Tell me, have you ever been a Monica to an Augustine?
St. Augustine, as you may know, lived a rather colorful life prior to his conversion–leaving the Church for the philosophy in vogue at the time, and (rather famously) giving in to worldly, carnal, pleasures. This period in his life caused his mother, St. Monica, to suffer greatly, so much that it is said her tears, shed every night, had formed permanent tracks on her face. She never stopped praying for her son to find his way back to the Church, and entreated many priests to pray with her for his intention, including a bishop who assured her, “it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.”
Monica believed that her son would return to the faith. And so she never stopped praying until he did.
Is there someone–a friend, a relative, perhaps your spouse, or your son/daughter–you’ve been trying to evangelize, but so far has been unreceptive? You’ve repeatedly given the invitation to attend church, you’ve given all the pamphlets, books and novenas, you’ve even resorted to faith sharing disguised as “small talk.” But it’s still like talking to a wall. No matter how many ways you’ve tried to package it, the Good News is not news they want to hear.
You’ve tried everything, but have you prayed like Monica? Unceasingly, faithfully, desperately, as if his life, his soul, depended on it?
Lest we forget it is Jesus who has the power to save our loved one. Not us.
Pray. Just as Abraham pleaded with the Father to spare the city of Sodom for the sake of 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, 10 upright people (Genesis 18:22-32). Just as Daniel never stopped opening his window to face Jerusalem, even when those jealous of him conspired to discredit him before the king, thus sending him into the lion’s den (Daniel 6:2-25). Just as the widow in Jesus’ story wouldn’t take no for an answer, pressuring the judge to ensure that justice was done (Luke 18:1-8). Pray selflessly, constantly, urgently. Because it is a matter of Life or Death.
In the Novena to the Divine Mercy*, a prayer which makes Christ’s intentions our own, we find Jesus desiring that we pray both for the faithful as well as those who have gone astray. Of those who do not believe in God, and those who do not yet know Him, Jesus tells St. Faustina, “I was thinking also of them during My bitter Passion, and their future zeal comforted My Heart.” There is a special prayer as well for those who have separated themselves from His Church, and He says of them: “During my bitter Passion they tore at My Body and Heart, that is, My Church. As they return to unity with the Church, My wounds heal and in this way they alleviate My Passion.” Oh, to soothe the sting of Your wounds even just a little, is this not reason enough to pray fervently for these souls?
But do not think that we only need to pray for those with their backs turned to Jesus and/or His Church. On the last day of the novena, Jesus asks that we pray for the souls who have become lukewarm, and of them He reveals: “These souls wound My Heart most painfully, My soul suffered the most dreadful loathing in the Garden of Olives because of lukewarm souls. They were the reason I cried out: ‘Father, take this cup away from Me, if it be Your will.’” The wound that cuts the deepest is not the heart that has turned away from God, but the heart content with feeling nothing. For anything. “For them, the last hope of salvation is to run to My mercy.”
I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord, but rather in his conversion, that he may live. –Ezekiel 33:11
Pray because you believe they will, by God’s grace, return to the fold. Pray because you hold on to Christ’s promise that He will grant whatever you ask for in His Name. Pray because you believe God loves them, too, and that a life of faith and love and growth in His Church is what He desires for them as well.
“In all your prayer and entreaty keep praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all God’s holy people, and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…” –Ephesians 6:18-19
To know what to say, we’ve got to get ready. But for hearts to hear the words, we must get down on our knees and pray for God’s Mercy.
*Excerpts taken from The Divine Mercy Booklet.
(Read the last installment of this series, The New Evangelization: Getting Dirty).