Stairs to Nowhere

Elliptical Exercise Machines on Cruise Ship

Have you ever exercised on a Stairmaster or an elliptical machine? Basically, you turn on the cardio machine and walk a seemingly endless series of steps, without actually going anywhere. Not my favorite way to get the heart pumping, but to each his own.

I decided to get on one the other day for a quick warm-up. I frequently pray as I exercise, so I started my Rosary. As the same stairs continued to roll by and return again for me to step on, my mind suddenly diverted to something kind of strange: “This Stairmaster is kind of like my spiritual life!”

The idea of connecting stairs and the spiritual life is nothing really new. Saints have written about the ascent in the spiritual life in relation to climbing a ladder or stairway.

Throughout our lives, we attempt to scale our way up this massive ladder between earth and heaven, with the starting point being our fallen sinful state and the ending point (hopefully and God-willing) being our state of blissful sanctity in Heaven.

But the climb is rarely easy, and sometimes it feels like we just aren’t making any progress. In fact, sometimes it feels like we are walking on the same few stairs or rungs, over and over again. Perhaps we don’t even realize it for a while, until all of the sudden we think to ourselves, “Wait a second, I’m not going anywhere!”

Boy has my life been peppered with many spiritual lulls just like this.

Sometimes, I can feel my spiritual quads tightening and ascending with purpose and fierce determination. Prayer is strong, Scripture reading frequent, growth in virtue evident. Other times, I can feel the laxity of wearied spiritual muscles, sadly moving backward looking for rest on stairs already behind me, when true rest can only be found at the top of the staircase or ladder. But still other times, I’ve been too busy living life, only to find that for some past amount of time, I’ve been walking on the exact same stairs, over and over again, not moving up or down at all! And we know what God says about the lukewarm…or in this case, the spiritual Stairmaster exercisers.

Advent is a time of preparation, when we strengthen our spiritual muscles to push ahead in our faith journeys with greater resolve. Is your spiritual life stagnant? When’s the last time you’ve made practical resolutions to progress seriously in prayer, in reading Scripture (and the Catechism during this Year of Faith), in growing in virtue, in exercising the works of mercy? There’s no excuse to see the same stairs roll around for you again after this season of Advent is over. Prepare. Make a change. Move up a few stairs to get a closer look at the King of Kings. The best view is at the top.

A final thought: If the stairs become a little too much for you, remember you can always take the elevator. St. Thérèse of Lisieux once wrote, I, too, would like to find an elevator to lift me up to Jesus, for I am too little to climb the rough stairway of perfection… The elevator which must raise me to the heavens is Your arms, O Jesus!” When the stairs get steep, call on Jesus. Your humble surrender to His strength guarantees your spiritual progress.


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About the Author

Katie (Peterson) Warner, Communications Manager, Catholics Come Home, Inc., has spoken at Catholic and secular venues on topics ranging from media and the culture of life to evangelization in the 21st century, plus a variety of apologetics, theological, spiritual, and practical topics.

She has been a speaker at the National Catholic Bible Conference and numerous Legatus chapters, an emcee for the Eucharistic Congress of Atlanta, and has appeared on EWTN radio and an EWTN television mini-series.

Katie currently works for Catholics Come Home, a national Catholic evangelism apostolate working to invite fallen-away Catholics and non-Catholics home to the Catholic Church.

Katie holds a graduate degree in Catholic Theology, specializing in Evangelization and Catechesis, from the Augustine Institute in Denver, Colorado. Katie also has a degree in Communication and Professional Writing. Since her youth, her passion has always been to use her speaking, writing, and teaching skills to serve the evangelization mission of the Church.

Katie is a core member of a growing youth ministry program in Santa Clarita, California, where she lives with her husband, Raymond. In addition to her work in the parish and with Catholics Come Home, Katie writes for online Catholic magazines and is working on her first book. She plans to devote her life’s work entirely to Jesus, His Church, evangelization, and the sanctity of human life.

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1 Comment

  1. Be careful not to use human standards to measure spiritual growth. God is at work in all of us all the time. Just like the larvae needs to make a coccoon and lay seemingly unmoving, we have periods of rest or “stagnation”. But just like the greatest changes happen in the coccon for the larvae, such periods of “stagnation” could be for us great moments of change if we focus on listening to God instead of “doing”.

    I had a priest once counsel me to offer my day as prayer, so that everything that I do, I do mindfully as a way of prayer and praise during the day.

    We need to accept the variation in our prayer rhythmn as something that God allows to happen for our greater good and keep on seeking Him in the midst of it all. By accepting the fluctuation in the prayer rhythm, we are accepting his Holy Will.

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