These two words are ones which I have never used together, but yet are quite logical when describing the events in the life of Father Vincent de Paul Merle, O.S.C.O., Trappist missionary to Nova Scotia in the early 1800s. You can read all about it in Thomas Merton’s history of Cistercians and their foundations.
In our particular group, we discussed the tenacity and singlemindedness of Father Vincent as he overcame what seemed like crippling set-backs to establishing a monastery in Nova Scotia. Thomas Merton writes that tenacity is a Cistercian trait (p.87) and Father Vincent was certainly the most tenatious of them all.
In my Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I thought of how tenacious Christ must have been, beginning with the first instance we read about where he was lost to his mother and foster father but found himself to be singleminded in his mission in the Temple. I thought about how focused Mary, Mother of God, must have been to see her Son vilified, crucified, abandoned by his people, and even some Apostles, yet, being full of grace, unshaken by all these events because she knew the outcome for all of humanity. I thought of all the saints, those canonized for our emulation, and the many more who died in the hope of the Resurrection from the dead. Finally, I thought of myself and how I had to exhibit stubbornness and obsession to reach my goal of an advanced degree in Education. As I approach my last days, I have come to realize that I am much more obsessed and tenacious than ever before but with a difference. The object of my tenacity is not achieving wealth or power or adulation but rather to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5). Many elements about me try to tear me from my seeking God in daily living. All of them, some external to me (lack of the Eucharist and Liturgy of the Hours), and some internal (challenging me that I have lost my faith because I don’t go to church every day like I had done before) seeks to sidetrack me from my obsession. With the obsession of Christ as my energy, I will wobble into Heaven to receive whatever reward God has for this broken-down, old, temple of the Holy Spirit.
When I look at my situation in prayer and with some degree of humility, I compare myself to Christ, Mary, those who suffered great hardship and death to proclaim the Jesus is Lord of their lives. It is in this context as a Lay Cistercian that I have come to realize that tenacity is essential to the contemplative life of a layperson and how important it is for me to feel the same compulsion as did Father Vincent de Paul Merle all those years ago. I hear the words of St. Paul saying in Galatians 6, “Final Appeal.*11See with what large letters* I am writing to you in my own hand!i12* It is those who want to make a good appearance in the flesh who are trying to compel you to have yourselves circumcised, only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.j13Not even those having themselves circumcised* observe the law themselves; they only want you to be circumcised so that they may boast of your flesh.14But may I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which* the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.k15For neither does circumcision mean anything nor does uncircumcision,l but only a new creation.*16Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule* and to the Israel of God.m17From now on, let no one make troubles for me; for I bear the marks of Jesus* on my body.n18The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.o“
Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology