“Ask, and it will be given to you.”

If in today’s parable Jesus gives us a lesson in spiritual perseverance, so in this weekend’s news a Russian Orthodox priest gives us a dramatic lesson in physical perseverance. News is just in on the BBC’s website that Father Konyukhov has broken the world record for solo flying a hot-air balloon around the world! He managed it in eleven days whereas the previous record was thirteen. There will have been many mentally challenging moments with so little sleep and being blown along sometimes at 120mph. He said he was scared as he flew over the Antarctic Ocean, “this place feels very lonely – no land, no planes, no ships…”  Yet he will have kept focus because of his experience. With information gleaned from The Catholic Herald, this is not Fr Konyukhov’s first world record as he currently holds another: the record for crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a rowing boat! He has also sailed around the world three times, reached the North and South Pole, and climbed Mount Everest, whereas I think I’m quite adventurous if I climb Ireland’s holy mountain, Croagh Patrick, which is one tenth the height of Everest! The skills and experience needed for all these physical wonders, such as Fr Konyukhov’s focus and perseverance, are first formed, first honed, in the spiritual life. The spiritual world also has its mountains and valleys, its frozen wastes and its storm-tossed seas, and the scriptures, pre-eminently in the words of Jesus of course but also in the writings of the saints, provide us with a sure guide. Even these, however, are of little use to us if we do not persevere in the living of faith and the first prerequisite for this is daily to ask our heavenly Father, as Jesus Himself urges us, for the gift of the Holy Spirit.    Fr Michael