I'm writing to you today from the land of burn out from the middle of a novena to St. Monica. Things are occurring to me today, some crazy things that have either somehow never ever occurred to me before, or I have forgotten them so thoroughly that they now appear like bright, shiny, brand new thoughts.
Like the thought that St. Monica was likely burned out sometimes, too. Over the course of 30 years of praying for her son, she may have been burned out months or years at a time. Somehow I have this vision of her always complacently praying for her son. I'm pretty sure she was human, though, and would have had some of the same burn out that we all have, feeling like what she was doing was absolutely pointless. Why pray the same prayer over and over and over again with no results? God said "Ask and ye shall receive," yet for all her asking, she went years with no answer and received nothing. Well, I'm sure she received a great deal of grace, but she had to wait a long time for what she asked for.
Chances are good that she sometimes asked God why He wasn't listening. I'm sure there were times that she was so sick at heart that she could barely keep going with her prayers. Yet she did, and we all know of her faithfulness to this task she was given. Her love for her son and her trust in her Savior kept her going when she probably couldn't do it on her own. And then we all love the end of the story: not only did her son convert, but he became a great saint himself! Woohoo!
But wait. This story goes farther than I ever stopped to realize. Wikipedia states"[his] writings are considered very influential in the development of Western Christianity and Western philosophy." So, St. Monica's prayers not only had an effect on her son, but on all who were influenced by her son's life and writings. Just think! 30 years of persevering in prayer led to 1,627 years (so far) of contributing in a big and influential way to the fruit that is being borne out in the lives of the Church! Crazy, huh? God kind of exploded that His response to her prayer that has to be beyond anything she could have conceived of when she was praying. Not to mention how much her own example of perseverance helps those of us still in the trenches. And yes, it took a long time for Augustine to come around. But those 30 years and those experiences that he had prior to his conversion would have shaped a lot of how he saw the world, his thought processes and his writing.
Burn out is not fun, but it is a part of life. It's not easy to keep praying in the middle of it, but I learned a secret this weekend. I had so much to pray for and no idea how to even pray anymore. So I went to Adoration, and no shining light showed me the path to how to pray. But I realized something. I was there and He was there, and that was enough. So the secret that I learned was to show up. He's taking care of the rest.
My prayer in this novena is that all of us will fulfill our primary vocation to holiness. And that He will fulfill whatever our vocations are to religious life, marriage and family, etc, (either in bringing that about in our lives or helping us to always live it more fully and faithfully) but according to His will such that if He needs to use our pain and prayers for some sort of crazy explosion of grace that it will be done.