The Practice of Patience
Presence of God – O Lord, give me greater patience that I may be able to endure more for Your love.
Patience is a virtue of primary importance and daily necessity. As we need bread to live, so every day, even every moment, we need patience, because every day and every moment brings with it its own trial. We become patient by making acts of patience, that is, by accustoming ourselves to accept peacefully all that contradicts us and makes us suffer. If, however, instead of accepting annoyances, we use every means possible to avoid them, we shall never acquire patience. For example, we may at our work come in contact with someone who clashes with us, or we may be given a difficult or disagreeable task; if under these or similar circumstances we do our utmost to free ourselves as soon as possible, asking for a change, we are depriving ourselves of a precious opportunity prepared for us by God Himself to make us practice the virtue of patience. In certain cases it is lawful and even a duty to represent our problems to our superiors and to ask humbly for a solution, but we should never insist on obtaining one at all costs. On the contrary, we should think that divine Providence has arranged these circumstances to help us acquire the patience we do not yet possess. St. Philip Neri once complained to Our Lord because he had to deal with an extremely insulting, disagreeable person. Our Lord replied to him interiorly, “Philip, you have asked for patience. Here is the means of acquiring it.”
God will surely give us the virtue we ask of Him, but only on condition that we make use of the means He gives us, and apply ourselves to practice that virtue with the help of His grace. Whoever wishes to become a saint will not be anxious to avoid opportunities for practicing patience, but will welcome them, recognizing in them the means offered by God for his sanctification. And how can a mere creature dare wish to make any change in what has been ordered “in measure, and number, and weight” (Wisdom 11:20) by God’s infinite wisdom?
“O Lord, we want to serve and please You, yes, but we do not want to suffer anything. Yet we must be much more pleasing to You when after Your example and out of love for You, we endure suffering in Your service. Suffering is so noble and precious, O eternal Word, that when You were in the bosom of the Father, superabounding in all the riches and delights of Paradise but unadorned with the robe of suffering, You came to earth in order to clothe Yourself with it. You are God and cannot be deceived; since You have chosen stark suffering, I too desire it for love of You. I beseech You, therefore, Lord, to permit me to experience this suffering which is unmixed with any consolation, and by the confidence I have in Your goodness, I trust that You will grant me this grace before I die.
“But in order to obtain profit from tribulations, teach me to accept them in total conformity to Your will; otherwise, they will be a great and unbearable burden. When, however, a soul abandons itself entirely in the arms of Your will, then it finds strength in the midst of its sorrows, and even if You leave it in darkness for a time, very quickly will its sadness be changed into joy, so that, for no delight in the world would it exchange this suffering.
“O blessed, happy, and glorious is he who suffers for love of You, O eternal Word, for—shall I dare to say it?—as long as we are here below, it is a greater thing to suffer for You than to possess You, because possessing You, we can still lose You, but if we suffer for love of You, it will admit us to eternal life where we can never lose You” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).
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Art for this post on the practice of patience: Portrait von Philipp (Filippo) Neri [1615-1595], Federico Zuccaro, 1593, PD-US copyright expired, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.