The young soldiers stood in line on the first day of Boot Camp. The drill sergeant asked them a question. Soldiers” he roared “what are you gonna do when you’re in the middle of a battle facing trained soldiers who want to kill you?”
A young cadet replied “I’ll fight like a man, Sir!”
“Oh no you won’t” said the drill sergeant. “you’ll run away and cry. Because, self preservation is instinctive. The ONLY way you can face up to those who intimidate you is by doing your drills. Over and over until it becomes second nature.”
After that the raw recruits spent hours every day going through their drills. Dismantling and re-assembling their weapons. Loading and firing. Marching and crawling. Until it became second nature. Until they became soldiers, able to stay calm and do their job in the face of imminent danger.
In a similar way in our lives we to need to do spiritual drills. To practice the virtues – like charity, justice, temperance, hope, prudence… – over and over until they become second nature. Because that’s what a virtue is; a good act that is done over and over again until it becomes our 1st response.