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The Patience of a Saint

Updated on August 26, 2020

“The works of God are not accomplished when we wish them, but whenever it pleases him” ~ Saint Vincent de Paul

My grandfather was a patient man. And although I could offer up many stories to back up this claim, one always comes to mind.

** For those of you under the age of 35, please Google the word “tinsel” before proceeding any further. **

Every December, he would take the lead in meticulously placing the tinsel ~ strand by strand ~ on our Christmas Tree, doing so with the precision and attention to detail of a West 47th Street Diamond Cutter, or Van Gogh as he punctiliously dotted the sky in “Starry Night Over the Rhône.”

But his ability to icily adorn the tree with tinsel wasn’t even what impressed me the most. What I’ll never forget was what happened on December 26th (or thereabouts) each year. Because it was then that he would proceed to remove each strand of tinsel ~ one skinny and silvery sliver at a time ~ placing it on the thin cardboard inset that would serve as the tinsels’ winter getaway home.

Hey, good tinsel was hard to come by.

He never once appeared the least bit bored or frustrated, nor did he ever complain about having to perform this heroically tedious and arduous task by himself. As (allegedly) good grandchildren, we would of course help out, but I use the word “help” rather loosely. After a few minutes passed and maybe a few dozen tinsel pieces were relocated, we would silently slip away to the television set and the weekly episode of Ricochet Rabbit and Droop Along.

Patience... Persistence... Perseverance.

My grandfather wasn’t the only holy person who possessed the distinction of patience. Today the Catholic Church recognizes and celebrates a woman who possessed this most elusive yet coveted virtue as well, the great Saint Monica.

The widowed mother of Augustine, the man who would go on to become a bishop, doctor and saint of our church, Monica was born in North Africa in 331 AD. She prayed for the conversion of her son, who scorned Christianity throughout his dissolute youth. Monica followed Augustine to Rome and Milan, where she witnessed the culmination of her prayers, made manifest by his Baptism. It was upon hearing a homily from the prolific Saint Ambrose, a Bishop & Doctor of the Church in his own right, that compelled Augustine to consider Christianity. The wife of an abusive alcoholic, her husband finally did convert to Christianity one year prior to his death in the year 371. As such, Saint Monica is the Patron Saint of mothers, alcoholics, and those struggling in difficult marriages.

Saint Monica was unrelenting in her prayers while managing to maintain her patience, which was repeatedly and unrelentingly tried. Was Jesus impatient with the Pharisees in today’s Gospel (Matthew 23:23-26)? I don’t think so. Fact is, he loved even the otherwise objectionable Pharisees enough to tell them the truth, knowing full well the risks he faced in doing so. After all, Jesus did everything out of love, and love takes many shapes and forms, tough love being one of the more difficult varieties to administer. This is due in large part to our incessant desire to be liked and to avoid making waves. Jesus wasn’t afflicted with this weak-kneed disorder. He knew the stakes; Heaven or Hell. And only he knows the unceasing joy of the former as well as the sheer horror of the latter.

In addition to her prayers for Augustine, Monica pulled no punches in voicing her displeasure over her son’s licentious life. There was a time in his life when she refused to allow Augustine to reside, eat, or sleep in her house as a result of his lifestyle. Popularity contests were of no interest to her. Given the astounding petulance of some of our youth today, perhaps there are a number of parents could take a cue from Saint Monica in that regard.

Jesus is patient with us, this we know by virtue of his willingness to forgive unconditionally (Luke 23:34) and his generosity (John 14:2). There are many other examples of course. He does however urge us to act and to act swiftly. He does this out of love. No one is promised tomorrow.

Each and every one of us can sympathize with Saint Monica. We all have loved ones who have fallen away from the church. In speaking to many of my friends who find themselves in this predicament, oftentimes with one or more of their now adult children, their anguish is palpable. We must seek the prayerful intercession of Saint Monica in order to bring them back to the church, to bring them back so as to re-assume their role as a member of the mystical Body of Christ, whatever that may be. To bring them back to the Eucharist. If the prayers she offered up for her son could result not only in his conversion but his sainthood, how powerful must they be when placed before the throne of God under the mantle of her intercession?

Approach the patient and persistent Saint Monica with great patience and persistence of prayer. I can’t imagine she would let you down.

“Almighty Father, You desire not the death of the sinner, but that he may be converted and live. Pour out upon us Your mercy and hear the prayers of Your servants. Soften the hearts of Your children who have strayed from the true path which You established for their salvation. They are now forgetful of their duties as Catholics, and pursue the pleasures of the world. Grant that they may quickly return to the practice of every Christian virtue, so that their lives may shine with the integrity of faith, the fervor of piety, and the ardor of charity. Restore them all to Your sacraments and the life of Your grace, through the merits of the most precious blood of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Saint Monica, please pray and intercede for us.” ~ Amen


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