The opportunity and inspiration for me to write are sometimes few and far between. Fortunately, for me, this evening has given me both. I can't say that the circumstances are pleasant, however they are ideal for talking about a particular trait that we could all probably stand to improve in our own lives.
There are four cardinal virtues that we look at in our Catholic Faith. Those virtues are prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. They are called “cardinal,” because all other virtues are grouped around them. (CCC 1805) There are three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity. (CCC 1813) And then there are the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. The gifts are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations. (CCC 1831) And the fruits of the Holy Spirit are “perfections” that the Holy Spirit helps us to form as fruits of eternal glory. There are twelve of these fruits, including: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity. (CCC 1832)
Tonight, I’m talking about patience, people! And nothing – I mean, nothing – tries my patience like waiting around. Whether it’s waiting for my food when I’m “hangry” and ready to eat, waiting in line for the restroom, or waiting at a ticketing counter in the airport and watching people cut in front of one another … it’s rarely a fun and exciting experience. I’ve been in Florida visiting my family for the past week, and today was the day I was going to head home, lay my head on my own pillow, and hug my kids. But God had other plans.
As I sit here watching the multitudes of people dealing with delayed and canceled flights, I can’t help but have my own patience tested. The announcement was just made that yet another flight from Ft. Myers to Boston is canceled, and that makes over 60 flights today. There are kids running around, pets on leashes, and convenience stores are out of food and drinks. My dinner consisted of a bag of Red Vines and a small bag of barbecue potato chips (neither of which are on my favorite foods list). I’m saving my two granola bars and water for the airplane ride home … should I be fortunate enough to get that far. But I just keep telling myself to be patient. In a recent RCIA class, Monsignor asked me to share with our group the words of wisdom I gleaned from a pop culture movie, Evan Almighty. In the movie, Evan’s wife is talking with God (a.k.a. Morgan Freeman) and he explains to her that if you pray for patience God doesn’t just magically make you patient. He thoughtfully gives you opportunities to practice patience. I think tonight is definitely one of those opportunities.
The virtue of patience is really an act of love for God. We show this love by disregarding our own convenience or inconvenience. It’s a form of self-giving. Jesus had the power to save us all with a lot less inconvenience to himself. But he endured more for us than he probably needed to as a way of showing us just how much he loves us. If we can fix our eyes on Jesus and practice this same self-giving love in small ways, it will translate in our lives to much bigger ways. Eventually, we will learn to accept things for what they are and go with the flow. We will learn to suffer anything for the greater good, and we will lose sight of our own self-involvement and see only Jesus.
Tonight, I’m practicing patience. But it’s not the first time this week I’ve had to do so. Sitting here and reflecting on this virtue makes me realize just how many opportunities I was given this week to hone and sharpen this skill. There were many times when the Holy Spirit allowed me to see ways that others seek the perfection of this fruit, too. I think when I was cooking in my dad’s kitchen, he was practicing patience sitting by and watching me work. When I was helping my mom with her computer account, I was practicing patience by allowing her to show me what was wrong. I got to see a parent practicing patience with her daughter as she tried to run into the water at the beach about a hundred times and eat sandy grapes. I see my parents practice patience with one another. My brother practices patience with his students. I practice patience with my kids when they call me and ask for my assistance when I’m not there to help them. Every single day … we are all given opportunities. And let’s not forget that we are all possibly part of the problem at times, too!
So, this evening, I am observing the weary travelers and their growing frustration with flight crews over problems out of their control. I am noticing families taking turn watching bags so that parents can walk around with energetic children. And I try not to eavesdrop, but it’s apparent to me that the gentleman next to me just got off the phone with his wife and she is quite unhappy that his flight home from a week-long fishing vacation has been canceled. What is there to do? I’m just going to pray for all of them, and I ask you all to pray for me as well. Pray that I can continue to sit here and remain patient and that I arrive home eventually, and safely.
Pray for yourselves. Pray for the development of your own virtues and the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. Never stop praying and working on those because even though we can work toward perfection, we will still never be perfect. Use Christ as your model and practice self-giving love in all ways, and make this Easter Season your time to be patient with one another, and with yourself as you grow in your life and your faith.