When a woman of God quits her earthly possessions for the convent, and that woman asks if she can give to your daughter her guinea pig (complete with all the fixings), and there’s a pandemic on, well, you‘re right up against it.
That is how we acquired sweet Violet. Her hobbies include shrieking when she’s thirsty, defecating, staring at me because guinea pigs sleep little and use eyelids even less, defecating, smelling horrible, defecating, and requiring me to launder her fleece blankets.
Three months into the Violet experience, while researching my ancestry, I encountered Sarah Kemp, my great great great grandmother. Sarah had ten children over the course of four husbands. She worked her 19th century farm every day until her health made that impossible.
Thought experiment: I explain Violet to Sarah.
Sarah: Congratulations! I heard you were given a free pig!
Me: Yes! Well, a guinea pig.
Sarah: A what?
Me: It’s a small hairy rodent, actually.
Sarah: Oh. Are you going to eat it?
Me: Um, no, it’s a pet. I take care of it.
Sarah: So you feed it and clean it... you do it’s laundry? Do your kids help?
Me: No, they think she’s gross.... Can we talk about something else?
Nine months later, God saw that I was floundering. There is enough to do with five children under the age of 11, and the ratio of hours spent by my family enjoying Violet to hours spent by me sanitizing her cage was pathetic. So God sent another woman of God into my life. She has superior home-making skills and a daughter who has been begging for a guinea pig. Violet left us for her new home where a child sings to her and it all makes sense.
The real shame of the whole experience is that the piggy could have helped save my soul, if only I had worked in a spirit of mortification.
St. Louis de Montfort is good at explaining what I mean. He recommended practices of self-denial for overcoming the weakness of the flesh: “Never give your body all it demands,” he wrote. “Wisdom is not found in the hearts of those who live in comfort.”
Mortification is way of drawing closer to God. Fasting and vigils are examples of mortifications one pursues voluntarily. But you can also “take up your cross” in daily life by offering up the inconveniences and annoyances that come your way. Uniting small sacrifices to Christ’s salvific work on Calvary is really basic to the spiritual life.
I knew all this, YET - I missed my chance. I had a horrible attitude Every Single Day. I did not want to die a little each time cleaning was needed. May this confession help me in the future, and may it help you, kind reader, as we strive to be worthy of so beautiful a Savior and so complete a calling to be like him. (And may the path God leads me on not include rodent care.) Amen.