Have you ever felt like quitting? Maybe an exercise program, a novena, a diet plan, music lessons, a sports team, college, a marriage, a job, the Catholic Church, life?
Today's Gospel ends with Jesus saying, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.” And, fittingly, today's novena response is Pier Giorgio saying, "I beg you to pray for me a little, so that God may give me an iron will that does not bend and does not fail in His projects."
We need grace, a lot of it, to persevere in life along the narrow path. So many times, Pier Giorgio wrote to his friends begging for their prayers. It's beautiful, really, to see that he recognized the value of prayer, relied on it, was never afraid to ask for it. Oh, he had plenty of excuses to be a quitter. His parents did not have a good marriage and that made family life stressful. He was often told that he would never amount to as much as his sister who had completed her college degree before him. He didn't have a very strong spiritual upbringing in the home and the time he spent nourishing his soul in Eucharistic Adoration, attending Mass or serving the poor was often misunderstood.
But he was not a quitter. Toward the end of his life, he was even more determined to complete his final exams and thesis and said he would study "from morning until evening." Aware of his own shortcomings and the things that would prevent him from attaining his goal, he turned to the sources that he knew would sustain him. "I'm trusting in the Providence of God," he wrote to his friend Isidoro Bonini, "and also in the prayers of friends."
God had other plans for how things would turn out for Pier Giorgio; he died before completing his longed-for degree. Likewise, we cannot predict how our own undertakings will end. Regardless of the future outcome, our challenge is to be what we pray for in day six of the novena: "single hearted and completely, unswervingly, dedicated to proclaiming the kingdom of God here on earth." We do that by persevering in the vocations God has given us. We do that by being the best children, parents, students, athletes, weight-watchers, musicians, spouses, employees, Catholics, Americans, and so on. We do that by not quitting. We do that by relying on the Providence of God and the prayers of our friends. Verso l'alto!