The Cross of Patience
We have all heard the saying, “Patience is a virtue.” It is either said in a moment of spiritual discussion or at the worst time when we feel impatience building in our souls. Patience can be extremely hard to master, since it involves a mix of many of the other virtues. Patience involves humility, conformity to God’s will, charity if involving others, and many other virtues depending on the circumstance. What we must realize is that to master patience we must trust completely in God and the strength He can give us, as well as have an understanding with ourselves. We may fall, or become impatient unnecessarily, but the best way to build up a virtue is to be humble and always learn from our mistakes. Our Lord will be there for us no matter what, and is eagerly waiting for us to start our journey to virtue.
Patience is especially difficult now in our modern world because we are so used to being satisfied right away with our smart phones, Internet, and "likes" on social media. But patience always comes with time, and if we trust in God and have confidence in His grace, we will be able to grow in every virtue we need to become saints.
Frequent prayer as well as taking time to visit Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament will especially help. St. John Bosco once said: “Do you want our Lord to give you many graces? Visit Him often. Do you want Him to give you few graces? Visit Him seldom. Visits to the Blessed Sacrament are powerful and indispensable means of overcoming the attacks of the devil. Make frequent visits to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament and the devil will be powerless against you.” If we put our trust in God, He will return the favor.
The first point to work on when trying to master patience is humility. Just like pride is the source of all vice, humility is at the heart of every virtue. St. Thomas of Villanova speaks of this: “Humility is the mother of many virtues because from it obedience, fear, reverence, patience, modesty, meekness and peace are born. He who is humble easily obeys everyone, fears to offend anyone, is at peace with everyone, is kind with all.”
Firstly, we need to turn to God with humility if we are ever going to be patient. In the moment, a situation that can stir up impatience can be extremely difficult to deal with, but if we turn our eyes to God, we are brought out of the world and into His heavenly arms. The restrictions of our life on earth will then seem insignificant to the eternal love our eyes are now fixed upon. Such situations will be easier to offer up, and with time such acts of love will bring us great joy. Saying this, it makes more sense when we hear the saying from St. Francis de Sales: “The highest point of humility consists in not merely acknowledging one's abjection, but in taking pleasure therein, not from any want of breadth or courage, but to give the more glory to God's Divine Majesty, and to esteem one's neighbour more highly than one's self.”
When we hear the saints talking about things like abjection, it can often be discouraging to us. But growth in humility will show that through looking down on ourselves, we are really looking down on our fallen human nature and the faults that come along with it. Humility frees us from the faults we obtained through Adam and Eve, and lifts us up to Divine perfection.
The second part of this patient humility is having a perfect understanding of our faults and failings. A remembrance of our faults should neither discourage nor worry us, but be an opportunity to offer up everything we have gone through to Our Lord, as a plea for help and prayer for His assistance. In moments where we have been impatient, we should simply be aware of what we should improve on, and move on. Being impatient with ourselves to be patient will not help in the least! By this humility, we will grow in patience with ourselves constantly, even when we are struggling.
Another point to take into consideration is that the moments we are struggling to be patient will be part of the past before we know it. Keeping Heaven forever before our eyes will help with this, as well as the hope that God will not give us any suffering that is too great for us.
St. Ignatius says: “If God gives you an abundant harvest of trials, it is a sign of great holiness which He desires you to attain. Do you want to become a great saint? Ask God to send you many sufferings. The flame of Divine Love never rises higher than when fed with the wood of the Cross, which the infinite charity of the Savior used to finish His sacrifice. All the pleasures of the world are nothing compared with the sweetness found in the gall and vinegar offered to Jesus Christ. That is, hard and painful things endured for Jesus Christ and with Jesus Christ.”
When we die and hopefully go to Heaven, all the merit we have gained while on earth will determine on which level in Heaven we will be (of course, all those in Heaven enjoy the Beatific Vision, but those who were especially close to God will receive even greater rewards). Are we not then willing to go through any kind of suffering here on earth in order to store up greater treasures in Heaven? We only have a limited time on earth, so if we feel impatient or are struggling with a situation, we must remember it is a perfect opportunity to sanctify ourselves and merit infinite and eternal rewards in Heaven.
Finally, in times of impatience we should find ways, especially if it involves impatience with our neighbor, to improve the situation. For example, if someone annoys us on a regular basis, instead of feeling uncharitable and impatient towards them, we should take the time to see Our Blessed Lord in their eyes and care for Him through them. Every person who crosses our path in our lifetime is an opportunity to comfort Our Lord in His Passion, and offer up acts of love for His glory and honor.
St. John of Avila knew of such charity and spoke of the merit we will receive if we live patiently for Christ: “Dear brothers and sisters, I pray God may open your eyes and let you see what hidden treasures He bestows on us in the trials from which the world thinks only to flee. Shame turns into honor when we seek God's glory. Present affliction becomes the source of heavenly glory. To those who suffer wounds in fighting His battles God opens His arms in loving, tender friendship. That is why He (Christ) tells us that if we want to join Him, we shall travel the way He took. It is surely not right that the Son of God should go His way on the path of shame while the sons of men walk the way of worldly honor: ‘The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant greater than his master’.”
If we knew the consolations and glory we will receive in Heaven for taking care of our neighbor in the Name of Christ, nothing would be too much for us. One reason why things can be so difficult on earth, is impatient longing for Heaven.
We can also subconsciously place all our hopes and dreams in the hands of the world. No wonder we hate to suffer if we think this is all we have! And yet this is only the beginning. If we choose to see Our Lord in the eyes of those around us, and use every opportunity as a stepping stone to our real home, acts of patience will be consoling rather than difficult.