If patience is a virtue, then I’m a dirty rotten heathen. I have dreams and aspirations. There are things I want in life, and I want them now. Not tomorrow, not in ten years. I want them now.
Can you relate?
For some people, singleness is a lifelong climb, for others it’s a passing storm. Wherever you are in your journey, there’s a secret to take to heart. Patience is the key to survival. I know it’s a difficult pill to swallow. Patience isn’t easy. It means accepting that your trials might not change anytime soon.
So what’s the boon?
Patience allows you to be happy.
When you stop tensing against the pain of your situation and begin to breathe in peace again, your eyes will open up to the joys of life as it is. You will being to notice the things you enjoy and the people that make you feel at home.
There is a misconception that every saint that has ever graced a holy card was a master of patience. That’s just not true. Think of Saint Nicholas. Jolly old St. Nick punched out a heretic and was sent to jail. Way to go, Santa.
Sometimes the best way to understand patience is to get to know someone who doesn’t have it all together.
These saints struggled with stubbornness, hotheadedness, anxiety and irritability. They had to work at it. Thankfully for us, they discovered some great tips along the way.
Here are five saints to get to know if you struggle with patience in this season of life.
1. Saint Cyprian
Cyprian was the son of an influential pagan leader. He grew up rich and wrapped in politics. His strong personality made him a great leader, but also meant that he found himself in the midst of conflict wherever he went. After he converted to Christianity, Cyprian became a great defender of the faith in the face of severe persecution.
One of his most famous writings, On the Advantage of Patience, describes how this virtue allows us to be happy as we navigate bumps in the road. According to Cyprian, patience is the foundation of many other virtues, like self control, gentleness and devotion. Patience is essential for healthy interpersonal relationships.
2. Saint John of Kanty
John of Kanty was a successful professor who was well liked by his students. Jealous colleagues took note of his success and framed him for a crime he didn’t commit. John was shipped off to be an apprentice pastor in a tiny rural town. When he landed, he was met with suspicion and hostility.
All of a sudden, he found himself working a job below his status, with people who’d prefer to chase him out of town. Despite his nerves, John devoted himself to winning the trust of his congregation. After serving them for several years, John was finally cleared of all charges. He was asked to return to his job at the university. His congregation cared for him so deeply that they chased him down the road, begging him to stay.
John Kanty was overcome with anxiety at his unexpected change of lifestyle. Instead of succumbing to despair, he moved forward with compassion and found joy in his new role. “Fight all error, but do it with good humor, patience, kindness, and love. Harshness will damage your own soul and spoil the best cause,” he wrote.
3. Saint Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas belonged to a rich and well educated family. He attended university and seemed to be on the path to becoming a successful man. Unfortunately, his family was less than thrilled to hear of his plan to join the newly formed Dominican order.
Thomas’ brothers captured him and brought him home, where he was held captive for a year. One time, his brothers hired a prostitute to try to change his mind about religious life. Thomas chased the girl off with a red hot poker.
Okay, so patience wasn’t always his strong suit.
Thomas Aquinas taught: “If you seek patience, you will find no better example than the Cross. Great patience occurs in two ways: either when one patiently suffers much, or when one suffers things that one is able to avoid and yet does not avoid. Christ endured much on the Cross, and did so patiently.”
4. Saint Zelie Martin
Not only did Zelie Martin bear 9 children (suffering the loss of 4 of them), she also performed one of the most painstaking jobs in all of France: lacework. In fact, she was such a successful artist, that she began training others in lace-making. She hired employees and became a successful businesswoman. Zelie also wrote letter after letter complaining about her misbehaving children, making her my favorite saint of all time.
Here’s some inspiration from Zelie herself (letter 132): “Oh well, that’s the day so far, and it’s still only noon. If this continues I will be dead by this evening! You see, at the moment, life seems so heavy for me to bear, and I don’t have the courage because everything looks black to me.”
Sound familiar? It’s not the kind of pep talk we’re used to hearing from the saints, but that’s what makes it even more compelling.
Life is real and raw and not at all fun, but with patience we can bear it and find great joy, just at Zelie did.
5. Saint Therese of Liseux
Most famous for her “little way” of holiness, Therese was a Carmelite nun with a host of charming imperfections. She often fell asleep during prayers, and we can tell from her journals that she had a sharp tongue. Some speculate that her keen senses were the result of an autism spectrum disorder, which caused her to suffer at the smallest unpleasant sound or sensation.
Therese even described her life as a battlefield after taking charge of her convent’s novices. In her journals, she describes how she learned to put up with the little annoyances that made her want to scream.
“Deep in my heart,” she says, “I felt that the best thing to do was to put up with it patiently, for the love of God first of all and also not to hurt her feelings. So I kept quiet, bathed in perspiration often enough, while my prayer was nothing more than the prayer of suffering! In the end, I tried to find some way of bearing it peacefully and joyfully, at least in my inmost heart; then I even tried to like this wretched little noise.”