Instead of setting new externally-focused goals this year, I have decided to delve more deeply into my personal calling from God. Inspired by Simeon and Anna the Prophetess (Luke 2:22-38), who both persevered in their lifetime of waiting for the promised Messiah, I want to recommit to staying the course set by God’s call in my life. Perseverance commonly connotes effort and hard work to complete a goal despite barriers and obstacles. In the Christian sense, however, perseverance is a virtue. Perseverance involves fortitude (which is both a cardinal virtue and a gift of the Holy Spirit) and patience (which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit).
Developing the virtue of perseverance requires both grace and personal effort, much like operating a sailboat and harnessing the power of wind to propel the craft. Simeon was not only a “righteous man awaiting the consolation of Israel,” but also “the Holy Spirit was upon him.” Anna worshipped God night and day with fasting and prayer. The combination of grace and effort is also reflected in the Catholic Dictionary, perseverance – “remaining in the state of grace until the end of life.” This year, I hope to persevere (and remain in the state of grace) in prayer, in my vocation, and in loving others.
Perseverance in Prayer
“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” Romans 12:12
Prayer is encountering Jesus like the woman at the well—receiving from Him life-giving water. Jesus was already there waiting for her. Whatever my feelings or circumstances may be, I must continue to choose to come to the well to listen and talk to Him, because He provides the water I require to live a good life. Besides faithfully praying at set times, different experiences throughout my day will prompt me to pray spontaneously. Jesus tells His disciples, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Fortitude in My Vocation
“Let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.” Hebrews 12:1
My vocation to marriage and family is a calling from God as the normative path of my transformation and sanctification. This is the race in which I run and hope to finish. To persevere in my vocation is to make choices every day to love my spouse and children for their highest good in spite of difficulties. The terrain is demanding (endurance becomes imperative), and the road long (requiring stamina), but the panorama is breathtaking (I would rather be here than anywhere else).
Like all vocations, I cannot genuinely live out its privileges and responsibilities without the grace of God who called me into it. Marriage and family life are messy. Ample opportunities for self-donation present themselves daily. If I begin to run out of steam in living my vocation, I can look to Jesus. He transforms my heart so I can find joy in staying true to my vocation. I press on. “For the sake of the joy that lay before him Jesus endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2) for the sake of His Bride, the Church.
Patience in Love
“Patience is the queen who reigns over all virtues because she is the heart of love. She conquers and is never conquered. Her companions are courage and perseverance, and she returns home victorious.” – St Catherine of Siena in her “Dialogue.”
How is my capacity to hang-in-there with others? When someone voices an opposing opinion, do I cancel them and walk away? When a loved one complains, do I start looking for greener grass? When a neighbor shares her troubles, do I seek an escape?
To persevere in loving others and walking beside them through their challenges takes time and long-suffering on my part. I am called to help lighten others’ burdens just as Jesus invites me to yoke myself to Him to lighten my burdens. I cannot instantaneously drum up patience by my own will power. Patience is an actual fruit of the Holy Spirit, resulting only from an ongoing relationship with Him.
Growing in Virtue
I must admit that many challenges in 2020 made me weary, and at times even tempted to lose heart. On the other hand, those challenges revealed the faithfulness of God to care for us. They tested and strengthened the commitment of spouse and family members to each other, and garnered the sincere support of neighbors and friends. In 2021, I pray to God for the grace to grow in the virtue of perseverance: in prayer, in my vocation, and in loving others. The wind in my life constantly changes in strength and direction and I hope to grow in my ability to sail the course set for me by God. I lean on Him who remains constant with a love that endures forever.
(This blog also appears in The Well.)