I stood outside the grocery store for an hour yesterday waiting to get inside. It was cold—cold enough to snow. Worse, I was wearing sandals, because I forgot (again) that our “new normal” means you can't get from your vehicle to the store in thirty seconds anymore. As my toes slowly froze over, I overheard the woman in front of me mumble a question to the grocery store clerk—a question that had no chance of reaching his ears between the face mask she was wearing and her six feet of social distance. The clerk rolled his eyes, and beneath my own mask, I grimaced.
This “new normal” isn’t easy. We know the inconvenience of face masks, social distancing, and hand washing is worth it; we know we would sacrifice much more than this to protect another human life. But we also know that our world has been turned upside-down in a matter of weeks, and it’s hard to cling to ideals when your toes are freezing. Or you’ve lost your job. Or someone you love is sick.
We need a hero in moments like this. Mine is Saint Paul. His résumé of suffering is impressive:
Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea… in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure… Who is weak, and I am not weak?” (2 Corinthians 11:25, 27, 29)
And yet, Paul still bursts forth in praise: “I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Paul doesn’t minimize his suffering or despise his weakness, because he knows that this is precisely what makes his relationship with Jesus Christ possible. His weakness is why he needs a Savior. His impatience, anxiety, and agony give Jesus permission to be the true Lord of his life, and Paul to be… well, Paul.
With Jesus and Paul, we too can claim the inconvenience and frustration of these days as a gift. When we tire of social distancing, standing in line, or making the kids wash their hands (again), we may be tempted to think it’s all for nothing—and slowly but surely take shortcuts in our routines. Or maybe we try to suppress our impatience because “others have it worse” which, while true, won’t help us live the unique situation God has entrusted to us with any more dignity or intentionality.
In these moments, Saint Paul urges us to boast of our weakness before the Lord.
The saints are not impervious to frustration or impatience. Rather, they turn to the Lord at the slightest inconvenience and say, “Look, I can’t even suffer this without losing my peace. Help me, Jesus. I need you to do this in me, so it will be done properly, that is, with Love and for love.”
So the next time you line up outside the grocery store, stand with Saint Paul. Boast of your weakness with him. Ask Christ to redeem your limitations and impatience by His grace. Then, let the “power of Christ” get to work through your thoughts, words, and actions. Here are some ideas:
- Pray the Rosary for the people you are standing with. Look at each person and entrust them and their needs to the Blessed Mother.
- Talk to God about your day
- Thank God for the gift of inconvenience—for the ability to share, even in a small way, the sufferings of your brothers and sisters around the world.
- Smile at people (with your eyes and a slight nod of your head, if your face is covered!)
- Allow an older person to go in front of you in line
- Thank the grocery store staff for their service and efforts to keep people safe
- Buy some extra items for your local food pantry, your pastor, or a neighbor in need
Prayer for Patience
Glorious Saint Paul,
from a persecutor of Christianity,
you became a very ardent and zealous apostle,
and suffered imprisonment, scourging, stoning, shipwreck,
and endured persecutions of every kind,
in order to make the Savior Jesus Christ known
to the farthest bounds of the world.
In the end you shed your blood to the last drop.
Obtain for us the grace to accept the infirmities, afflictions, and misfortunes
of the present life as favors of the divine mercy,
so that the vicissitudes of this our exile
may not make us grow cold in the service of God,
but may make us ever more faithful and more fervent.
by Sr. Amanda Detry, FSP
Find resources for sheltering in place at paulinestore.com. Free shipping online till April 29.
image: Wikimedia Commons