There is not one person in the world who could say that he does not need the virtue of patience. Jesus said: By your patience you will save your soul. Given that this virtue is universal and not easy to attain, that will be our topic for conversation in this brief article!
PATIENCE FOR WHO? You might stop and look at your life and ask the question: with whom, where, and when do I need the virtue of patience? Not to be overly simplistic, but I believe we can narrow this question to three distinct categories. We have to be patient with others—those we meet, those we live with, those we work with, those we associate with, those with whom we come into contact either frequently or less frequently. Then, another very important category or person with whom we must exercise constant and infinite patience—and that is with ourselves, yes, with ourselves! Finally, and this last Person with whom we must practice patience may not be as obvious at first thought, is GOD!!!
This being said, we must be keenly aware of the hard and cruel fact that people will rub us the wrong way, get on our nerves, provoke us, exasperate us, and sometimes simply drive us bananas—to put it bluntly! As you read this article, I am sure that you have some person in mind, more likely, some persons in mind! Certain idiosyncrasies of others—their tone of voice, the pace they move at, their facial expression, the words they use or fail to use, drive you up the wall or almost drive you crazy! We all know these people, have had contact with them, and probably do even right now! What then are we going to do to remedy this predicament?!
Easier said than done—the solution to this problem of patience with the person or persons that seem to be simply intolerable! Let us offer three simple suggestions that can be invaluable!
First, PRAYER! Jesus says that we have to pray, and not simply for those people whom we see as charming, attractive, likeable, holy and unblemished—as if these people really do exist anyway!!! No! We must pray for all people because they were created by a loving God, and God wants all of humanity to form a family in which the virtues of love, compassion, mercy, and respect reign supreme! Jesus says very clearly that we have to even pray for our enemies, as He taught us on the cross: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.
Second, HUMILITY! Be humble in the midst of your dislike of this person who drives you up the wall due to the many defects that you observe in him. Remember and call to mind your own many defects, which might be more serious in the eyes of God than those of the person that you really cannot stand! God loves the humble, but rejects the arrogant and proud. When tempted to look down on this person, call to mind one of your most egregious failures or sins and God’s mercy towards you. This will help you to be more compassionate, kind, and PATIENT toward this intolerable person!
Third, AGERE CONTRA! put into practice what Saint Ignatius of Loyola teaches in the course of the Spiritual Exercises and it is the concept of AGERE CONTRA!!! This is a short Latin phrase which literally means to go against! Therefore, when you are tempted to be impatient, unkind, cold or downright mean to this person who presses your buttons, do the opposite. A smile, a kind word, a nice gesture, or even giving a gift—all this is difficult but very pleasing to God! This conquering of self, though difficult, is possible and once done a true sign of the victory of God’s grace in your life!
Fourth, PATIENCE WITH YOURSELF! Now what about patience with oneself??? Those who are so-called perfectionists will always end up defrauded, especially with themselves. Why? For the simple reason that we live in a complex and very imperfect world, better yet a sinful world! Only God is perfect and all of humanity is composed of sinners, hopefully on the pathway of conversion! The Bible teaches us that the just man falls seven times a day. Jesus says that we must forgive those who offend us not seven times, but 70 times seven times.
In other words, even though we have to be constantly fighting to overcome our sinful tendencies, as well as sin itself in our lives, we should strive never to give in to impatience at our many falls, much less discouragement. Indeed, the saints teach us that after sin itself, discouragement is mortal enemy number one! Patience: name it and claim it!
The Founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, Venerable Bruno Lanteri expressed it in two short words, and these two words say it all! NUNC COEPI!!! Meaning: NOW I BEGIN!!! In other words, after we fall or fail in one way or another, we should get up, dust ourselves off, launch ourselves into the loving arms of God the Father (the image of Saint Therese of Lisieux), and simply start anew! We should trust more in God’s grace than in our human weakness remembering the words of the great Apostle Saint Paul: When I am weak, it is then that I am strong! The newly canonized saint, the Missionary of California, Saint Junipero Serra coined this immortal phrase: Siempre Adelante, siempre Adelante y nunca atras! Translation: Always forward, always forward and never turn back!!! Therefore, when we do fall (and no doubt we will fall!!!) we should never give in to discouragement, but rather trust less in ourselves and more in God’s power in our lives! In other words, less self-reliance and more God-reliance! With the Psalmist let us exclaim: Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth!
Fifth, PATIENCE WITH GOD! Finally, the last Person and the most important Person to be patient with is God Himself! This may surprise many who in their hearts might be thinking: I have never been impatient with God! O really! Have you ever prayed to God and not been answered according to your criteria? Have you ever asked God to help you in sickness and suffering and it seemed as if God was not listening, absent, or totally indifferent to your situation? Has it ever happened that you made a novena to God, to Mary, or to one of God’s angels or saints and the request made was not answered; instead, your situation seemed to get even worse? Has it ever happened that you prayed for the conversion of somebody and absolutely nothing seemed to happen? Has it ever happened in your life that you begged God with faith for the mountain to be moved, and when you got up the following morning the mountain had not moved or budged a millimeter? With these so called prayers or petitions and unresolved problems or aggravating circumstances where it seemed as if God really did not care, was indifferent, or even uninterested in your sorrowful plight, there is a good chance that you became impatient with God to the point of even becoming angry at God. This plight is more common than we are aware of!!!
What then is the response to this predicament? Very simply the following! Our God is a God of infinite love! Our God is a God of infinite Wisdom! However, the mind of God is not the mind of man. His ways far transcend and supersede ours, in knowledge, wisdom, love, and planning. We can barely see beyond our own nose and we live only in a specific moment of time. Not so with God! He lives in the eternal present. For an infinite and eternal God, the past, present, and future are all the same. This being said, for the sake of our conversion, sanctification, perseverance in grace, and eternal salvation, God’s plans and decisions will not always meet with our criteria. However, we must believe in God’s loving and providential design! All God does for you individually, personally, socially, and spiritually is always—in the broad and panoramic perspective and in the light of eternity—for your good. Therefore, strive never to be impatient with God but trust Him, trust totally and humbly in His infinite love for you and providential care. Beg Our Lady, who stood beneath the cross watching Jesus suffer and die, to have great trust and patience in God’s plan for your life!
Father Ed Broom, OMV, is Associate Pastor of St. Peter Chanel Church in Hawaiian Gardens, California. He is a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary and was ordained by Saint John Paul II on May 25, 1986. Fr. Ed teaches Catholic Ignatian Marian Spirituality through articles, podcasts, a radio show, retreats and spiritual direction.