Patience

Patience is a virtue is an old “proverbial” phrase that refers to one of the seven heavenly virtues. This phrase has even been used in popular culture pointing out that patience isn’t always easily to practice, but it can be easily accessible if one so chooses to exercise it. Popular music has also allocated the need for more patience, which comes from a 1980s song that says, “all we need is a little patience.” Even secularism acknowledges the need for more patience.

“Have patience with all things, But, first of all with yourself.” –St. Francis de Sales

The seven heavenly virtues are a response to the opposition of the seven deadly sins. In the case of patience, the deadly sin is wrath.

Forgiveness and mercy stem from patience, but in order to grasp the importance of this virtue, we also have to understand its formidable opposition–wrath. Wrath, or anger, is a powerful emotion. Anger in itself is not a sin, the virtue of patience allows one to reciprocate so that anger does not bloom into mortal sin.

“The term virtue is from the word that signifies man; a man’s chief quality is fortitude. Taken in its widest sense virtue means the excellence of perfection of a thing, just as vice, its contrary, denotes a defect or absence of perfection due to a thing. In its strictest meaning, however, as used by moral philosophers and theologians, it signifies a habit superadded to a faculty of the soul, disposing it to elicit with readiness acts conformable to our rational nature.” –Catholic Encyclopedia

Like any other virtue such as chastity, honesty, and humility, patience has to be put into action with a bit of practice. Habits have to be formed, much like charity. You choose to love God and neighbor. It doesn’t happen on its on accord. No. Virtues have to be learned and practiced. The seven deadly sins points to our own selfish desires. The heavenly virtues takes the focus from the individual and shines its light towards God and others.

The seven deadly sins are engrossed around the sin of sins–pride. Love or charity is the fuel needed to practice the heavenly virtues such as patience. With free will comes choice. We choose to either have patience or wrath. We choose. It is true that temptation plays a role in that choice, heavenly virtues can lead us away from temptation and sin, and help us grow closer to Christ.

“Patience is power. Patience is not an absence of action; rather it is ‘timing’ it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.” –Venerable Fulton J. Sheen

We can look to the Holy Family to inspire us to pray for more patience in our life. In the story of the Finding in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52), the Holy Family along with relatives travelled to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. After they sojourned in Jerusalem for the Passover they returned home. Mary and Joseph noticed Jesus was not in the caravan. They lost Jesus. Contemplate that for a moment. Mary and Joseph lost God. For three days they went looking for Him and finally found Jesus in the temple. Jesus said, “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Imagine the anxiety Mary and Joseph faced those three days looking for the boy Christ. How it took a great deal of patience, to battle the great level of anxiety, looking for Him.

All of the heavenly virtues work together. Patience being one of them. Without the grace of charity in the soul, patience along with the other virtues won’t be strong enough when tested.

In order to exercise the virtue of patience, or any other virtue for that matter, the person must be able to recognize if, when, and how frequent that virtue is being utilized. You have to be able to recognize the moments. Take an inventory how often you show anger, or any level of impatience. Also look for signs of depression or anxiety. It may be beneficial to ask your spouse, children, relatives, or friends if you’re patient. They’ll be honest I’m sure.

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” –St. Augustine of Hippo

Virtues like patience can be obtained if you so choose. It’s a choice. Much like charity, you choose to love even when the desire isn’t there. It takes strength and it takes exercising the other virtues to help gain the level of patience needed to grow closer to God. Continue to pray and fast for patience. Patience is a virtue and we could stand just a little more patience.

by John Connor

Related articles:
Distractions and the Devout Life
Battling Sin
Forgiveness is Divine

Battling Sin

Temptation can manifest from the “three enemies of the soul,” the world, the devil, and the flesh. There is an on-going spiritual war happening. Our soul’s eternal destination is at stake. We all have a choice to make. The Beatific Vision and eternal joy in Heaven, or eternal separation from God (i.e. Hell). God does not send us to Hell. Because we have free will, we can ultimately determine our fate by whether or not we cooperate with God’s Love.

From the residue of original sin, human beings have a tendency to sin by even the most subtle temptations. In order to battle these temptations, we have to be more aware of what tempts us, causing us to sin. We can win this spiritual battle.

It is time to put on the full armor of God.

“Finally, brethren, be strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power. Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of justice, And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace: In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints.” –Ephesians 6:10-18

Reminding ourselves of personal sinful struggles is not easy. In fact, it’s easier to hide from them or pretend they don’t exist. Satan will try to convince you that you are a “good person.” Why? Because “good people” believe they’ve “run up a very favorable credit-balance in God’s ledger,” but they risk committing the sin of pride. There is always a need for God’s love and mercy. The devout life is obtainable to anyone who seeks it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum of pride, there is despair. Despair occurs when you think you’re sins are too numerous for God to forgive. Hogwash! There is no sin too great or great in number that God cannot forgive you. The only sins that cannot be forgiven are those that you do not confess to Christ in the confessional. Ask for forgiveness with a contrite heart and your sins will be forgiven when the priest, through Christ, absolves you.

The closer you become to living a saintly life on earth, which is possible by the way, the more aware you become of those particular temptations and sins. It is like shining a light on your “blemishes.”

The saints are great examples of how to live a devout life. They were not born saints. And some were downright scoundrels before they found their conversion. Take St. Augustine of Hippo for instance, before his conversion he lived a very worldly life, even by today’s standards. It was through the prayers of his mother and saint, Monica, that he was transformed anew. Augustine made a choice, and that choice was to live his life for God. He is now a saint and doctor of the Church.

“There is no saint without a past, no sinner without a future.” –St. Augustine of Hippo

You take a big step forward by admitting you are a sinner in need of God’s love and mercy. God, along with the angels and saints, are on your side in this spiritual war. Christ did not die on the Cross and then leave it up to you to figure out how to conquer sin. Hardly. Christ, whether spiritually present, or physically present in the Eucharist, is leading the charge.

First and foremost, be authentic. Men, do not shy away from your masculinity. We live in an emasculated secular world. Look to Christ as an example of how to be authentic, masculine, Catholic men. Your role is to protect the women around you, both physically and spiritually. Ladies, your femininity is a gift from God. Do not hide from it either. Allow the Blessed Virgin Mary to be your role model of authentic Catholic femininity.

Avoid the near occasion of sin as best you can. Your eyes are the “gateway to the soul.” Custody of the eyes helps to avoid lust in particular. Socialize with other traditional Catholics. Socialize in places that will not lead you to sin, nor be tempted. Sometimes it’s helpful to keep yourself occupied. An idle mind can be dangerous. There are moments where you could feel spiritual dryness as if God has deserted you, or you may fall into depression. Do not let this deter you from living your life for God.

“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters

The Church has given us great weapons to battle sin and lead us to victory. Start with daily prayer. The Rosary is one of the greatest weapons against evil. Another very powerful prayer is the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. If I’m going into a spiritual battle I want St. Michael at my side. Pray it daily. Praying the Divine Office (Divinum Officium, 1960 Rubrics) is also very spiritually beneficial. Prayer is our communication with God, whether we’re talking or listening to Him. This assures us that God is part of our lives. There’s also mortification. Sometimes denying yourself of something you want can strengthen your soul. You may start with turning down dessert after dinner, or praying the Rosary in place of your favorite television program.

Be aware of your temptations. The spiritual attacks are often subtle. A venial sin can grow into a mortal sin before you know it. You have what it takes to battle the temptations and sins of the world, the flesh, and the evil one, Satan. If you commit a sin, go to Confession. Not only will you be forgiven, but you’ll receive graces to overcome the temptations next time. Then you’ll be prepared to get back into the fray. You can win this spiritual battle.

by John Connor