Today is the feast day of St. John Marie Vianney, patron of parish priests, and it seems to be a most appropriate day to talk about an important virtue: perseverance.
It often seems that life throws things at us that we would deem to be impossible for us to do. St. John Vianney had received a very small amount of schooling and yet he felt called by God to become a priest. In order to accomplish his goal, he went and asked for private tutoring. Even when the diocese rejected him for ordination, he still continued and persevered because he knew that this was what he was called to do.
A famous Orthodox Christian writer of the twentieth century remarked that one of the virtues lacking in today’s society is constancy. It is true enough of me and probably hundreds of other people that start out working on their projects and then abandon them just as quickly. But we must be consistent if we are to attain everlasting life and if we are to live in God. We cannot just throw in the towel and completely give up. We must persevere.
Yet perseverance does not simply mean “keep on keeping on.” It means so much more. Essentially, perseverance is the willingness to continue to do all things for the glory of God no matter how hard the road ahead is.
When St. John Vianney first was assigned to Ars, the parish was a mess. No priest had been there in a while and the priests that had served as pastors had only been there intermittently before they either died or were assigned to serve in other parishes of the area. It was a parish that had completely abandoned its religion and the people were happy to live that way. Yet St. John Vianney did not give up at the first hurdle, he did as much as he could to turn his parish around. By his heroic example and by his often stinging rebukes, he was able to convert his parish.
Yet that perseverance did not come about without great personal sacrifice and danger on the part of St. John Marie Vianney. Indeed, the spiritual life is a dangerous battle for those that are not aware of the powerful forces that are against us and for us. Yet we must not be afraid and persevere nevertheless. The crown at the end of the road is great indeed if we only persevere and keep going.
Our Lady, Mother of the Clergy, pray for us!
St. John Marie Vianney, pray for us!