In April 2020, Cursillista Peggy Virgadamo shared a few articles that she received & admired from St. Paul’s Center. The following article was written for the St. Paul’s Center monthly newsletter in October 2003 by former St. Paul’s Center Director, Fr. Jim Fitzpatrick. Although written almost seventeen years ago (and nine months before he passed away), Fr. Jim’s message is still powerful and needed today.
“If we persevere we shall reign with him.” (2 Timothy 2:11)
St. Paul tells us with this quote that the work of living out the gospel and putting the teachings of Christ into practice in our everyday lives will be difficult. Anyone who wants to follow Christ and remain faithful to all of His teachings will find it very difficult at times, but with the help of God and others, we will receive the strength to persevere. All of us want to persevere in our following of Christ, but for many reasons, many of us do not persist and give up the most important thing in our lives, namely, our faith.
We can see in the life of Christ that He also had to persevere. At times He found the will of the Father to be very difficult, but He remained faithful. He persevered. Jesus persisted even though He was denied and betrayed by some of His disciples. Jesus also persevered even though many people did not understand His message.
I think it is very important for each one of us to understand both the difficulty and the importance of persevering. We must look directly to Jesus to see what allowed Him to persevere. There is no doubt in my mind that the key ingredient in the perseverance of Jesus was His prayer life and relationship with God the Father. Jesus was always able to remain focused. He never got distracted, nor di He give in to what other people thought of Him. We can do the same if we develop the same type of prayer life and relationship with God.
Let me give a few examples of why some people don’t persevere. In my experience, some people don’t persevere in their faith because they are not able to deal with imperfections, they see in both the Church and some of its members. Many times, a person will stop practicing their faith because of a bad experience with a priest, or an experience with a member of the Church who is not acting in a Christian way towards them. We can never let experiences such as these interfere with our faith. There is so much more good going on in the Church and in the lives of its members than one can ever imagine. The Church is a worldwide institution that does so much good across the world. We must never lose this perspective.
A second reason that I feel people don’t persevere in their faith is that they don’t want to put the work in that is required. We need to pray regularly, and to attend Holy Mass as much as possible. When we receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ at Mass, we also receive the strength the persevere. When we hear the inspired word of Jesus Christ proclaimed at Mass, we receive the wisdom that we need to understand the ways of God. That does not happen without work, and this work can only be done by us.
A third reason I feel that people don’t persevere is that they just give in to the ways of the world. They let their priorities get mixed up. It seems easier to pursue what the world offers us and to easily forget what God is offering us. God is offering us eternal rewards and truths. The world offers us the immediate gratification that expires in many cases as quickly as it comes. What God is offering us lasts forever.
There are many more examples that I could give, but in my experience as a priest, these are the ones that I seem to encounter the most. We all can correct anything that is taking us away from our faith. We should all take a look at our own lives and see what may be getting in the way of us deepening our own faith. With a deepening faith comes a peace that this world cannot offer us. Let us also pray for each other that we all persevere and then, at the end of time, share in the reign of God.
Father Jim Fitzpatrick