Pertinacious Penance

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January 2017:  A New Year filled with resolutions to do better; to reach higher.

I resolve…

I am resolute.

Resolute: Syn.: Adamant, stalwart, staunch, tenacious, dogged, stubborn, obstinate, obdurate, inflexible, bold, gutty, gutsy, unwavering, determined, pertinacious, indefatigable.

I ponder these adjectives and wonder about converting them to strong verbs and strong nouns in writing, and in tangible life.

Indefatigable; wait…what?!?! Does that mean to not get tired?

“Coffee anyone?”

I felt inspiration reading over these synonyms.

Philippians 4:8: “…whatever is true, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (NAB)

Even though all these things that we think on are true and just, and all the rest, If I have not love…than I’m just a clanging symbol. (But it’s whatever).

Notice all the ‘I’s’ in this essay.

If I have not love, then all my efforts are staked from a selfish point of motivation.

I can make all the grand plans I want but…

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build. Psalm 127:1 NAB

I pondered my prayers over the last year. They were for my kids, my husband, my friends, near and far.

I prayed the rosary every day.

I started it like this: “With this rosary, I bind each and every one of my children to your Immaculate Heart, Dear Mother Mary, for your guidance and protection.” Then I proceeded with an Our Father, then a Hail Mary for each of my kiddos, including my sons’ girlfriends.

I went to Daily Mass, when I could, Wednesdays and Fridays.

I enrolled my kiddos in perpetual Masses with a Franciscan monastery.

I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 pm some days for those in peril in any way, and those who passed from this life to the next.

I tried to immerse myself into the graces of the Jubilee Year of Mercy—entering the Holy Doors of three different cathedrals, receiving the graces from Confession, Holy Communion, praying the intentions of Pope Francis, and yes, I even met a new saint friend, St. Maximillian Kolbe.

I discovered the quiet yet powerful intercession of St. Joseph, whose life did all the talking—nary had a word been uttered in scripture. But what a father he was and is!

Sprung from my consecration to Our Blessed Mother, I devoted the first five consecutive Saturdays to her in reparation for the five blasphemies and offences against her. This, after reading Father Andrew Apostoli’s book, Fatima For Today.

I even turned off the music in my car and prayed instead, through Lent and the liturgical year.

I’ve never felt more at peace.

Never been happier.

But then Advent came and the prayer needs became really heavy. Picture a pack mule trudging up a hill, loaded with sandbags on her back.

The enemy needled me.

Discouraged by what was left undone and done against God, I despaired.

My prayers seemed only half-answered.

Now that’s ridiculous, I know—pitiful actually—because really, there is no such thing as half of a miracle.

But I was still burdened.

I questioned, am I not righteous? “Didn’t you say God that the prayers of a righteous man avail much?”

I am not righteous, no not one is…Romans 3:12.

Except One:

1 Timothy 2:5: For there is one God. There is also one mediator between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human who gave himself as ransom for all.

I can only but fall on His Mercy. That is my hope. He is my hope. He is the vine. I’m only a branch. Cut off, what chance do I have? So just be a branch, I say to myself. Live from Jesus, your trunk and source. In Him, you live and move and have your being. “Just settle down, Susan, for heavens’ sakes.”

I had to remind myself that I’d been called to a life of penance. What does that mean?

There is no short term gratification in prayer—not as a way of life.

There is no quick fix.

And even though it is noble to make goals and break down steps to accomplish them, Jesus calls me to heave the cross.

My cross is invisible.

Contemplating St. Bernard’s Three Comings of the Lord, I learned the above.

No one sees the bruises on my shoulder.

I once visited a church in Hilton Head, SC. The crucifix that hung behind the altar is the most impressive I’ve ever seen. At the time, I was particularly taken with the “Devotion to the Shoulder Wound of Christ,” also inspired by St. Bernard. As a mystic, Bernard was told the most painful unrecorded wound of our Lord’s Passion, by the Lord himself.

Sitting there, ruminating on the crucifix, I leaned over to my son Mark and whispered, “Do you see the extra bruising on Jesus’ right shoulder?” Pointing, I explained the “Shoulder Wound Devotion” to my son.

I wonder now if the Holy Spirit illustrated that extra bruising on the crucifix, that day, just for me. Hmmm, I wonder.

Things were so heavy at that time with our family. The suffering was almost too much.

Since then, trying to live a life of penance, I see Cyrenians; ‘Simons,’ if you will, helping me to heave my cross.

Sometimes I am Simon, the Cyrene, helping heave someone else’s cross.

Continuing in this vein of prayer, I cannot be discouraged by my own grand plans.

John 3: 8: The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it goes; (NAB)

"Pertinacious Penance" by Susan Anderson (CatholicMom.com)

By James TissotOnline Collection of Brooklyn Museum; Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 2006, 00.159.185_PS1.jpg, Public Domain, Link

To be all down in the mouth about what I think God owes me or how I think He should be answering my prayers is to be rather like a Pharisee. I also thought of the Prodigal Son, not the younger son, but the older.

He thought it was owed to him, his father’s favor. He was demanding and ungrateful.

I guess you don’t have to leave home to be a prodigal. In my ingratitude, I am the older son.

And then I think about Jesus on the cross. He looks to his left and right, between two criminals. One says, “If you are the Son of God, save us!” The other (in so many words) says, “Have mercy on me, a sinner. Remember me, Lord.”

I’ve never heard of half of a miracle, have you? Did Jesus think, “Oh, I’ve only won one soul, but not another. This is only half-answered prayer; only half of a miracle.” No. He won one soul. The angels rejoice over the one.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

It is a life of penance I’m called to, Pertinacious Penance.

And then I think, “What about Mary?” How did she handle her children rejecting her Lord and Savior? How has she handled my rejection of her Lord and Savior? Throughout His life, she accepted the foreboding. I think of Simeon’s prophecy, and later, the three days lost from her sight of Him. “Didn’t you know that I would be in my Father’s house?” Oh Mary, did you know? Yes, she knew, yet she still said yes. Not just initially with the presence of the angel Gabriel and the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, but all the way through, all the way to the foot of the cross.

I had to remind myself, this is what I signed up for when I gave my life to Christ.

It is where I must live, move and have my being, with complete trust in the Lord.

That is the only resolution that matters.

Pertinacious Penance.

 

Copyright 2017 Susan Anderson

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About Author

Susan Anderson is a wife and mother of six. A convert at age 33, she is an avid fan of Mary and keeps her sanity through rosary prayer. She helps Rob, her husband, at Cactus Game Design, provider of Bible based games and toys. Her book, Paul’s Prayers, is about her oldest autistic son. She likes music, jogging, swimming, and redoing thrift store furniture.

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