None of us can claim to have mastered perfectly the virtue of patience. We think we have made a major victory in acquiring patience, and then, out of the blue and taken by surprise, we explode! Our illusion of being the most patient person in the world went up in smoke!
Patience is so important that Jesus Christ, our model in all virtues, said: “By your patience you will save your souls.” One pious soul prayed in desperation: “Lord, give me patience and right now!” Maybe this has been your prayer for the last few years!
Our patience can be tested by various times and circumstances, in season and out of season. The failure of health, economic set-backs, family members that could put the holy Job to the test, weather extremes, failed and broken relationships, and even God. Sometimes it seems as if God is extremely distant, does not seem to hear my prayers, or at least seems to be uninterested or indifferent to my pleadings. All of the above can try my patience.
What then are ways that we can acquire the all-important virtue of patience, that as Jesus reminds us, is necessary for the salvation of our immortal souls? We will offer five concrete ways that we can attain patience.
1. PRAYER. St. Ignatius insists that we must beg for grace. St. Augustine humbly reminds us that we are all beggars before God. God is willing to give if we simply persevere in asking Him. Remember the persistent widow who gained the favor of the callous and cold-hearted judge for the simple reason that she kept begging for his help. “Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Mt. 7:7)
2. JESUS’ LIFE. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” There is a saying: “Tell me with whom you associate and I will tell you who you are.” If we spend time meditating on the Gospels and the words, gestures, and actions of Jesus, then it will rub off on us. We will start to imitate Jesus more and more and specifically in the virtue of patience.
3. PASSION OF CHRIST. Many saints had a magnetic drawing of their hearts to read and meditate upon the greatest love story in the world. “No greater love than to die for the loved ones.” A constant meditation on the Passion, suffering, crucifixion, and death of Jesus can prove to be an infinite source of blessings and key to open up the door of patience to the most hardened of hearts.
4. TRIALS AND OPPORTUNITIES. Then when the trials descend upon us like a torrential deluge, call to mind some element of the Passion of Christ, either from the Gospels, or the works of writers such as Anne Catherine Emmerick. The trial will be viewed in a more universal and supernatural perspective. The trial that has visited me indeed is very painful, but, in comparison to what Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has gone through, it is a mere trifle. Also I suffer trials partially as a result of my own sinfulness and sinful past, but Jesus suffered the most excruciating pains being the epitome and essence of Innocence. We can all choose one element or detail of the Passion of Christ that seems to have struck us most and elicit this scene when my patience is put to the bitter test! The love of Jesus can move me to carry patiently the most burdensome crosses! As St. Paul states: “The love of Christ compels us.”
5. MARY, OUR LADY OF SORROWS. One essential element in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the entire course of the film. Only second to Jesus was Mary in the intensity of suffering. The film portrays Our Lady of Sorrows along the way of Calvary accompanying Jesus in His most bitter trial. Mary stood at the foot of the cross, patience to a heroic degree. Mary practiced patience her whole life: travelling to Bethlehem, fleeing to Egypt, seeking out her lost Son for three long days, losing her beloved husband Saint Joseph, and accompanying her beloved Son Jesus, seeing Him crucified, and staying with Him until He drew His last, dying breath. When our patience is put to the test, then we should lift up our eyes, mind, heart and soul to Our Lady, and she will acquire for us heroic patience.
All of us struggle on a daily basis to be patient with others, with ourselves, with circumstances and, at times, even with God. Patience is so essential to our lives that Jesus even said: “By your patience you will save your souls.” Let us use the arms we have in our arsenal to attain the all-important virtue of patience. Let us pray as beggars to the most generous giver, God. Let us draw close to Jesus the “Holy of Holies”. Let us meditate on the Passion of Christ and when opportunities to practice patience surface, to call to mind all that Jesus suffered for the world and for me. Finally, may Our Lady of Sorrows attain for me a meek, humble and patient heart!