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A Plodding Perseverance

Here we are, half way through RB 18, On the Order in Which the Psalms are to be Said (not the most electrifying chapter), on the eve of the Thirtieth Sunday of the Year (not the most exciting celebration), with only the prospect of the clocks going back tonight to cheer the incipient gloom. Welcome to the joys of a plodding perseverance! Joy may be a bit of an overstatement, reminiscent of those relentlessly enthusiastic ambassadors for Christ who make one feel weak and wobbly in faith the moment thy ask, "Are you saved?" (Truthful answer, I don't know, I rely on the merits of my Saviour, but I haven't finally persevered yet.)

Perseverance is something Benedictines like to think they are good at doing. Indeed, every time a novice is formally questioned about her willingness to continue in the monastery, the ceremony is known as "The Novice's Perseverance". She has to ask permission to persevere, and it is only granted after she has received a little talk about the dura et aspera, the hard and difficult ways through which we go to God, usually made more memorable by a few observations about how the novice might pull her monastic socks up.

Plodding and perseverance seem to go together. We misprize them at our peril. Think for a moment how much of life would grind to a halt if we couldn't take for granted the fact that water will flow from our taps, electricity at the flick of a switch. We rely on others getting on with their jobs, day after day, and only become aware of how much we rely on them when something goes wrong (as with the postal strikes now). And let's not forget our families, friends and communities, the people to whom we behave the worst and who ultimately treat us the best (even when they are being maddening), simply because they acknowledge their connection with us. Every Benedictine I know prays daily for the grace of perseverance. It may not be something we think about very often, but it is not to be taken for granted.