mental prayer! If we do not mortify ourselves, why complain?

8. We must not get complacent in the spiritual life. Mortification continues to build and strengthen our sanctity by developing habits of a holy life. This relates to what was stated above about not trying to get out of the via purgativa too quickly.

9. Without disciplined exterior mortification, it is foolish to think we will ever achieve the higher grace of interior mortification. “It is the greatest of delusions to suppose that we can mortify judgment and will, if we do not mortify our body also.

10. The last use of mortification St. Francis de Sales mentions is to develop the virtue of discretion. As Saint Francis de Sales beautifully states, “The truly mortified man will as little think of not listening to discretion as he would think of listening to cowardice.”

With the aid of Saint Francis de Sales, let us use this time the Church has given us, in Her wisdom, to strengthen our desire to conform ourselves closer to Christ through prayer and mortification -- for there can be no true or enduring love without it.

The Bond of Mother & Child

The expectant mother is intimately connected with her developing child, and that connection unites the entire family in the waiting. Throughout pregnancy, the family recognizes the communication between mother and child, mother to father. This mother/child communication can be observed at the cellular level. That there is a flow of communication from mother to child through the placenta has been known for decades. Less well-known is the two-way flow of fetal cells to the mother, and maternal cells to the fetus. In fact, there are more fetal cells being sent to the mother than vice versa. Fetal cells enter the mother’s circulation and persist in various organs for the lifetime of the mother. Microchimerism (Mc) refers to the existence of lesser amounts of DNA in an individual that originated from a different person.  We may be aware of the rare condition of chimerism where substantial amounts of DNA transfer leads to conditions such as a person with two different colored eyes. Microchimerism is a common occurrence when a fetus absorbs cells from the mother, and the mother absorbs cells from the child. Following this exchange, the exchanged cells can migrate to different body areas. In the mother, fetal cells can mature into specific cells with specific functions. A 2012 study (Mc in Maternal Brain) found that 65% of mothers contained her male child's DNA nestled in her brain. Studies indicate that fetal DNA able to cross the blood/brain barrier may provide protection from neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease or brain cancer. Other studies suggest that fetal cells in the mother have decreased the occurrence of breast and thyroid cancer and have assisted in the repair of liver damage or heart disease. Maternal DNA has been observed in the immune system cells of the child (Benefits of Shared Mc). These studies suggest that cells exchanged between mother and child have mutually beneficial effects. St. Thomas Aquinas tells us that we can begin to know God through His natural world. The mutually beneficial exchange of DNA between mother and child is a lesson that is counterintuitive to the general immune condition, where the presence of foreign material is recognized as "non-self" and initiates a rapid "search and destroy" response. Our God has planned for us before our days were numbered with an intricate level of detail. He who knit us together in our mother’s womb knows that He is before us, and behind us, and has His hand upon us. Surely, we have been placed like a seal upon His heart. We can say with the Psalmist, "I was cast upon thee from the womb. From my mother's womb thou art my God" (Psalm 21:11, DRB [Psalm 22:10 in most modern translations])

St. Thomas’s Prayer Tips

The Church has always emphasized prayer as one of the spiritual practices that we should undertake during the season of Lent. So, it’s worth our while reflecting a bit on it. And we can let St. Thomas Aquinas be our guide. Aquinas has many things to say about prayer.[1] But here are three practical things that are worth highlighting. First, our prayer shouldn’t only be mental. We should practice vocal prayer as well.[2] Our verbal words keep the mind focused on the meaning of the prayers, which in turn increases our affection for God. Moreover, using verbal words in prayer serves God with all that God has given us, both mind and body. Second, don’t stress over whether you’ve been fully attentive in your prayer. It’s true that Aquinas says continued attention is necessary in order that the end of prayer—i.e., union with God—be better attained. But, as Aquinas points out, our lack of being fully attentive in prayer doesn’t mean our prayer isn’t fruitful.[3] The original intention with which one sets about praying is sufficient, both with regard to the prayer’s merit and the effect of our request. Third, the duration of prayers needs to be guided by reason.[4] Although prayer should be continual with regard to the desire of charity, which Aquinas identifies as prayer’s cause, prayer considered in itself, which is understood as the actual saying of prayers, need not be continual. Aquinas teaches that our prayers need to be commensurate with their end, which is to arouse fervor of the interior desire for God. This being the case, Aquinas counsels that if our prayer “exceeds this measure, so that it cannot be continued any longer without causing weariness,” we should stop.[5] For Aquinas, our attention doesn’t have to be forced if we’re unable to keep it up. So, there’s no need to fret over whether your prayer was effective because you got distracted or weren’t fully attentive to the words. Let’s try to keep these practical points in mind from the Angelic Doctor so that our Lenten observance of prayer can bear the fruit that our Lord wants it to bear.
[1] See Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae II-II, q. 83. [2] See ST II-II, q. 83, a. 12, resp. [3] See ST II-II, q. 83, a. 13, resp. [4] See ST II-II, q. 83, a. 13, resp. [5] ST II-II, q. 83, a. 14, resp.

The Way of Spiritual Compromise

King Solomon is known for being the son of King David, and his name carries with it the connotation of peace.  He was able to build up peace in his reign, yet it did not end well with him.  He left the tribes of Israel in a state of division and idolatry that would only escalate after his death. It is a jarring thing for us to consider that any one man could have 700 wives, but it would be a failure on our part not to consider this behavior similar to a type of addiction and spiritual compromise.  There are all sorts of problems with Solomon’s actions here, but to focus on one, I’d like to briefly examine his failure to put God first.  Solomon, who was seeking peace with other nations, married these women of royal heritage in order to foster good relations with the nations outside of the elect.  One compromise after another adds up, and the heart of Solomon slowly faded away from a true worship of God.  In his seeking to please and build a worldly type of peace, he forgot to first pursue a peace that can only come from God. We could, I suppose, reflect here on the notion of true peace, and the worldly type God doesn’t command.  Rather, I would like to bring to light the phenomenon of moral and spiritual compromise that slowly erodes the faith away.  We only look so briefly at the beginning of Solomon’s rule and its end, yet should also recognize that there was a series of compromises taking place in the midst of these two points in his own personal history.  The same is true for each one of us.  We need to do a spiritual inventory from time to time of the little or perhaps big compromises that we have chosen, and ask ourselves:  how have they changed our love of God? This discernment should not be conflated with a type of rigid adherence to external behavior per se.  Rather, it is about an internal compromise, a sin that occurs within us.  Such compromises have the effect of turning our heart and mind away from God.  The sad thing is, the wisdom Solomon had in the beginning of his mission as King was lost, and he could not even recognize that it was lost.  A type of dark forgetfulness clouds his mind, as does all vice.  This descent into error begins often with small actions, small compromises. As we approach Lent, may our focus not only be on manifest areas of sin that we struggle to overcome.  May we also be focused on the little sins that add up and add to the force of these temptations.