Virtue of Perseverance

Going Deeper

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.)


Seeds of Kindness

Kindness reflects a tenderness of heart that is touched by the plight or suffering of others that moves one towards generosity and graciousness.


A Little Kindness

There’s a half-dead bird on the driveway,” my daughter came in to tell me.
“What do you mean half-dead?” I asked. 
“It is on its back with its legs up but one leg is broken.  Its eyes open and  close,” she described.
“What shall we do about it?” I asked her.  (I was going to tell her that it happens that birds get hurt and it is nature’s way and that we should let nature take its course.)
“Let’s put it on the grass,” she replied.
(At that moment, a choice was before me: either tell her there is not much we can do about it and leave it alone, or recognize her kindness for this bird which can die on the grass instead of on the concrete.)  “Let’s go.”


Goes a Long Way

Kindness often is a small act for the person doing it but for the one receiving it, kindness makes all the difference.  We can imagine the plight of the dying destitute in a gutter of Calcutta, not only physically suffering but alone and abandoned, already half-dead.  The simple act of someone, like Mother Teresa, cleaning their wounds and being present to them changes their remaining days from misery to dignity.


How easy it is to give a loving kiss to a spouse who had a rough day or an understanding hug to our child who is struggling, yet their burden is immeasurably lightened.  How effortless it is to hold an elderly person’s hand or offer a kind word to one who feels hopeless, yet to them it is like water on the parched land.  Kindness is like the tiny seed that bursts forth in its recipient and unfolds life.


Unexpected Blessings

We have been recipients of kindness and we’ve experienced how it strengthens our hearts and re-ignites our hope.  My mother used to say of those who did kind deeds to us, “That person is a child of God.”  She was a widow with six children and she knew when kindness was extended to us, acts that made a significant effect on the situations we were in.  Small and simple acts became unexpected blessings for us that often were answers to her prayers.    


It was not a pretty sight – the bird’s leg was broken where it’s ankle would be and its foot was waving like a flag on a pole in the autumn breeze.  My daughter came out with a box and announced that she had looked online for instructions on what to do with an injured bird.

(“Oh, no, this will just delay the inevitable,” I thought.  But I didn’t have the heart to squelch the care she showed for this wounded creature.)  We brought the bird in the box into the house and my daughter put water and seeds in the box like she read online.


After a few hours, she went to look into the box and I was expecting her to find a lifeless bird.  Instead, somehow the bird had turned over and had eaten and drank and was “sitting.”  
“Mom, it’s still alive and it looks better.  What should we do?”  She was as surprised as I was.
“Take the box outside and let’s see what it will do.” I replied.  
She put the box under a tree in the backyard.  The unexpected blessing happened for the bird.


The Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Family Life

We were incredulous that our guest gave us a most unusual gift on Thanksgiving Day.  Hosting  international students to join our family in celebrating this American holiday, we usually receive  gifts such as foreign candy, trinkets, scarves, and even a stuffed camel with actual camel hair.


We were surprised to receive from one of them a shower head with a hose!  We politely thanked our guest and wondered how he came up with the choice of this gift – who does that?  We shared many laughs with family members at receiving a piece of household hardware.  It was one of those things that make for interesting conversation and filed in the funny family memories.  However, two days before Christmas, our shower head cracked – causing water to spray in numerous crazy directions all over the bathroom! 



Open to the Holy Spirit

Many times, we turn to God when the heat of the noon day sun beats on our hearts or the raging waters sweep us away.  We silently pray and earnestly ask for the gifts that we already received but have left on a shelf un-used.  The Holy Spirit who is our Teacher, Comforter, and Helper not only dwells in us but the gifts of the Holy Spirit have been bestowed on us, particularly when we received the Sacrament of Confirmation.


For most of us, these gifts of the Holy Spirit remain as noble words but play no active role in our daily lives: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of God.  These gifts of the Holy Spirit, known as sanctifying gifts, are characteristics of Jesus that He manifests in their perfection and that He freely shares with His body, the Church.


If we are open to the work of the Holy Spirit within us, these gifts come to bear not only in having the “power” to live the demands of a holy Christian life but they also equip us in our relationships, especially in our marriage and family.  In effect, they are given to us so we can become like Jesus and love like He loves.  Let us waken to the presence of the Holy Spirit in us and use the gifts which are lavished on us. 



The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Let us ask the Holy Spirit everyday to stir up in us His gifts to be active in our relationships.  How many times are we called to respond to our spouse and be at a loss as to what to do?  “Lord, give me the wisdom. I ask for the ability to judge this situation rightly and act according to Your truth.”  How many times do we face an immediate situation and not know the possible consequences of our decision?  “Lord, give me the understanding to penetrate beyond the surface and see what is at the heart of this situation.” 


Everyday, we parent our children of varying personalities in different stages of development, “Lord, I ask for counsel, direct me in this particular matter so that it moves my child towards You.”  As Christian spouses and parents, we know what is the will of God in many situations, but we feel weak to follow through because of our own frailty or the influence of others.  “Lord, give me the fortitude, the firmness to do good and to avoid evil.”


Many conflicting and confusing messages assail us and our family to obscure the Christian message.  “Lord, help me, my spouse and our children to know the right path and not wander from it.”  When the world teaches us and our children to elevate ourselves and our own choices, we pray, “Lord, give us the gifts of piety and fear of the Lord that we may worship you above all else, honor you with our lives and obey your teachings that bring life.”



Use the Gifts

“. . .  and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”  (Romans 5:5) 

When we are docile to the Holy Spirit and use the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially in our relationships, they do not remain on the shelf as spiritual gifts, but they become incarnated in our words and actions and bear fruit in our relationships.  A gift is activated when it is used for what it was designed.  Although we enjoyed the shower head as a conversation piece, our family appreciates it more for showers.


Teaching Children Boundaries

Boundaries and Decisions

Helping to make good decisions for themselves begins with teaching children boundaries.  In the domestic church this can be achieved by identifying non-negotiables.


Entitled, “My Parents Should Let Me Get Guinea Pigs,” one of our daughters handed us a paper she wrote.  She proceeded to give three reasons why: first, she had enough money to buy a pair; second, she has proven herself responsible as she had pet hamsters when she was younger; third, she spent a year exploring the types of guinea pigs, the characteristics of each type, and the necessary daily care regimen for the type she wanted to get.  She wrote this paper because we asked her to write one before we would consider the idea of guinea pigs as pets for her.



Many decisions we make are driven by emotion, desire or passion which may blind us to the responsibilities or consequences that those decisions bring to our lives.  Some of these choices may be trivial and may have small effects in our lives.  Some of these decisions, however, may be grave and may impact our lives and our family in a big and lasting way.  


Big or small, taking the time to consider decisions to be made is part of being a responsible person.  Teaching our children responsibility includes teaching them the process of making decisions.  Having clear boundaries steer us and our children to make good decisions even before engaging in a process.




Clear boundaries for choices and behavior act like fences that keep decision-making focused on what is moral, safe and responsible while keeping out those that are immoral, dangerous and irresponsible.  There are three boundaries that we have taught our children when they were young, which we called non-negotiables.  This means that no negotiation or compromise or discussion was allowed in these areas.  They represented the basic boundaries within which their choices were to be made.  “Think before you make a choice and use these guidelines:”

      1.  If the choice is between right or wrong (morally):  Choose to do the right thing.
   2.  If the choice is safe or unsafe (physically):  You must act only if it is safe and will not endanger or harm yourself  or others.  
      3.  Chores:  You must always do your chores.


Giving children firm boundaries help them to practice self-discipline because boundaries provide clear guidelines for choices by which they can abide.  Within the boundaries, most everything can be negotiable with other factors considered.  That means choices can be open to discussion, compromise, flexibility and personal preferences. 


There are few exceptions to the non-negotiables – like not being able to do chores when they are sick.  As they get older, fine-tuning of the decision-making process develops as their understanding, maturity and ability to direct themselves grow.  They also learn the rare exceptions to the non-negotiables, which must always be based on love.  For the most part, the non-negotiables remain.



Secure Within

Clear boundaries not only act as guidelines to the decision-making of our children, but they also provide them with a sense of security, responsibility and the practice of virtue.  Virtues are good habits of doing what is right and loving.  Making decisions for good and love becomes easier for  our children as the habit to choose them is continually supported and practiced. 


Enjoying the fruit of well-thought out decisions and choosing virtue foster within them a confidence in their ability to make good decisions.  Our daughter is in the third year of daily caring for her guinea pig pets and they give her much joy.  Although she does all the care and maintenance for them, they have become pets for the whole family.


All is Gift

A martial arts instructor teaches his students to guard against tunnel vision wherein one who is in active combat begins to focus on one feature of the fight or on one weakness of the opponent.  He instructs his students to always be keenly aware of the whole arena and to orient himself to all that is happening around him with the opponent at any given time. 


Like the athlete, we can focus on our proximate reality and forget that as Christians, we have awakened to an immense reality much more expansive than the immediate world to include the spiritual reality and life beyond physical death.


I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
                                                                                                                                                  C. S. Lewis


Thanks to the Giver

When the veil will finally be lifted and we can see our lives in the eternal plan of God, we will realize that all is gift from the  love of God for us.  We will understand the gravity of sin and the force of God’s love to redeem us.  We will appreciate the purposes of the small and large details of our lives.  Because we will have comprehended the greatness of God’s love and mercy for us, we will live eternity in deep gratitude and thanksgiving and praise of God. 


While our eyes are still veiled, our hearts already taste the joy of the Holy Spirit and we can direct our hearts to always be thankful. We celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and take stock of all the blessings, all the relationships and all the people in our lives – and we say Thank You.  For our very lives – Thank You.  After Thanksgiving Day will be a parade of holy days and seasons: Feast of Christ the King, the season of Advent, feasts of several saints and the Christmas season.  These are all joyous occasions when gratitude recognizes that all is gift, and there is a gracious Giver.


With Thanksgiving

As we freely receive, let us freely give.  Let us step back a bit before the holidays begin this year, let us give thanks to God, and explicitly express our thanks and appreciation to those who love us.  Let us thank our spouses, family members, friends, co-workers.  As God and others have been lavish to us, let us be generous in kindness, liberal in gentleness, open in affirmation, and ungrudging in care for those around us.


Our immediate reality may be filled with worry, disappointment or hurt and we may feel far from being thankful.  Turn to God, “Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  (Philippians 4:6-7) 


In the reality within and beyond the walls of our hearts is the reality of God’s tender care for each one of us.  He fixes His eyes on us.   In His gaze is the whole arena of reality, and where for us – all is gift.



A Different Advent This Year

We lit the second candle of the Advent wreath and I don’t know what I did differently last week besides lighting the first Advent candle.  “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His path,”  we heard at church.


One of the most intriguing passages in the Bible for me goes, “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)  Because tortuous means full of twists and turns, I imagine the the topography of my heart to be circuitous, tangled and meandering.  “Make straight the way of the Lord.”  HOW?



Removing Blocks

Many Catholics may already have gone to the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that is one way to make straight the way for Jesus’ coming.  Sin is an affront to God and neighbor, and breaks the path of love.  Repentance and the forgiveness of our sins re-turn us to a path towards love of God and neighbor.   With this sacrament, blocks are removed from our heart and the path is made clear.


There is another obstacle, a large one, that contributes to the tortuous-ness of our heart.  This one is the most challenging one to displace and yet it cannot be done without our will:  unforgiveness.  Hurts, wounds, injuries inflicted on us by ourselves and by others, when they remain unforgiven, can be the biggest blocks that hinder us from making a straight path.  The trouble with unforgiveness is that it is the stuff that hardens our hearts into stone, where nothing can flow – neither God’s grace nor love. 


Moreover, keeping grudges, clinging to bitterness, harboring anger, all make for convoluted and labyrinthine hardened hearts that distort love.  Many distractions of the holiday season only help to ignore these painful obstructions.  We merrily take more twists and turns to avoid facing them.  This Advent is a good time to forgive ourselves for the wrongs we have done, and to forgive others for the injuries they have caused.



Open Door to Freedom

Forgiveness is an act of our will that is both a very spiritual act and a very practical decision.  Spiritual because as Jesus teaches us, we must forgive others so that we can be forgiven.  The door to receive forgiveness from God is the same door that we open or close to others.  Practical because the decision to forgive others frees us from bitterness, resentment, anger and a stony heart that keep us from loving. 


Since it is a spiritual act, we can not do it on our own, we need grace, we need the help of the Holy Spirit.  Let us ask God for the grace to forgive.  Since it is a practical act, let us make a decision to forgive and resolve to let the bitterness go.  We can ask a trusted friend to pray with us through these blocks in our heart.


Next Sunday, we light the rose candle of the Advent wreath.  It represents JOY – Gaudete Sunday.  Let us look into our tortuous hearts and face the blocks that have been there for years in order to make straight the way.  Let us forgive ourselves and forgive others and become free.  This year, make the Advent season count.


Love is Sacrifice

By Darcie Tallman

While my son and I were praying, we got off on a little tangent.  He asked me about the lyrics to a Christian song, The Proof of your Love by For King and Country.  We listened to it and read the lyrics.  I had heard this song many times.  Funny how the refrain hit me like I’d never heard it before:

So let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love
Let my love look like You and what You’re made of
How You lived, how You died
Love is sacrifice
Oh, let my life be the proof,
The proof of Your love.

Love is sacrifice.  These three little words are easy to miss.  But, when you think about them, the meaning is powerful. 

This gave me pause.  In my head, I know this to be true.  It’s what my husband and I talk so much about in our pre-cana presentation to engaged couples.  Jesus sacrificed His life for us. He is our example for how we are to love our spouse. 

The other thing that was going through my mind was Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 26:41, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”




Yes, God.  I get it.  You’re right.  Selfishness is something I struggle with and it gets in the way of me being able to sacrifice.  Just the night before our daughter was up most of the night with croup.  My husband had been working late at night.  I should have jumped right up and taken over for him – 100%.  I failed. 

Or, what about the many times I feel angry and resentful for finding myself having to clean up the kitchen again? 

These are just day-to-day things.  If I’m struggling with these, how can I love when it’s really hard?  When it hurts?



What are we giving ourselves to?

I’m currently reading, Heaven Starts Now: Becoming a Saint Day by Day by Fr. John Riccardo.  One of the chapters is entitled, Surrender.  Fr. Riccardo writes, “What are we living for?  What are we giving ourselves to?…” ”…we might be living for our spouse – not loving our spouse but living for our spouse.  Or living for our children, or for honors, or any of a variety of things.  But if it’s not God that we’re sacrificing our bodies to, then to whatever or to whomever we are offering ourselves is eventually going to do one of two things: disappoint us or crush us.  Because none of those things, good as they all are, are what we are made for.”

Wow.  That stopped me in my tracks.  It certainly isn’t what our culture tells us. God loves me unconditionally. He knows everything about me and His mercy is incomprehensible.  His love is beyond what I can wrap my head around.  And, yet, how do I love Him?



Starts with a Relationship with Jesus

Funny how God works.  It started with my son asking to listen to a song.  It spurred a memory about a paragraph I had recently read.  This caused me greater contemplation on an area for which I struggle and I became frustrated and mad at myself for seeing how many times I fall short.  What do I do?

I began to reflect on my past and think about other more challenging times of sacrifice in my life.  I realized that during those times I had to lean into prayer even more.  That was my answer. 

I know from firsthand experience that, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  I can’t do this alone.  I know I need God’s help to teach me to love. As I grow closer to Jesus in a relationship, the more I grow in my desire to love Him better.  That desire moves me to more freely and joyfully give of myself to my spouse, children, family, friends and others.  I must lean into prayer and grow in my relationship with Jesus.

Demanding Love

It might have been the foreign missionary nuns who taught at our Catholic elementary school or maybe the stories of saints and martyrs or girlish idealism that gave rise to a vision of my life at an early age.  It was quite simple and clear.  I saw myself in a distant land living with people and spending every drop of myself everyday for them; when I felt completely depleted, more was demanded of me and surprisingly, there were more drops to exhaust.


That vision has come to pass.  The distant land living with people turned out to be the vocation of Christian love.  Spending every drop of myself everyday and being surprised that there are more drops than I think I have turned out to be about loving my husband and together with him, educating our children and raising our family as a domestic church; along with that is the work to further the Kingdom of God in the world.



Committing to the Will of God

 St. Pope John Paul II wrote, “Real love is demanding.  I would fail in my mission if I did not tell you so.  Love demands a personal commitment to the will of God.”  He mentioned that the very fact that it is demanding is “precisely the source of its beauty.”   Living out the vocation of marriage with my husband – trying to faithfully live out Catholic teachings on this sacrament – fidelity, chastity, natural family planning, obedience, forgiveness, conversion, holiness, love and the education of children have been and are indeed challenging on all levels: mentally, emotionally, physically, morally, and spiritually.  


These aspirations, however, were never meant to be lived outside of our relationship with God; grace must be provided, received, and at work for us to hope to attain these exulted ends.   As a Catholic, I discovered that the additional ‘drops’ were not about trying to squeeze more out of myself to give – like a long distance runner determinedly pushing herself; rather, the stretching beyond my limit comes from God’s grace to accomplish what I cannot; to expand my heart to love past my capacity.  


For me, this grace comes through receiving Holy Communion.  In the Holy Eucharist, there is a reservoir of love and power where more ‘drops’ come from; there is a ‘spring of living water welling up’ – flowing deep and wide.  From the Source of Love, Jesus Himself, we receive real grace in real time to meet the demands of love.



Love Never Fails

When we live in relationship with God, when we are committed to our spouse and family members, when we labor in the Lord’s vineyard, what we become and what we do are neither impositions that our Faith puts on us nor are they requirements we put on ourselves; rather we take on conditions and act in order to meet the demands of love for the persons in our relationships.  


People with whom we have relationships do not make the demands; it is Christian charity, Christian love towards them that demands we put our own selves aside for the good of others and the relationships.  Things that are imposed make us feel pressed even if we charge them on ourselves.  In the long run, we get weary with the effort to sustain them; they cannot last, we cannot last.


The demands of love, on the other hand, urge us to act for the good of others; it springs us to take measures to meet them in their need.  Love can never be forced.  It calls on the free will to give oneself away to neighbor.  Rather than tire, one is built up; rather than be drained, one is filled up.  Love makes things new.



Absolutely Demanding

As an exhortation the Pope wrote, “Nowadays people need to rediscover this demanding love, for it is truly the firm foundation of the family, a foundation able to endure all things.”  How can we and our family rediscover this demanding love?  This Saint added, “Only the one who is able to be demanding with himself in the name of love can also demand love from others.”  


God more than met the demands of love for us in that Jesus suffered, died and rose again to take sin and death away.  He freely pours out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. 

How are we to love God?  We shall love the Lord, our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength.  


Demanding?  Absolutely.  When we do that – we, our spouse and children will not only rediscover this demanding love, but also experience the most beautiful love there is.  We will be spent but never emptied.