Fr. Britto's Blog

Patience

When I started celebrating weddings here in the US more than 32 years ago, most of the church weddings took place over the summer. Now we seem to have more weddings in the fall. If you have been to many Catholic weddings you would have certainly heard a particular reading from St Paul to the Corinthians. We all recall the four sentences in that reading: “Love is patient; love is kind; love always forgives; love never ends.” In this column, I would like to reflect on the first sentence, “Love is patient.”

With whom do we lose our patience the most? With our spouse and with our children. Why? We spend the most time with them. We also know that they love us and that with them we can be our ugly selves. We let go our filters and brakes that we engage with others. As a result, we easily fly off the handle. We don’t realize that it is by being patient that we show our love. Remember that the word “patience” comes from the Latin word, “pati” which means “to suffer.” To be patient is to suffer. When you told your spouse not to do something and they did it for the third time, it drives you nuts. You asked your children to do something three times and they haven’t done it. And it makes you crazy.

As Americans, have a hard time un-tethering ourselves from our work-stations and our computers, even during summer. We all know that Europeans take much longer vacations than we do. We work harder than everyone else. This incapacity to enjoy relaxation could be the symptom of another challenge we face – to be patient. I believe that the most frequently confessed sin is losing one’s temper or being impatient. Often people confess using the Lord’s name in vain. I point out to them that the real sin is being frustrated and impatient, and that as a result of our impatience we use certain words and expressions. Both parents and children, old and young, confess their sins of impatience. When I lived in Milwaukee, a close friend had a plaque in her kitchen which read: “Lord, give me patience, but please hurry.”

Why do we get so impatient? I think that we get so impatient because we live in a culture of efficiency. Things work as we want them to. In most other parts of the world, things do not work. When they do work, people are grateful. On the other hand in our country things work without fail and we expect them to work. Life does not go that way. Particularly our relationships do not work the way we like them to. Since humans with free will are involved, we are unable to predict or control them. When things do not work, we get frustrated.

We also feel impatient because we are somehow under the impression that we control things. That is certainly an illusion and a delusion. We control nothing. I smile when TV weather men and women say, “We will give you a beautiful day tomorrow.” They can give us nothing. Weather-forecasting is the only job where you can keep making mistakes and you will not be fired. More than any other people, we believe that we can control things. Our affluence gives us a false sense of power. Probably we spend more money on insurance than anyone else. We believe in back-up plans and contingency strategies. When things go out of our control we get frustrated and upset.

The image that has always helped me in this regard is driving. When I am driving on the highway, I often think this way. I look at those people who weave through traffic at a hundred miles an hour putting everyone at risk and think that they are so stupid. I also feel annoyed by the slow-pokes who hold up the left lane. Then I say to myself, “If only the whole world would drive like me, the world would be perfect.” I know that it is unrealistic of me to think like that. In the same way, we get frustrated because people are not behaving the way we want them to. Expecting life to go our way all the time or people to do things our way is the surest means to keep ourselves perpetually frustrated.

What is the solution then? All of us have to recognize that we are not in control. We cannot join Frank Sinatra and sing, “My way!” However, we know that our God who is in love with us is in control. Even if wicked people do bad things to us, even if life seems to take us in absurd directions, we know that this God will make everything right. As Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans, “Everything works unto good for those who love God.” When we can place our trust in Him and not in our own resources, then we can be patient. If we fail to trust, then we give in to worry and anxiety.

My sister who had a stroke five years ago has made tremendous progress. She is now able to walk with a walker. However, when I speak to her, often she ends the conversation with this plea: “Please pray that I have more patience. I thought by now I would have been completely back to my old self.” Patience – we all need it. Let us put our complete trust in the Lord!

Remember what the Lord said in the Gospel of Matthew: “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Meekness or patience comes from being humble.

Who is Fr. Britto?

Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.

After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
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