The Fruits of Patience

Fr. Adrian Burke, OSB
Thursday, December 14, 2023

"They should try to be the first to show respect to the other, supporting with the greatest patience one another’s weaknesses of body or behavior."
Rule of Saint Benedict 72.4-5

It’s Advent again and this year my attention seems to alight on the need to practice patience. Benedict places a lot of emphasis on this virtue. For instance, he seems to frame his entire rule in terms of patience. At the end of the prologue to the Rule he writes, “by patience [we] share in the sufferings of Christ that we may deserve also to share in his kingdom.” (RB Prol. 50), and the quote I used above as an epigraph to this article is from the end of the Rule, chapter 72, on the good zeal of monks.

Patience is also included in St. Paul’s list of the fruits of the Spirit – Love, Joy, peace, PATIENCE …. A “fruit” of the Spirit is the effect of one’s determination to live according to the Spirit of Christ rather than the “fleshly” attitudes of the world (see Gal 5.19-26). I think it’s important for us to know what patience means if we’re to cultivate it at the practical level of daily living.

A patient person is not a person who is prone to quick reactions. Patience is also not indifference. To be patient is to endure, to “suffer” the shortcomings of others (or our own!); to allow others to be themselves even if what they do annoys me, frustrates me, or just rubs me the wrong way; and to accept the frailties of others, especially the sick, the elderly, and the vulnerable. Patience is an attitude of receptivity, a readiness to allow others to be as they are without thinking “I have to fix them.”

Nonetheless, patience doesn’t mean to ignore the bad behavior of others when it’s inconsiderate, or worse, sinful, and selfish. But to choose an appropriate response, one must be prayerfully connected and rooted in the Spirit, mustering the strength, understanding, and wisdom to challenge the other’s behavior and hold him or her accountable, while, at the same time, giving room for the person to “repent”, reconcile and change.

Thus, patience is the basis for respecting our neighbor’s freedom to be themselves and to hold them accountable for respecting themselves and others. Advent is a time for us to ‘prepare for the coming of the Lord’ – today and at the end of time when we shall all stand before him face to face.