Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 3, Chapter 3

Book Talk Tuesday, Introduction to the Devout Life, Part 3, Chapter 3

CHAPTER III. On Patience.

“YE have need of patience, that, after ye have done the Will of God, ye
might receive the promise,” says Saint Paul; [60] and the Saviour said,
“In your patience possess ye your souls.” [61] The greatest happiness
of any one is “to possess his soul;” and the more perfect our patience,
the more fully we do so possess our souls. Call often to mind that our
Saviour redeemed us by bearing and suffering, and in like manner we
must seek our own salvation amid sufferings and afflictions; bearing
insults, contradictions and troubles with all the gentleness we can
possibly command. Do not limit your patience to this or that kind of
trial, but extend it universally to whatever God may send, or allow to
befall you. Some people will only bear patiently with trials which
carry their own salve of dignity,–such as being wounded in battle,
becoming a prisoner of war, being ill-used for the sake of their
religion, being impoverished by some strife out of which they came
triumphant. Now these persons do not love tribulation, but only the
honour which attends it. A really patient servant of God is as ready to
bear inglorious troubles as those which are honourable. A brave man can
easily bear with contempt, slander and false accusation from an evil
world; but to bear such injustice at the hands of good men, of friends
and relations, is a great test of patience. I have a greater respect
for the gentleness with which the great S. Charles Borromeo long
endured the public reproaches which a celebrated preacher of a reformed
Order used to pour out upon him, than for all the other attacks he bore
with. For, just as the sting of a bee hurts far more than that of a
fly, so the injuries or contradictions we endure from good people are
much harder to bear than any others. But it is a thing which very often
happens, and sometimes two worthy men, who are both highly
well-intentioned after their own fashion, annoy and even persecute one
another grievously.

Be patient, not only with respect to the main trials which beset you,
but also under the accidental and accessory annoyances which arise out
of them. We often find people who imagine themselves ready to accept a
trial in itself who are impatient of its consequences. We hear one man
say, “I should not mind poverty, were it not that I am unable to bring
up my children and receive my friends as handsomely as I desire.” And
another says, “I should not mind, were it not that the world will
suppose it is my own fault;” while another would patiently bear to be
the subject of slander provided nobody believed it. Others, again,
accept one side of a trouble but fret against the rest–as, for
instance, believing themselves to be patient under sickness, only
fretting against their inability to obtain the best advice, or at the
inconvenience they are to their friends. But, dear child, be sure that
we must patiently accept, not sickness only, but such sickness as God
chooses to send, in the place, among the people, and subject to the
circumstances which He ordains;–and so with all other troubles. If any
trouble comes upon you, use the remedies with which God supplies you.
Not to do this is to tempt Him; but having done so, wait whatever
result He wills with perfect resignation. If He pleases to let the evil
be remedied, thank Him humbly; but if it be His will that the evil grow
greater than the remedies, patiently bless His Holy Name.

Follow Saint Gregory’s advice: When you are justly blamed for some
fault you have committed, humble yourself deeply, and confess that you
deserve the blame. If the accusation be false, defend yourself quietly,
denying the fact; this is but due respect for truth and your
neighbour’s edification. But if after you have made your true and
legitimate defence you are still accused, do not be troubled, and do
not try to press your defence–you have had due respect for truth, have
the same now for humility. By acting thus you will not infringe either
a due care for your good name, or the affection you are bound to
entertain for peace, humility and gentleness of heart.

Complain as little as possible of your wrongs, for as a general rule
you may be sure that complaining is sin; [62] the rather that self-love
always magnifies our injuries: above all, do not complain to people who
are easily angered and excited. If it is needful to complain to some
one, either as seeking a remedy for your injury, or in order to soothe
your mind, let it be to some calm, gentle spirit, greatly filled with
the Love of God; for otherwise, instead of relieving your heart, your
confidants will only provoke it to still greater disturbance; instead
of taking out the thorn which pricks you, they will drive it further
into your foot.

Some people when they are ill, or in trouble, or injured by any one,
restrain their complaints, because they think (and that rightly) that
to murmur betokens great weakness or a narrow mind; but nevertheless,
they exceedingly desire and maneuvre to make others pity them, desiring
to be considered as suffering with patience and courage. Now this is a
kind of patience certainly, but it is a spurious patience, which in
reality is neither more nor less than a very refined, very subtle form
of ambition and vanity. To them we may apply the Apostle’s words, “He
hath whereof to glory, but not before God.” [63] A really patient man
neither complains nor seeks to be pitied; he will speak simply and
truly of his trouble, without exaggerating its weight or bemoaning
himself; if others pity him, he will accept their compassion patiently,
unless they pity him for some ill he is not enduring, in which case he
will say so with meekness, and abide in patience and truthfulness,
combating his grief and not complaining of it.

As to the trials which you will encounter in devotion (and they are
certain to arise), bear in mind our dear Lord’s words: “A woman, when
she is in travail, hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon
as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish,
for joy that a child is born into the world.” [64] You, too, have
conceived in your soul the most gracious of children, even Jesus
Christ, and before He can be brought forth you must inevitably travail
with pain; but be of good cheer, for when these pangs are over, you
will possess an abiding joy, having brought such a man into the world.
And He will be really born for you, when He is perfected in your heart
by love, and in your actions by imitating His life.

When you are sick, offer all your pains and weakness to our Dear Lord,
and ask Him to unite them to the sufferings which He bore for you. Obey
your physician, and take all medicines, remedies and nourishment, for
the Love of God, remembering the vinegar and gall He tasted for love of
us; desire your recovery that you may serve Him; do not shrink from
languor and weakness out of obedience to Him, and be ready to die if He
wills it, to His Glory, and that you may enter into His Presence.

Bear in mind that the bee while making its honey lives upon a bitter
food: and in like manner we can never make acts of gentleness and
patience, or gather the honey of the truest virtues, better than while
eating the bread of bitterness, and enduring hardness. And just as the
best honey is that made from thyme, a small and bitter herb, so that
virtue which is practised amid bitterness and lowly sorrow is the best
of all virtues.

Gaze often inwardly upon Jesus Christ crucified, naked, blasphemed,
falsely accused, forsaken, overwhelmed with every possible grief and
sorrow, and remember that none of your sufferings can ever be compared
to His, either in kind or degree, and that you can never suffer
anything for Him worthy to be weighed against what He has borne for

Consider the pains which martyrs have endured, and think how even now
many people are bearing afflictions beyond all measure greater than
yours, and say, “Of a truth my trouble is comfort, my torments are but
roses as compared to those whose life is a continual death, without
solace, or aid or consolation, borne down with a weight of grief
tenfold greater than mine.”

[60] Heb. x. 36.

[61] S. Luke xxi. 19.

[62] “Qui se plaint, peche.”

[63] Rom. iv. 2.

[64] S. John xvi. 21.