OCTOBER 16, 2016
In “The Confessions” of St. Augustine there is a story of his mother, Monica. How that courageous woman, with an unfaithful husband, a malicious mother-in-law, and a dissolute son, managed to surmount all these obstacles through transcendent faith and dogged perseverance in prayer. Monica was born in the North African city of Tagaste and although reared as a Christian she was given in marriage to a pagan, Patricius. A violent temper and loose morals made Patricius less than a model husband, yet he heard no complaints from Monica. She was content to give him the example of her Christian conduct, and left the rest to God. It was an effective method; first the mother-in-law, then the husband, became Christians, and Monica was left with only her son, Augustine, to worry about.
He was the most trying problem of all and was tormenting Monica for years by his behaviors. Sent to Carthage to study, the young man joined the heretical Manichean sect, acquired a mistress, and learned a proud, youthful disdain for the counsel of his mother, who by this time was alone in the world except for her two sons. Monica saw Augustine drifting farther away from her and the true faith. Prayer was her chief resource and she used it unceasingly. "Such great, such frequent, and uninterrupted prayers," is the way Augustine remorsefully described them. For years the prayer seemed to be in vain; as Augustine's fame as a teacher increased, he became less inclined than ever to mend his ways.
Twenty nine years had passed, Augustine began to change and abandoned Manicheism and was seriously investigating Christianity. Overjoyed at the change, Monica redoubled her prayers and sacrifices until Augustine completed his journey toward the Catholic faith. This was the conversion Monica had been praying for, and when it was made she felt that her mission in life was accomplished. And now we have both mother and son as Saints: St. Monica and St. Augustine.
In the Gospel of this Sunday Jesus asks us to pray always and never lose heart. Perseverance, stick-to-it-iveness, is essential in prayer. Don’t give up. Keep on praying, even when there is little or no hope.
Too many of us are like a man who came to me not too long ago with a problem. I asked if he had prayed about it. “Sure, Father,” the man answered. “How often?” I asked. “Oh, just once,” the man admitted. I then explained that we have to keep on praying, that we ought to pray always and not to lose heart as Jesus tells us in the Gospel.
That is one of the many reasons I urge Catholics to pray every day, at least morning, evening and at meals. That is the reason we repeat the Hail Mary so often – we want Mary to pray with us and for us now and at the hour of our death. That is why we should pray the Our Father everyday – “this day,” “our daily bread.” That is the reason we Catholics come again and again and again – some of us every day, all of us at least every Sunday (I hope) – to the same Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with practically the same prayers. By not granting our prayer at the first asking God draws us closer and closer to himself as a father does on putting off his child.
Maybe some of you wonder what your parish priest pray for? Every morning at the presence of Jesus with a sad heart on all problems in the world I pray for you and for our brothers and sisters in this world. I pray that people may listen to the teaching of Jesus and make this world of ours better. I pray that the Lord will draw you closer to him and grant you the grace to live your Christian life in your family and in the parish. I also pray for those who are doing ministry to serve others in our community that they know how to work together, that they have perseverance and never lose heart even though sometimes the success or achievement seems too far away. I also pray for those who have gone before us, especially those in your family and mine. Are you willing to pray with me?
Prayer is not a stratagem for occasional use,
A refuge to resort to now and then,
Especially when things are bad.
It is rather like an established residence
For the innermost self.
All things have a home:
The bird has a nest,
The fox a den,
The bees a hive.
A soul without prayer is a soul without a home.
To pray is to open the door of my innermost self
So that God and grace may enter.
Prayer is not asking things of God,
But receiving what he wants to give you.
It is not offering yourself to God,
But welcoming God offering himself to you.