Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Say to the anxious: Be strong and fear not, our God will come to save us.
(Isaiah 35:4)

I wrote earlier in Advent on the necessity of growing in virtue, and about the three Theological Virtues. Since I mentioned that I’d be re-reading some books I liked on virtues, to re-energize my own self-improvement, I thought I’d post some comments here from some of those sources and others on the Cardinal Virtue of Fortitude, and in particular, a key component of it, the virtue of Patience.

Patience is a precept for salvation given us by our Lord, our teacher: Whoever endures to the end will be saved. And: If you persevere in my word, you will truly be my disciples. Faith and Hope are the very meaning of our being Christians, but if faith and hope are to bear their fruit, patience is necessary. Patient waiting is necessary if we are to be perfected in what we have begun to be (growing in holiness), and if we are to receive from God what we hope for and believe.”

“Paul warns us not to grow weary: let us not grow weary in doing good, for we shall reap our reward in due season. Charity, he says, is always patient and kind; is not boastful, is not given to anger, loves all things, endures all things. He shows us that charity can be steadfast and persevering because it has learned how to endure all things. Bear with one another lovingly, striving to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace
On the Value of Patience, by Saint Cyprian

“For St. Thomas, patience is a necessary component of Fortitude. To be patient means to preserve cheerfulness and serenity of mind in spite of injuries that result from the realization of the good. Patience does not imply the exclusion of energetic, forceful activity, but simply, explicitly and solely the exclusion of sadness and confusion of spirit. Through patience man posses his soul.”

(It is through patience and endurance that) the inmost and deepest strength of man reveals itself. The decisive test of Fortitude is … to love and realize that which is good, in the face of injury or death, and undeterred by any spirit of compromise. It is one of the fundamental laws of a world plunged into disorder by original sin that the uttermost strength of the good manifests itself in powerlessness. And the Lord’s words, Behold I send you as sheep among wolves continue to mark the position of the Christian in the world, even to this day.”
The Four Cardinal Virtues, by Josef Pieper

Be patient, therefore, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient over it until it receives the early and the late rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged; behold the Judge is standing at the doors.
James 5: 7-9

Patience and endurance go hand in hand, the plodding along in spite of difficulties. These are not easy things to do, but the work has a high pay scale: whoever endures to the end will be saved. “The end”, unfortunately, just seems a long way off when you can’t see it. Some of our trials seem to go on without end, and worse, we can see no value in them: “Does God just enjoy torturing me?”

We just passed the midpoint of Advent, and last Sunday we heard the word: Rejoice! The priests were dressed in rose-colored robes to signify joy. To be patient means to preserve cheerfulness and serenity of mind. Sometimes, on days like last Sunday, we need to be reminded of that. In our patience and endurance, we need to find joy. Through patience and endurance the inmost and deepest strength of man reveals itself. This Advent, find your strength, and renew your joy despite the hardships you face. Turn away from thoughts of sadness to actions which bring joy to you and your family and friends. Keep your mind there; persevere there, and be patient with yourself even if you have to force those things.

These are some of the changes we should be endeavoring to make this Advent, and yes, change is work, even the changing our attitude so that we “work” to make joy in our life. But we have to persevere in our efforts, and we need Patience. Fortitude is a Cardinal Virtue; keep at it. All virtues, every one of them, if repeated and repeated and repeated, DO become habits.

If you find that the cards are not written, the tree isn’t decorated, the shopping isn’t done, and the plans aren’t made: Be patient! Work at them as you can, and trust in God. And even if the worst should happen and none of the things you worry about get done, still be patient and keep a cheerful disposition. Focus on that first of all. And if nothing at all gets done, knock on your neighbor’s door on Christmas Eve and ask: “Can we just come in and sit around your tree for a little while; ours seems to have died.” They will let you in and be understanding, and you will one day look back and laugh about that day. Despite all that does not happen according to YOUR plans, the world still goes on, and so do HIS plans. Have Faith; have Patience. Have Peace and Joy. I wish you much of them.

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