Why Be Patient???

Posted: February 25, 2015 in World On The Edge


The word “patience” is derived from the Latin word pati, which means to suffer, to endure, to bear. Already that tells us much about the nature, meaning and necessity of the virtue of patience.

Patience helps us encounter frustrations, disappointments, contradictions, privations, sickness, hardships, etc. (all of which cause pain) without losing serenity, without becoming irritated or despondent. It helps us not to be upset by trivial incidents however unpleasant in our daily lives and thus not lose peace of soul. And no doubt, it is a virtue that everyone is called upon to exercise frequently.

“If we reflect upon the number of times each day that we are confronted with situations, persons and things that displease us and make us sad, we can see how often patience is needed …. It is important because it prepares the way for the practice of all the other virtues. Virtuous action is usually difficult and likely to cause sorrow on the sense level. Patience, by moderating the emotion of sorrow, removes one of the serious obstacles to the practice of the other virtues. All virtues owe something to patience, and no one can long follow the path of virtue without it.” (The Christian Life, Francis Cunningham, O.P., p.697)

Patience is the ability to keep control over the impulse that rises suddenly when something disagreeable happens. It is not just disregard of or indifference to life’s daily irritations or upsetting incidents, but a real control of self, of one’s feelings and impulses. On the contrary, impatience is the lack of self-control, and leads to other and greater faults. It can easily grow into anger, irritability, harsh words, unpleasantness towards others, etc. Many a serious quarrel starts with impatience over little annoyances or inconveniences. Fr. Walter Farrell, O.P. gives the reason for this:

“Patience is one of the humble, workaday virtues; but it is, in a real sense, the root and guardian of all virtues, not causing them, but removing obstacles to their operation. Do away with patience and the gates are open for a flood of discontent and sin.” (Comp. to Summa, III, 394)

Patience is an important virtue, and much needed in daily life, but it is not an easy virtue. After all, it’s often hard to keep watchfulness over our emotions and impulses. Patience is acquired by slow continual repetition of patient control – in spite of many failures. But it’s greatest value is that a patient person is a person at peace, and not at the mercy of every chance happening.

–From Theology for the Laity, by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.

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