A parishioner recently handed me Saint Francis deSales’ book The Art of Loving God. I have been reading through it during our quarantine. The practical advice that Saint Francis offers is quite helpful for someone who is trying to advance in the spiritual life. In previous posts. I referenced deSales’ thoughts on the virtue of obedience. This week I’d like to examine what he writes about the virtue of patience.
In Chapter 5: Conference 10, Saint Francis talks about being patient as you seek perfection. One of the key components of this is the realization that we are imperfect beings. DeSales writes that “There are times in our life when the spiritual life seems easy. We go on quietly without falling into any fault. Other times, we find ourselves falling continually and committing considerable imperfections.” This characteristic might not only be exemplified these days. It could be magnified as we struggle through the Covid pandemic.
DeSales goes on to explain a key to perfection. It is not achieving it but simply desiring it.
We would lose all humility if we received what we desire right away without much trouble. We must commit ourselves to see the attainment of our perfection by usual paths. We must be content to wait regarding the results leaving to divine providence as to whether the results come sooner or later.
Saint Francis then goes into some details on achieving patience. One of the first ways is to simply attend to the duties of our vocation. If you are a father or mother, attend to your duties of a parent. If you are a priest or a sister, attend to the duties of the day.
In all cases deSales refers back to previous chapters on obedience. It is important to listen to people who have been put in authority over us. We don’t have to know everything. We don’t have to believe that the Lord is going to give us all the answers to our questions immediately. St. Francis expounds:
Did you say I was right that we should be not seeking for any satisfaction or knowledge of things in particular? We should be content to be walking blindfolded as it were in firm reliance on the providence of God. This should be done even amid desolation, fears, gloom and every other sort of cross that it may please God to send us.
Sounds a lot like good advice for the current situation doesn’t it?