Spiritual ideals can be wonderfully inspiring and spur us on to greater holiness. However, ideals can also be discouraging and paralyzing when we find ourselves far from them and unable to draw closer to them. And whereas one doesn’t want to simply debunk ideals out of frustration at not being able to reach them, it is helpful to recall that no age of the church or of our Cistercian Order has ever been truly perfect and ideal. Even in the early church where everyone was supposedly of one mind and heart and shared everything in common, we hear of complaints (in our first reading) about widows being neglected in the daily distribution. Nevertheless, it was advertence to the ideal that prompted The Twelve to intervene and resolve the issue with the appointment of deacons. Ideals thus serve this dual purpose: firstly, they highlight and expose spiritual ills and, secondly, guide the solutions to their correction and healing. And as such they are indispensable and an effective bulwark against spiritual stagnation and a descent into that spiritual mediocrity that would (in the words of Revelation) have the Lord spit us from his mouth.