1. Patience may be external or internal. Both are necessary aspects of the same virtue. External patience consists in refraining from outbursts of anger and from sarcastic comments – in short, from all words and actions which might give offence to others. It is easy to be patient when our affairs are running smoothly and everybody is being nice to us. It is quite another matter when we come up against difficulties or find that we are being slighted or insulted. It is hard to remain silent when our pride has been wounded, and it requires the virtue of a saint to be able to smile at our tormentors. It took St. Francis de Sales years of spiritual conflict before he achieved this kind of perfection.
How far can we claim to have succeeded in acquiring this virtue? We should always remember that temperamental explosions are unworthy of a rational being. The only proper course when we have been offended is to state our case clearly and calmly, though generally speaking it is more heroic to remain silent. Impatience is futile because it cannot remedy the situation, and often harmful because it upsets us and only produces bitterness. Acts of impatience, moreover, are a source of bad example to others. “The quick-tempered man,” says Sacred Scripture, “makes a fool of himself.” (Prov. 14:17) “The patient man,” it adds, “shows much good sense, but the quick-tempered man displays folly at its height.” (Id. 14:19)
If we live in the presence of God, we shall learn to be calm and self-controlled in all circumstances.
2. An outward show of patience will hardly avail us much in God’s eyes unless it is accompanied by interior patience, which consists in the possession of complete mastery over all our faculties. We should be able to control our feelings as well as our actions. This is a difficult virtue, but it is the duty of every sincere Christian to try and acquire it. Only the grace of God and constant effort will enable us to succeed, but when we have at last mastered our unruly and selfish impulses we shall have arrived at a state of peace and perfection. “By your patience you will win your souls.” (Luke 21:19)
3. If we are patient from the motive of the love of God, we can gain merit in His sight. There are three grades of perfection in this virtue. (1) The first is the acceptance, with Christian resignation, of every kind of misfortune, offering it in expiation of our sins. (2) The second consists in a cheerful and willing acceptance of these misfortunes because they come from God. (3) The third stage is reached when we actually desire them out of our love for Jesus Christ.
Which grade have we attained? If we wish to please God, it is essential that we should have made the first grade at least. “A patient man is better than a warrior, and he who rules his temper, than he who takes a city.” (Prov. 16:32)
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