Father Girardey reminds us that virtues, which are good habits, normally take time and effort to develop and increase.
He writes: “Let us bear well in mind that, although God can work miracles without number, He, nevertheless, works them only exceptionally, when they contribute in a special manner to His glory. . . . Let us also remember that when the Saviour promised to grant us all we would pray for, He restricted His promise to all we would ask in His name, that is, to all that may be conducive to our salvation.”
“As to the Christian virtues which we are obliged to practice, such as humility and patience, we can depend on our prayers being heard by God for the help, the graces necessary to practice them. But we cannot expect God to grant them in their full perfection at once, for in the ordinary course of things, this would be a miracle. And why? Because the virtues are habits regulating our conduct. Naturally no habit can be acquired without oft-repeated acts during a longer or shorter period of time, which is usually many years; and a habit, even when already acquired, is still perfectible, that is, it can become always more and more perfect.”
“Let us, for instance, take the virtue of patience. . . . All trades and sciences and arts, like all habits, are naturally acquired by repeated acts performed for years, and so are all the virtues. It takes years to learn a trade, a science, an art perfectly, and even after years there is also plenty of room to become more and more perfect therein. We must say the same of the virtues. The saints made every exertion and prayed very much for the virtue of patience, and it took saints, like St. Francis de Sales, St. Alphonsus and others, twenty, thirty, forty or more years to acquire this virtue.”
“As you pray God every day to give you your ‘daily bread,’ and you nevertheless labor to earn it yourselves, so you should also pray daily to God to give you patience and, at the same time, exert yourselves in all earnestness to watch over yourselves to overcome yourselves to practice patience, and God will surely help you gradually to make daily some progress in practicing patience and acquiring that necessary virtue. Whilst praying for what is necessary for your salvation, be sure to do your share and in due course of time success will crown your efforts and your prayers.”
Quotations from Ferreol Girardey, Prayer: Its Necessity, Its Power, Its Conditions (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1916).