A woman talking to the Lord in prayer, begged the Lord for a very special virtue that she sorely needed, and this was the content of her concise but almost desperate prayer: “Lord I beg you, Lord I truly beg you, give me patience and right now!!!” I think we can all identify with the heartfelt prayer of this woman begging for a virtue that we all need on a daily basis, probably even on an hourly basis. So important is this virtue that Jesus said: “By your patience you will save your souls.” (Lk 21:19) All of us must strive to practice patience, but of primary importance, and Saint Ignatius of Loyola insists on this, we must beg for the grace from God to be patient.
Therefore, we would like to offer a brief strategy, a clear and practical program on how we can eventually, with the help of God’s grace which is never lacking, attain that most important and most needed virtue of PATIENCE. With God’s grace all is possible. Or if you like: “Nothing is impossible with God!” (Lk 1:37)
1. GOD’S INFINITE AND PERMANENT LOVE. Most of us have heard this countless times, such that it may seem trite, a hackneyed phrase, a pious platitude, a common cliché, however, this short but most profound Biblical truth must descend from our head to our heart and it is this: GOD REALLY AND TRULY LOVES ME!!! Most certainly we have heard and read this truth numerous times, but maybe it is like water running off a duck’s back in that it has never really sunk into the depths of our heart. In a word, are we really convinced not only that GOD IS LOVE, but also that this God of love has an infinite and permanent love for me in all times, all places, and all circumstances! And yes, it must be stated, God loves me even when I fail Him due to my moral failures that we call sin. Jesus came not for the perfect but for the sinners, and all of us fall into that category or group. As Saint Paul so clearly reminds us in Romans: “Where sin abounds, the mercy of God abounds all the more.” (Rom 5:20) Therefore, pray and meditate upon this most simple but profound truth: God really does love me always and without limitations. His love is both eternal and infinite! This is our Great God!
2. CONTEMPLATE THE CRUCIFIX. In the life of Saint John Bosco in the context of the Oratory, his mother, Margarita, stayed with him to help with so many household details in the midst of rambunctious teen boys. However, she had reached her limit with the disorder and high-energy of these mischievous teens, and had her bag packed, ready to return to her home. Father John Bosco, her son, said nothing, only lifted his finger to the wall where there was a crucifix, with Jesus hanging from it. After gazing upon Jesus hanging and suffering on the cross, Mama Margarita understood how much Jesus loved these abandoned youths and how Jesus wanted Margarita to practice patience. Thereupon, this holy woman and mother of a saintly priest dropped her baggage and spent the rest of her life assisting John Bosco with the youth! Therefore, in your life, when it seems as if the cross you are carrying is unbearable, lift up your eyes to contemplate Jesus hanging on the cross, loving all of humanity and patiently enduring the pain for all. You will receive a special grace to practice patience.
3. BEG FOR THE GRACE. Saint Augustine states: “We are all beggars before God.” That means we are all in dire need of God’s help at all times and in all places because we are very weak. It is so true that we are weak; however, God is strong. As the Psalmist reminds us: “Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 124:8) Even the great Apostle Paul cried out: “When I am weak, it is then that I am strong.” (2 Cor 12:10) After begging the Lord to remove the thorn in his flesh, Saint Paul was told by the Lord: “My grace is sufficient!” (2 Cor 12:9) Indeed, if we beg the Lord for the grace to be patient, He will rush to our aid. God hears and responds to a humble, pure, and persevering prayer!
4. MAKE THE WAY OF THE CROSS. On one occasion, I was speaking to a Spiritual Director and he made this comment: “When I find myself in a state of desolation, when things appear to be dark, dreary, and hopeless, I make the Stations of the Cross and inevitably the desolation disappears.” I believe this can be applied to patience. When you feel as if the weight of the cross is unbearable, not able to be supported for another minute, then slowly walk the Way of the Cross with the Lord and you will receive renewed strength and vitality! With Saint Francis of Assisi may we pray: “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.”
5. HONEST CONVERSATION WITH JESUS, MARY, AND SAINT JOSEPH. Our prayer, to be authentic, must be honest. Indeed, if it is such that we find our life situation very difficult, to the point of being almost impossible, then it is time to sit down in front of Jesus, and you might invite Saint Joseph and Mary to be present, and then pour out your heart to your Best Friends—Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph. Jesus said: “Unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” (Mt 18:3) Take for a model, if you like, the movie Marcelino Pan Y Vino, also known as The Miracle of Marcelino (1955 version). This little boy with holy abandon opens up to Jesus, expressing the deepest desire in his heart as well as his greatest suffering—the lack or absence of the love of a mother, and his great desire to have one—he unloads to Jesus. Jesus hears the little boy and accedes to his request. So must we be like a little child, so must we imitate the holy abandon, trust, and simplicity of Marcelino, and tell the Lord how difficult it is at times to bear the cross and beg for the sorely needed patience. The Lord, Mary, and Saint Joseph will not delay in coming to your assistance!
6. MEDITATE AND CONTEMPLATE UPON HEAVEN—YOUR ULTIMATE DESTINY. It must be stated with bold truth: we do not meditate or contemplate enough on the reality of heaven. Our life is very short, like the flower that rises in the morning and withers and dies as the sun goes down or like smoke blown by the wind. Saint Augustine states that our life in comparison with eternity is a mere blink of the eye. Our Lady of Fatima said that if humanity would only meditate upon eternity, they would be converted immediately! We must meditate upon the shortness of our life, the purpose of our life, and the eternal reward that awaits us. The simple Catechism teaches us this eternal truth: “We are here on earth to know God, love God, and serve God, so that we will be with Him forever in heaven.” Even the greatest crosses and sufferings can be supported if we meditate more often upon Heaven—its joy, rewards, and reality! Saint Paul breaks out with this radiant and consoling truth: “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the mind of man the wonderful things that God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor 2:9) The thought of Heaven can attain for us patience, patience, and even more patience!!!
7. OFFER IT UP, DO NOT WASTE IT! Of course, the whole concept and virtue of patience is related to suffering. Our patience can be tried with respect to our health, finances, social conflicts, family problems, academic or work challenges or failures, ruptured relationships, mental and emotional turmoil and uncertainties of all kinds—all of these and more can put our patience to the test! However, instead of complaining and becoming bitter over your crosses, why not accept the crosses, beg for patience to carry them, and offer the crosses as well as your patient endurance to God for the conversion and salvation of sinners—there are many out there who need special graces, even in our own families! With this supernatural view or perspective, the crosses become lighter and patience comes easier. Try it! Lift up your mind and cultivate a more supernatural vision of your life and your crosses, and their eternal value!
8. DON’T HIDE IT, BUT SHARE IT. One of the key aspects of Ignatian Spirituality is that in our spiritual life, we are not made to be loners, rugged individualists, like the pioneer, Daniel Boone. On the contrary, to make it to heaven, we have to learn to work with others; we must have some form of spiritual direction or accompaniment to persevere until the end in our spiritual journey. Of capital importance for our spiritual progress is the need to have a spiritual director and to be able to open up with great humility, trust, and transparency, especially when the crosses seem heaviest and our patience is really being put to the test. You might be surprised that once you have unloaded, articulated, and expressed your cross and your need for patience to your spiritual director, how the cross seems to diminish in size and the patience that seemed almost impossible is indeed very possible. Jesus said: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Mt 11:30)
9. THREE AREAS WHERE WE MUST ESPECIALLY BE ON GUARD AND BEG FOR THE GRACE. Jesus said: “By your patience, you will save your souls.” (Lk 21:19) A good part of our spiritual victory can be achieved through awareness, vigilance, self-knowledge, and a Daily Examen. In our short lives there will usually be three areas where we most need patience: 1) with God, 2) with others, and 3) with ourselves. Let us briefly address these three areas. First, with respect to God, possibly it has happened to you that you have been praying to God for something and it seems that He is not listening. Nothing could be further from the truth! God always hears us, but He often makes us wait so that we can grow in the two virtues of patience and prayerfulness. Saint Monica prayed for more than 30 years for the conversion of her family! But it happened—not only was her son, Augustine, converted, but also her husband and mother-in-law! With respect to patience with others, of great help might be the simple reminder of our own faults and sins, and how patient God has been with us. So should we be patient with the limitations of others. Finally, Saint Frances de Sales insists that we must be patient with ourselves. Scripture says: “The just man falls seven times a day, but rises again.” (Prov 24:16) Saint Junipero Serra was famous for saying: “Siempre Adelante, Siempre Adelante y nunca atras.” (“Always forward, always forward and never look back.”) The Founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, Venerable Bruno Lanteri coined the two word axiom: NUNC COEPI—meaning that if I fall, I will get up as many times as need be and try again trusting in God’s infinite patience, mercy, and love. Indeed, as the Psalmist teaches us: “God is slow to anger and rich in kindness.” (Ps 103:8)
10. MARIA COGITA, MARIA INVOCA… THINK OF MARY AND INVOKE MARY. Once again, a hallmark of the spirituality of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary is a tender, total, and unlimited trust in the presence, power, prayer, perseverance, and purity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the prayer, the Memorare, Saint Bernard offers us these most consoling words: “O most gracious Virgin Mary, never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided…” Why not form this habit, consecrate your days to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. However, during the course of the day, especially during trials and tribulations when the cross seems most heavy, lift up your eyes and call upon the Holy Name of Mary. As a most loving and tender Mother, she will never fail you!