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When it Comes to Prayer, Perseverance is the Key to Success

May 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Book Club, Dan Burke, Vicki Burbach

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Perseverance in Prayer

Into the Deep (Week 2 of 4)

Without prayer we will inevitably drift from the sacraments and become mired in sin and narcissism; we will be distracted from the most important things in life and our ability to hear and respond to God will become dulled. – Into the Deep (Introduction, Paragraph 12)

Over the years I've read dozens of book on Catholic spirituality. Maybe even hundreds. Of all the books on all the ins and outs of life as a Catholic Christian, there are, understandably, a few that absolutely changed my life. One of them may surprise you, because technically it is not a book of instruction at all, but rather a record of sorts – a diary – chronicling one man's journey to holiness.

A Journal of a Soul is a must read for anyone seeking union with God. Written by Pope John XXIII…Correction. Written by Saint John XXIII, Journal of a Soul is the most comprehensive diary we have to date of any pope in history, much less a saint. Beginning his written discussion with God in his early teens, Saint John XXIII continued documenting his resolutions, intentions and actions in his spiritual journal throughout his lifetime, even into the latter years of his papacy. This man's recorded correspondence with the Good Lord spanned more than sixty-nine years.

What that book taught me, more than any other is the sanctity is a process. I learned that prayer is not always easy, for anyone. But that it is essential. Saint John XXIII taught me that when it comes to prayer, perseverance is the key to success. That prayer, and by extension, holiness, is truly an act of the will. But importantly, I learned that the will is not an instantaneous force; rather, it can be trained. And that training may take a lifetime.

Here are a few passages from entries over just one week of Journal of a Soul:

21 July, 1898
Today again I let my thoughts wander a great deal during the rosary. At this rate I shall certainly not please Mary, and what then?

22 July, 1998
Is it really quite impossible for me to keep my thoughts from wandering during the rosary? We shall see again tomorrow.

24 July, 1898
Generally speaking, it is true that I have yet to do even one thing really well, for example, a devout recitation of the holy rosary, etc. Indeed, today, even a visit to the Blessed Sacrament suffered a little.

26 July, Tuesday
I must not let myself be overcome by drowsiness before midday, as happened to me this morning. So tomorrow, also, in homage to Our Lady, I will try to recite the rosary less carelessly than I did today…

These entries are reflective of much of the book. Over and over and over again, this man failed. But did he give up? No. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, he continued his efforts.

He was canonized three years ago this spring.

Do you know this means? It means there's hope for the rest of us!! It means that the key to holiness isn't our upbringing. It isn't our intelligence level. It isn't our income. It isn't about our level of discipline. It is about our willingness to persevere!!! We must never give up. We must never stop trying.

Mother Teresa said,

“God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.”

I always assumed this quote had something to do with our success in the political or social arena. But this speaks to our prayer lives as well. If only we stay the course, we can rest assured that His grace will be abundant.

That grace is visible in the life of Saint John XXIII. Late in his life, he wrote beautiful meditations on the rosary. And he drew on his past challenges to serve His Church on the occasion. Here is an excerpt from his Apostolic Letter on The Holy Rosary:

These simple notes, which come from our heart, may be found useful to many who are particularly desirous to overcome the monotony of mere recitation: they are useful and timely thoughts for the heightening of personal piety and for giving more fervor to our prayer for the salvation and peace of man. – Journal of a Soul, p. 362

Dan Burke wisely tells us that the first step in prayer is “Understanding, embracing and living the reality revealed by St. John that ‘he first loved us' (1 John 4:19).” The Second step is to begin praying!


If you've been procrastinating because you want to do it “right,” then stop now and offer your heart to God. If you already have a prayer life, but you are frustrated because you constantly get distracted or frustrated in prayer, then do what Saint John XXIII did – keep praying. Don't let your setbacks derail you. Just as he said, those setbacks, the frustrations, all the distractions – they were merely a means of helping you to grow in piety.


Reading Assignment:

Part 3-4

Discussion Questions:

1. How does perseverance manifest itself in your everyday life – particularly in your prayer life?

2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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