A Lesson In Perseverance in Prayer
Marian T. Horvat, Ph.D.
Recently I received a moving letter from a 59-year-old man who was praying to Our Lady of Good Success. In it he stated:
"I especially prayed to her for two urgent spiritual favors because she promised to answer our prayers if we prayed to her in these times under the name of 'Our Lady of Good Success.' So I prayed very often, asking her to please grant the two favors for which I have been praying my entire adult life. She granted both within a few days of asking! I am so grateful to Our Lady for her help, and I don't tire of thanking her every day.
The testimony is a wonderful example of the infallibility of prayer.
"Now when I pray to Our Lady, it is always under her title of ‘Our Lady of Good Success.’ I am presently praying for the Poor Souls in Purgatory and for the quick restoration of our Catholic Church."
Perseverance: Condition for infallibility
While I regularly hear about the constant graces Our Lady is granting to petitioners, what was remarkable to me in this letter was the perseverance of the supplicant. Let’s see. He said that he is presently 59-years-old, and that he had been praying without ceasing for all his adult life for two favors. If we count the age of adulthood as 21, that would make 39 years that he has been petitioning Heaven for a response.
He didn't make just one novena, and then give up. He didn't become petulant and give up because his friend's prayers were answered and his weren't: "She only prayed one month and her prayers were answered. I've been praying ten years and you haven't been listening to me." He didn't put a limit on God's goodness: "I'll pray one more month, and if you haven't listened by then, well, I’ll stop." Such a disposition of soul is not the way to obtain mercy from God. It seems more likely the way to provoke His indifference.
Our Lady of Good Success promised to grant special graces to those who have recourse to her in these days
For we have the promise of Our Lord Himself that He would give us all that we ask of Him. He taught us this when He said: "Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you" (Luke 11:9). To doubt this promise is to question the word and integrity of Truth Himself.
Prayer is infallible, but what we often forget, or perhaps never learned, is that there are some important conditions attached to that infallibility. First, the object of our prayer must be lawful and for our good; second, our prayer must be followed by amendment of life; third, our prayer must be united with forgiveness of personal offenses received; fourth, our prayer must be humble, fervent, and confident, and fifth, we must persevere in our prayer.
The last point is where so many fail to pray aright. One can have so exalted an opinion of himself that if he knocks at the door of Heaven two or three times, he becomes indignant and upset if he is not heard. So he leaves in a huff.
The Saints were not so impatient or proud. Isaac prayed 20 years before his marriage was blessed with a child. For 17 years St. Monica beseeched Our Lord before she obtained the grace of conversion for her son Augustine. From age 8, St. Philippine Duchesne had a desire to evangelize the Indians in the Americas, but she was 71 before her prayer was realized. Our Lady promised St. Beatrice da Silva that she would found an order, but she had to wait, trust and pray almost 50 years before the promise was realized and she founded the Congregation of the Immaculate Conception. St. Philip Neri said that he prayed 20 years for the grace of closer union to God before his pleas were heard. If you read the lives of the Saints with an eye to this point, you will find countless other examples.
The right time and place
Let me return to the letter. My correspondent prayed for two favors for 39 years, continuously and with confidence. Then one day, two days into a novena of Our Lady of Good Success, his prayer was answered. Both favors were granted, completely.
What is the purpose of the normal wait one has to make for a prayer to be heard by Heaven? The Doctors of the Church provide many answers. St. Augustine tells us that God defers the granting of our wishes to increase our desire and appreciation of them once they are granted. St. Francis de Sales reminds us that God can keep us waiting to better try our confidence and to keep us near Him. St. Alphonsus de Ligori shows how, in His goodness, God delays in order to unite Himself more closely to us.
In this particular case, however, I turn to another reason given by St. John Vianney. He noted that when Divine Providence wants to make a particular Saint or devotion known, God permits special favors to be granted by this avenue. For example, the Cur of Ars helped to make St. Philomena known by encouraging everyone who came to him to pray to her – a saint who promoted a saint. Providence chose the nineteenth century and St. John Vianney to bring greater fame to the noble princess St. Philomena, who lived in the times of the catacombs.
The intercession of Our Lady speeds graces coming from Heaven to earth. Here are only a few examples. The Franciscans came to Mexico with Cortez in 1521, but their efforts to convert the natives met with little success until ten years later when Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared. After that, in just seven years, eight million Indians were converted through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who became the patroness of the Americas.
After the apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette at Lourdes, many miracles of healing began to follow in the restorative spring that miraculously appeared in that hitherto unknown village. Our Lady gave these proofs of her intercession because she desired to be known and prayed to at this time in History under the title of the Immaculate Conception.
Our Lady of Good Success appeared to a Conceptionist sister in Quito, Ecuador, in the early 17th century and made many prophesies about the great crisis that would install itself inside the Church in the 20th century. She forewarned that only now, 300 years later, would she become known, and that it was her desire to be known in our times when the light of Faith would almost appear to be extinguished in the Church. When all would appear to be lost, she promised her miraculous intervention and beginning of a happy restoration. Because it is her desire to be known and assist with her consolation in these difficult days, she promised her good success to those who prayed to her under the invocation Our Lady of Good Success.
For the practical minded who always follow the motto maximus in minimis (the greatest result in the shortest time), this would be reason enough to go to Our Lady of Good Success with their prayers. For those of a less pragmatic turn, who seek to find the way of Divine Providence in History, there is also reason to turn to Our Lady of Good Success as a special channel of grace that God wants to use and make known in this particular time.
The prayer for great things
Once again let me return briefly to the letter. It was edifying to read the new petitions my correspondent is now making to Our Lady of Good Success. His personal favors granted, he could easily, and perhaps naturally, turn to other matters of family, friends or finance. The small everyday matters that are so pressing and cogent: this son needs to receive a grace to return to the Church; this daughter needs a good husband to give her psychological stability; this relative has cancer and asks a cure; this friend is out of work and needs a job to sustain his family.
But my correspondent did not turn only to such legitimate prayers for family and friends. He wrote that he is now praying first and foremost for the Souls in Purgatory and the fast restoration of Holy Mother Church. These are great things; these are noble prayers. If we pray with confidence for small things, and they are given us, we can also be assured that if we pray with confidence for great things, those great things will be given us. It is a very heartening to see souls who, leaving aside personal and material concerns, make the center of their prayers the restoration of Holy Mother Church. The more souls who set themselves to such noble and disinterested supplications, the sooner will be the victory.
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