Riffing off yesterday’s topic, another slam dunk here by Timothy Flanders from a few years ago. The issue at hand is Immoderate Zeal – when your heart is in the right place, but you overestimate yourself. Satan will have a field day with you for this. Spiritual advances come in increments. It’s a big mistake to think you are going to pull off something miraculous, just because it is Lent. Examine your daily rituals, what needs to increase and what needs to decrease, and try for one notch at a time instead of three… and then beg for the graces with which to cooperate. There was a link to this in the last post, but ICYMI, here it is. Blessed Lent, everyone. -nvp
The Catholic life is filled with resolutions. Confession is not valid without a good resolution to avoid sin . Every morning offering is a new resolution, and every new year is an occasion for resolutions.
Why is the Devil so successful in bringing our resolutions to naught? In this article, we will cover the most common deceptions in the spiritual life that harm devout souls.
The first common deception regarding resolutions is doing too much too fast. The Fathers call this “immoderate zeal.” The Devil takes our good intentions to become a saint and mixes them with pride. We look at the saints and are inspired to take up spiritual disciplines, but in pride, we think we can take on a great amount of prayer and fasting immediately.
He tries to cheat us with counterfeits, for instance by urging that some work of piety should be taken up which as it does not come from the true minds of the fathers, leads under the form of virtue to vice; and, deceiving us either by immoderate or impossible fasts, or by too long vigils, or inordinate prayers, or unsuitable reading, brings us to a bad end. 
It is pride to think the spiritual life must be “great” in terms of external practices, since these are only means to what is truly necessary — faith working charity (Gal. 5:6), which can often be invisible to observers. Rather, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed (Mt. 13:31). One cannot immediately begin praying the whole Divine Office or rosary every day and fasting twice a week as the saints did and more, and it is folly and pride to try.
Instead, begin small and steady. Are you not praying one third of the rosary (five decades) every day? Think about the duties of your state in life, then honestly think of how much time you can spend each day. Maybe it is only a decade a day. Or maybe you can do five decades on your commute every morning.
Take this small thing and do it for two weeks. At the end of that period, think objectively: were you able to do this easily every day? If not, do less. If you did do it easily, then continue for one to two months straight. Do it until you can do it every day without thinking, until the practice is so ingrained that if you miss a day you feel an emptiness in your routine. Then you know you have acquired a virtue, which is a habit. Then and only then do you add more to your discipline.
Using this method allows your spiritual disciplines to grow steadily. If we did this, we would all be making great advances in holiness. Instead, the Devil tricks us to think we need to do everything at once…