I recently read an article entitled “Look to Our Lady. She’s Your Pillar,” featured in the National Catholic Register. It is an incredible article dealing with a Marian apparition of which I had never heard, that of Our Lady of the Pillar. St. James, after the death and resurrection of Christ, journeyed to Spain where he worked to spread the news of the gospel. However, there is a twist to this fairly cut and dried evangelization story — it didn’t work. Perhaps I shouldn’t presume to empathize with an apostle, but I know if it had been me, the self-doubt and frustration would have been overwhelming.
In the darkness of this doubt, Our Lady appeared to St. James, presenting him with a pillar, a statue, a mission and a command. She was the statue, standing upon the pillar made of jasper. The mission was to build a church, and the command was to … return to Jerusalem. When no progress had been made, when he had seemingly “failed” his mission of evangelization, she came to encourage him, to show her confidence by entrusting him with a task never before done in 36 A.D. — building churches to honor a mother who never gives up on us, and who, thank heaven, does not define success in merely human terms. She challenged St. James not to fall into the temptation of measuring his own success, since he was only to build the church and then return to Jerusalem for his eventual martyrdom. He was asked to trust that his efforts would bear fruit in time. And they did.
Now that midterms are over, we are hopefully collecting to our book bags and folders a stack of red-marked papers and Blue Books featuring prominent capital A’s. Yet, on the off chance that you have been sadly disillusioned as to the effectiveness of your study habits, your time management skills or the capacity of your brain, then perhaps you will find some comfort in the story of St. James.
Now that we are halfway through the semester, let’s make sure we have a pillar around which we can anchor ourselves. Let’s continue to build (or study, or apply, or laugh) so that, whether or not we have been successful up to this point, we may continue to strive for perfection until the end. And, in the chance that we are called to change directions to return to an old dream or take a new path, let’s pray that we can, with Flannery O’Connor, look back on all past less-than-perfect moments and, “with one eye squinted, take it all as a blessing.”