Light one Candle
By Father Ed Dougherty, MM
Helen Keller once said, “We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” After contracting an illness in childhood, Keller was left deaf and blind for the rest of her life. With the help of her teacher, Anne Sullivan, she broke through the isolation that her condition imposed upon her and went on to become a writer and lecturer. Her amazing resilience is a testament to the power of the human spirit to remain patient throughout a lifetime of struggle.
Patience is one of those intangible virtues that we can only gain through perseverance in the face of trials. Keller’s line about suffering providing opportunity to build character traits such as bravery and patience demonstrates how much she came to value the strength of spirit she cultivated in taking on personal challenges. Patience provides endurance amidst suffering and the wisdom to know how and when to take action.
The early Christian theologian Tertullian once said, “Hope is patience with the lamp lit.” What beautiful insight into the path that patience can lead us along when we allow the fire of the Holy Spirit to kindle within our hearts. That fire can direct our thoughts towards God in spite of the hardships of life, resulting in a heart filled with the hope of Christ.
Life often does not go the way we want it to, and we all face moments of profound frustration and disappointment. It takes patience to remain connected to God throughout the trials we face in order to be guided along the path we are intended to follow. The Christophers have a beautiful meditation on patience that highlights the importance of this virtue. It reads:
“Patience is a stillness that reaches deep within the human soul. It connects us with God by allowing us to pause and reflect on our actions. A patient heart waits for the resurrections that Christ effects in our lives, reviving us to a life of joy. Patience is the tender reaction of one heart to another. It is the essence of love.”
The patience we cultivate in waiting on God to guide us through difficult times prepares us to reach out to others in a loving manner. This mercy that we extend to the world is one of the great fruits of the Holy Spirit. God wants to work through us to bring good into the world, and it is only through patience that we are able to recognize the needs of others and realize the call to serve.
Patience enables us to deepen the bonds of friendship, family, and community life. These are the treasures that await all who have a clean heart in their interactions with others. Christ said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
We store up treasures in heaven when we put the good above all else, and it takes patience to do that in this world where temptation and adversity await us at every turn. So remember to be patient amid the struggles of life so that we can recognize the treasures of heaven and allow God to guide us along the path of true and lasting joy.
(Father Ed Dougherty is on the board of Directors for the Christophers. For free copies of the Christopher News Note LIVING JOYFULLY IN A STRESSED-OUT WORLD, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)