Baxter is a creature of habit. You can set your watch by his daily routine. Eating, bathroom relief, naps, serious sleep, catnip sessions, snacks and brushings all fit into a very set pattern that may have minor adjustments, but no large variations. Try to change the order of life or the time for a daily habit, and Baxter isn't happy. His routine rules his life. It makes him feel safe and secure, and without it, he feels lost and afraid.
We all follow routines and habits. They make things easier at times. We don't have to think about what to do when; we just do it. A daily schedule helps keep life in order. Good habits preserve health, balance and a sense of well being. They can make some things in life effortless, and they assure that skills, attitudes and commitments we have made are preserved and grow deeper through the constancy of their regular practice. Good habits are an important part of being good.
Faith involves certain habits as well. Regular prayer and worship, telling the truth, keeping promises, helping others, admitting our faults and failings, sharing what we have are all part of a faithful Catholic Christian life, and we need to make them routine in our living. Worshipping once or twice a year or only on special family occasions will not form a person of prayer. Telling the truth only when it is convenient or pleasant won't make an honest person. Service done out of an obligation and generosity offered to impress others won't form a kind heart and magnanimous spirit. False humility to get another's pity or undeserved pardon isn't genuine sorrow for sin. It is easy to do almost anything once to get attention or satisfy a requirement, but it is difficult to make the habits of Gospel living a routine that fits hand in glove with how we conduct ourselves each day. It only comes with practice, practice, and more practice. These practices wear a groove of virtue into our character in time without our noticing the conditioning that's taking place. It just becomes who we are.
As we come to this New Year, what habits do we need to develop to become the persons God wants us to be? What do we have to take on, and what do we have to eliminate from our lives to be shaped differently than we are now? Our transformation won't happen over night. It's a slow, methodical change. We can't look for results too soon, but we can look for new routines to mark the course where we want to go. Then it's a matter of sticking to the new schedule and resisting excuses for not following it. It calls for making adjustments to stay on the path and marking progress one step at a time. It means valuing the accomplishment of each exercise we do, even if it didn't register some specific concrete result each time. Remember, the effects are often imperceptible in the immediate moment, but show themselves in the fruits of a whole lifetime. We are looking for long term gains in this investment, not for a get rich quick scheme that leaves us bankrupt in the long run.
Baxter doesn't like his habits disrupted, and for good reason. He knows that the important things in life are also fragile. They need constant care and attention. Good habits protect the values and beliefs we cherish with the hard shell of an established routine and disciplined schedule. It looks easy when our habits are in place for a while, but it takes some effort to start the practice and stay with it at first. So start today. Take on one new practice in the faith. Eventually, it will become second nature to you, God's nature, that makes us over into His children, disciples and friends. Happy New Year from Baxter and me!