THE PRACTICE OF THE CHRISTIAN VIRTUES
V. – PATIENCE
St. James says that Patience is the perfect work of a soul: Patience hath a perfect work (James i. 4). It is by Patience that we are to obtain Heaven. This world is the place for meriting, and hence not a place of repose, but of labour and suffering. For this end God has given us life, that by patience we may obtain the glory of Heaven. In this world all must have their sufferings: he who suffers with patience suffers less, and is saved; he who suffers with impatience, suffers more and is lost. Our Lord does not send us crosses that we may be lost, as certain impatient souls would tell us, but that we may be saved and merit greater glory in Heaven. Sorrows, adversities, and all other tribulations received with patience, become the most beautiful jewels in our heavenly crown. When, therefore, we are in affliction, let us take comfort and thank God for them, for it is a sign that God desires to save us. He chastises us in this life, in which chastisements are light and short, that He may spare us in the next, in which chastisements are grievous and eternal. Unhappy the sinner who is prosperous in this life! It is a sign that God reserves for him an eternal chastisement.
St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi says: “Pain, however great, becomes sweet when we look upon Jesus Christ on the Cross.” St. Joseph Calasantius adds: “He gains not Jesus Christ who suffers not for Jesus Christ.” He, then, who loves Jesus Christ, supports with patience all external crosses, infirmities, pains, poverty, dishonour, loss of parents and friends; and all interior crosses, anguish, weariness, temptations, and desolation of spirit; and suffers all in peace. On the contrary, what does he gain, who, in tribulations, becomes impatient and angry? He does but increase his sufferings, and lays up for himself greater sufferings for another life. St. Teresa writes: “The cross is felt by those who drag it by compulsion: but not by those who embrace it with a good will.” Hence, St. Philip Neri says: “In this world there is no purgatory, but a heaven or a hell: heaven for those who patiently support tribulations, and hell for those who do not.” To proceed to the practice.
First — Patience must be practised in sickness. The time of illness tests the spirit of a man whether it be gold or lead. Some are all devotion and happiness when in good health; but when visited by some illness they lose patience, complain of everything, and give themselves up to melancholy, and commit a thousand other faults. The gold turns out to be lead! St. Joseph Calasantius said: “If the sick were patient, we should hear no more complaints.” Some complain and say: “But as long as I am in this state, I cannot go to church, nor to Communion, nor to Mass; in short, I can do nothing.” You say you can do nothing. You do everything when you do the will of God. Tell me, why do you want to do those things you mention? Is it to give pleasure to God? This is the pleasure of God, that you should embrace with patience all you have to endure, and should leave alone everything else that you wish to do. “God is served,” writes St. Francis de Sales, “more by suffering for Him than by working for Him.”
If in our sickness there be danger of death, then especially must we accept it with all patience, being willing to die should the end of our life be really at hand. Neither let us speak thus: “But I am not now prepared; I should like to live a little longer to do penance for my sins.” And how do you know that if you were to live longer, you would do penance and not fall into greater sins? How many there are who, after recovering from some mortal illness, became worse than they were before, and were lost; while, perhaps, if they had died then, they would have been saved! If it is the will of God that you should leave this world, unite yourself to His holy will, and thank Him for giving you the help of the holy Sacraments, and accept death with tranquillity, abandoning yourself into the arms of His mercy. This compliance with the Divine will, by accepting death, will be sufficient to insure your eternal salvation.
In the second place, we must accept also with patience the death of relations and friends. Some on the death of a relation are so inconsolable, that they leave off saying their prayers, frequenting the Sacraments, and all their devotions. Such a one goes so far as even to be angry with God and to say: “Lord, why hast Thou done it!” What rashness this is! Tell me, what does all your grief profit you? Do you perhaps think to give pleasure to the dead friend? No. You displease both him and God. He desires that through his death you become more united to God, and pray for him if he be in Purgatory.