There are so many blogs on the internet so why another one. There are many answers but my answer is actually a few points: 1) in this so-called digital age it is important that if people are looking on the net and very few are not then I want to do what I can to put something “out there” that people can be encouraged by, formed well by and generally just be lifted up; 2) People find it very hard to connect what they hear from the pulpit or read in the Bible with their every day life. I want to at least try to help people bridge that reality. Scripture is packed with the greatest of all wisdom – from Genesis to Revelation. There is so much wisdom that we are all too often oblivious to and therefore we often feel like we are behind the proverbial eight-ball in our day-to-day living.
My intentions are somewhat ambitious but that seems to “be me.” I hope and pray that this helps even one person and maybe more. I may hop from subject matter to subject matter as I am impressed upon or affected by what I hear, see and read. This first blog has to do with a virtue that is in short supply these days and is badly needed: Patience! Everyone feels that lack of patience at times and all too often we hear ourselves losing our patience through grunts and groans and perhaps even through words than we would not want children to hear or put into social media posts where they will be for “virtual eternity” and may very well come back to embarrass and haunt us.
Patience – I’m going to tackle it and I hope to give you something to help you grow in being patient with God (yes, that is right … with God), yourself and others.
How often have you heard yourself saying to yourself or in confession “I have no patience” or some form of this —- ‘I have to be more patient with that person or this situation’ or ‘I have less and less patience as I get older’. Sometimes this is said quite flippantly but in many cases the person is quite disconcerted about this as the lack of patience – reflected in bad temper, giving up ventures and a whole host of things is really affecting them. It is helpful to talk about what patience is, what are the enemies of patience and how can we strive for patience.
I believe it to be true that when many people say ‘I really have to be patient with this person’ what they are thinking is that they have to have some sort of control over the irritation or anger that this person seems to cause within us. Hence – we tend to think of patience as some sort of serenity: the power of enduring trouble, suffering inconvenience, without complaining.
Or we might think of patience as some capacity to bear the delay of goods which do not come as fast as we would like: “I have to be patient before I save enough to buy a car.” This notion refers to the capacity to bear sacrifices for a long time until we attain a certain joy. Patience, here appears as the ability to wait for results, to deal with problems without haste.
There are attitudes about suffering that we have to be aware of but also be aware that they are attitudes that are false. The stoic attitude is one of endurance but only because it considers suffering inescapable no matter what you may do. The Buddhist attitude is one of eliminating suffering by killing any desire and thus any frustration or suffering. The attitude of apathetic inertia is that of the lukewarm person who prefers to remain in his situation because he thinks that any change will demand some effort or that he or she might end up in a worse situation. All of these lack something to make them virtuous because the subject does not endure suffering for the sake of an objective good, which is the goal of any virtue.
From a human point of view, patience is necessary for any person. Definitively, patience has to do with suffering. Patience – as a human virtue – could be defined as the capacity or habit of enduring evil, adversity, or pain with fortitude or courage. Patience as relate to fortitude adds serenity to the soul so that emotions can be controlled. Two elements basically define patience: the lasting or persistent presence of suffering and the serenity to endure it without giving up or getting angry.
Now it is important to unveil – or define – what is characteristic of Christian patience. What is important to understand for the Christian are the following:
• From the kind of evil that is endured
• From the power used to endure and,
• From the motivation of the person enduring evil.
The human virtue of patience encounters suffering as anything contrary to one’s liking. Christian patience faces the suffering that comes from being or acting as a genuine Christian.
In human patience we rely on sheer will power or self-control of negative emotions to overcome difficulties. A person moved by Christian patience relies also on the power of God’s grace. This supernatural power enables us to take with serenity whatever long suffering may come or be demanded in order to accept or carry out God’s will. And so real patience is not merely a passive disposition but more of an active disposition to accept God’s will and God’s ways.
The motivation of human and Christian patience is also different. In human patience a person is motivated by the hope of obtaining a certain natural good or joy. Christian patience is motivated by the three theological virtues, faith, hope and charity. The person wants to please God and attain Him or his blessings.
And so we can state the definition of Christian patience to be: a part of the virtue of fortitude – is the virtue that enables a person to bear physical and moral sufferings, trying circumstances, and obstinate personalities without sadness of spirit or dejection of heart, but with equanimity born of love of God.
Patience is not something that comes all at once. There are degrees to this virtue. Five main stages can be distinguished in a person who is growing in patience:
1) Resignation without complaint or impatience with respect to the crosses that the Lord sends us or permits us to endure
2) Peace and serenity in the face of affliction, without the sadness or depression that sometimes accompany mere resignation.
3) Acceptance of God’s will and God’s ways, which lead us to desire and accept whatever cross comes our way.
4) Total and complete joy for being associated with God in the mystery of the Cross.
5) The folly of the Cross, which made St. Paul feel strong in his suffering while preaching Christ crucified; what looks as foolishness to men, is really the wisdom of God:
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God … For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Cor 1:18, 22-25)
The enemies of patience are basically twofold: 1) falling into discouragement and sadness; b) falling into anger. By the first we stop from pursuing the good, by the second we try to get rid of a necessary suffering in the wrong way. In pursuing the good – trying to do the right thing – we all have to face the three enemies of the soul: the world, the flesh and the devil. Thus, facing failure, one needs the virtue of patience to react at once against sadness, and avoid drifting into discouragement.
A person may also respond to a present evil by over-reacting and getting angry with everyone; anger is another outlet for impatience. Impatience triumphs when we allow the trials of everyday life to dominate us; thus, we resort to grumbling, complaining, constant bickering, and to fits of bad temper.
How to Grow in Patience
As with any other supernatural virtue we need the light and power of grace along with our human effort in order to grow in patience. And so we need to pray (the prayer of petition) in order to receive God’s grace and strengthen our resolve to acquire patience.
As well we need meditative prayer in order to discern with the Lord whether He wants us to change or solve the cause of suffering, or instead, to accept it; this is meditative prayer. Then we have to ask the Lord either for courage to change the cause or patience to endure the suffering we cannot change. Think about the Serenity Prayer here.
In the case of persons who resist our efforts to help them change, we need also reflective prayer on the meaning of Christian suffering and how to go about it. We need to reflect on God’s patience with sinners, on the life, passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can also learn from the saints as to how they dealt with difficult situations in their lives. Reading a good article of a biography of a saint can do more good than you might imagine. It has brought about the conversion of many people – e.g., Edith Stein, Ignatius of Loyola.
We all know – or should know – that none of this (patience) is or will be possible unless we have a resolve, a determined effort to beseech God for his grace and use the sources we have in order to do that (the different kinds of prayer, scripture, the saints) along with a persevering effort on our part.
If we are willing to do this then we can be assured that we will grow in patience and the very fact that it will not come all at once will prove that we are determined to grow in this all important virtue – of patience.
Sourced from Charles Belmonte, Patience: The Path to Victory