More than 10 years ago, I met with a Filipino who had grown up abroad, his mother and his uncle, about the young man’s possible entry into Ateneo and be part of the Blue Eagles varsity team in the UAAP. We came to an agreement on how he would prepare for the entrance test and the team tryouts.
As we walked out of the conference room in the sports center, the young man’s friend, a foreigner, waited. When the friend greeted us, I asked him, “How about you? Do you want to study and play?”
They both resettled in the country and prepared for the college entrance test and the team tryouts. The foreigner took a longer route, since he was less ready academically. He enrolled in another college, where he became the star of the basketball team.
He was a hardworking student and player. Eventually he was accepted into Ateneo as an irregular sophomore and soon tried out for the team.
In the tryouts he made it to the final 20, but the team could accommodate only 14.
When he went to see me, I asked, “How are you? How do you feel after the final cut?” Before I could say consoling words, he said, “Oh, there is always next year, Father. I just need to work harder to make it to the team.”
He added, “Father, I wanted to tell you how grateful I am. I never imagined life could be this good.”
He went on to explain that, had he stayed in his home country, he would not have had the chance to go to college.
In time he became a Blue Eagle and one of the team’s most dependable players. He graduated with good grades, met his future wife at Ateneo, and is now happily married with two kids, and has a good job.
When I read today’s Gospel and its lesson on persistence in prayer, this young man came to mind. He is the epitome of persistence. He always counted his blessings and lived his day-to-day life with gratitude.
Let us take off from a popular saying, “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa” (From God comes mercy—grace seems more appropriate here—and from man comes the effort). An English adage says the same: “God helps those who help themselves.”
The operative word is “persistence.” It is interesting to note the range of nuances that persistence covers—from perseverance, diligence or determination, it can go to the other extreme of doggedness, obstinacy or stubbornness. It can be a virtue or a fault, a blessing or a curse, especially for those who are being “harassed” by a persistent person.
Let us learn from the young man’s story of persistence, the foreigner who “accidentally” gained a second home and a new lease on life in the Philippines.
I knew him as a friendly, unassuming and laid-back person. But on the court I saw him transform into a hardworking, dependable and solid team player.
Call it a unity of purpose and action; or better yet, constancy. This man was constant from the time he was asked, “Do you want to study and play?”
Let us shift to what I discussed in a July 2013 article about persistence in prayer. Ignatius of Loyola was inspired to follow the saints in imitating and serving Christ. Founding a religious order was not Ignatius’ priority and, even when this was chosen as a path, he did not intend to go into education, which the Jesuits are most known for now.
Ignatius derived his consistency from the vow to serve Christ by saving souls, including his own, and to do all things for the greater glory of God. Many of the things Ignatius did were pioneering, and thus were “extraordinarily difficult tasks.”
The constancy of following Christ and of working for the greater glory of God is what gives constancy in prayer and in action.
Persistence and constancy in prayer lead to persistence and constancy in our word and deed. The latter wins for us more opportunities and we must—in the words popularized by the movie “Dead Poets’ Society”—“carpe diem” or seize the day, make the most of the blessings and grace that come our way.