By Jenny Senour
Theology of the Body on catholicexchange.com
“Heroic patience.” I first heard the term uttered by a friend who was struggling through a breakup. We’ve all been there, but her take on the situation was unique in that her sorrow was overlaid with a deep, deep peace and resignation.She was sad, but she wasn’t desolate. As we sat sipping wine and hashing out the details, it was clear that while her trust in the relationship was shaken, her faith in God was holding steady.
I remember being intrigued by her response, by the fact that in the face of disappointment and sadness, she remained hopeful in a manner that didn’t detract in any way from her grief.
This, I thought, this must be how a Christian suffers. Not by rejecting the pain, but by embracing it while allowing oneself to be embraced by the One who can handle something as large as disappointment, as heavy as heartache, as overwhelming as anguish.
I had recently been released back into the wild myself, and my response had been one of starts and fits of prayerful surrender interspersed with moments of real anger and frustration with God. Why? Because He wasn’t playing by my rules.
In my frustration, I forfeited what might have been some of the sweetest moments of consolation by turning my back on the only One who could possibly have comforted me. I learned a lot - but not by choice - and certainly not in the same gracious manner that I was witnessing in my beautiful, heartbroken friend.
That’s when she shared with us this concept of heroic patience. The kind of patience St. Monica must have possessed, sanctified by (and in turn, sanctifying) her decades of intercession for her wayward son. St. Augustine’s conversion was that much sweeter for the years of waiting, and how much grace was won by his mother’s prayers!
So we find that sometimes - oftentimes - in the darkest hours, during the most painful episodes, that God is most available, because we are most available. It’s no accident that pain brings us to our knees, what you do once you get there is the real question.
My friend chose to wait, patiently and prayerfully, and to trust the One who could see the bigger picture, confident that her prayers were heard and would be answered at the perfect time. This weekend, when she walks down the aisle to meet her future spouse, the very man who broke her heart all those months ago, she’ll do so in confidence and with a joy perfected in suffering. The road hasn’t been easy, but then, in the words of a very wise man, the road to Calvary wasn’t paved.
“The essential goal of the love of Christ [and of husband for wife] for the Church is her sanctification.” ~ Theology of the Body, 91:5-5
“Christ loved the Church and gave himself for her, in order to make her holy.” ~ Eph. 5:25-26