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Patience Escalier (1888), by Vincent Van Gogh

"Patience is one of the humble, workaday virtues; but it is, in a real sense, the root and guardian of all virtues, not causing them, but removing obstacles to their operation. Do away with patience and the gates are open for a flood of discontent and sin."

  • St. Thomas Aquinas, comp. to Summa, III, 394

What is Patience?

Patience is a virtue, so the saying goes. It is a part of courage, which involves both the active confronting of challenge, and the endurance of difficulties associated with it. Patience moderates our appetites, particularly irritation and sorrow that arise when our aims are frustrated by a challenge. It belongs to the ‘enduring’ aspect of courage, involving, as Tully said, “the voluntary and prolonged enduran

ce of arduous and difficult things for the sake of virtue or profit."

To be patient is to be circumspect. It is to persevere through time, difficulty, and emotional ups and downs to stay on course toward higher order aims. Being blown about by one’s own constantly changing flux of emotions, desires, cravings and yearnings leaves a person anxious and unstable. Impatience is marked by giving in to frustration when beset by challenge or suffering. Instead of seeing impediments to one’s aims as obstacles to be overcome, the impatient person lets the difficulty get the better of them, becoming dominated by a ruminating sorrow, anger or frustration that keeps one mired in negativity.

The close impostors of patience are apathy, excessive timidity, and laziness. All involve waiting, but in ways that either involve a lack of care, concern, devotion of energy, or excessive fear. Neither is someone rightly called patient who unthinkingly waits, or does so without prudence. It would not be a mark of patience to simply wait inactively for something to come along the way, if there are no reasonable prospects of it occurring. Characteristic, then, of the exhibition of patience is that there are some external circumstances – either internal or external to a person’s own state of mind or body – that present a challenge to be overcome.

What is distinctive of genuine patience is both the disposition of the person exhibiting it, and the extent to which its practice is conducive to greater virtue. ‘Virtue is its own reward’ because means can never be truly divorced from ends. A person cannot achieve the end of richer, fulsome happiness for one’s self or others, without trying to evince it in the process of getting there. It is necessary therefore to have a disposition suffused with virtue to be properly patient. This is found in a reflective, judicious consciousness, and a peaceful and calm demeanour. When patience is marked by reflection and an interior sense of calm, the mind develops capaciousness and receptivity, unlike when it is in the mode of distracted, busy-bodied activity. When the passions are stilled, and the mind focused and reflective, we are able to receive and use our reason more freely to apprehend and be guided by insight.

Patience is especially fruitful to cultivate because it is a counterbalance to the source of what most keeps us turned in on ourselves and incapable of love – pride. Alongside humility, patience keeps us grounded, aware of our failings, those of others, and of our smallness in light of the great complexity of the world. In practicing patience, we see issues, tasks, and circumstances from a broader perspective, wherein we can see the profound and expansive interconnections between things, and the benefit of greater time and understanding to allow for our perspective to develop and mature.

“To achieve true interior freedom we must train ourselves to accept, peacefully and willingly, plenty of things that seem to contradict our freedom. This means consenting to our personal limitations, our weaknesses, our powerlessness, this or that situation that life imposes on us, and so on. We find it difficult to do this, because we feel a natural revulsion for situations we cannot control. But the fact is that the situations that really make us grow are precisely those we do not control.”

  • Interior Freedom – Jacques Philippe

Written by: Peter Copeland

Interview on Patience with Rachelle Ezechiels

How do you define patience?

Patience is a fruit of the Holy Spirit that forms us to participate in God's divine love. It creates a space where we can seek God first and allow Him to act within us. These actions are then a witness for others as we act with love.

How does the virtue of patience relate to work?

Work, in any context, whether it is independent or with a team, requires patience. Patience enables us to accept what we cannot control, recognize our limitations and weaknesses, and humbly acknowledge the realities we face. It also enables us to remain grateful for our talents and strengths, as well as those that others are graced with, while remaining focused on what we are able to effectively do within our day, both as an individual and as a team.

Why is it important in a work context?

The virtue of patience is important in a work context because we encounter many variables that often require us to be able to maintain our peace as we make decisions to achieve our goals and fulfill our work responsibilities in the face of challenges and difficulties.

How have you personally built on this virtue?

Meditating on Jesus' passion, death, and resurrection, and Mother Mary's joys and sorrows, offers endless opportunities to reflect and grow in the virtue of patience. If our Lord and Blessed Mother had to bear humanity's imperfections out of love, then I too, must bear the weight of my own imperfections and those of others, out of my love for God.

Did somebody mentor you on this? Have you mentored others about Patience?

I guess you can say that Jesus has mentored me through scripture, His life, but more specifically through the sacrament of confession. In experiencing His infinite mercy and patience for me, He teaches me that love is patient, love is kind, and if I am to imitate Him, I need to act with patience too. Through God's love, transformation happens, and what once seemed unattainable is within reach.

I have not officially mentored others about patience, but I have been told by others who have worked with me that they have learned or have been inspired to be patient through my example.  Specifically, people have said that I show patience in the workplace while working with others.  As an example, when someone is struggling to complete a task or assignment or learn a new skill, I will take the time to explain, support, and train employees according to their skill level and needs. By putting in the effort in the short term, the long-term results are achieved and, in most cases, exceeded with the right amount of patience.

How have you lived this virtue at work?

I work with a lot of people on a daily basis, and inquiries can range from small requests to large ones. They can come from walk-ins, emails or phone calls. They can be marked as urgent to less urgent matters. They can happen consecutively or simultaneously. Each day, I have to be prepared to accept what comes and prioritize or re-prioritize based on our organization's needs.

Do you have any examples of failing to live this virtue at work, and did you overcome that?

Early in my career, I recall a time when I was very upset with a decision that came from another department because it had a direct and negative impact on an external and valued customer.  The decision was not the right one, and I was able to override the mistake to make sure our customer was satisfied and did not end his business relationship with the company.

However, in my impatience, I sent an email to the person whose identification was showing as the individual who had made the original decision. Suffice it to say, it was not the most patient way I could have communicated the mistake. As a result, the individual came to visit me. They ended up being the VP of the other department, and he clearly was not thrilled with my feedback.

While it put me on his radar, it took some time before we were able to work together without the underlying tension caused by my hasty email. In order to overcome this, I worked hard to show my passion for delivering exceptional service to our external customers so that my intentions would be revealed in my actions. I also took the time to ask questions and learn his side of the business and how we can work together more cohesively. Through these efforts and with patience, the tension dissipated, but I remember this lesson to remind myself the importance of patience.

Do you have any examples of friends or colleagues living this virtue at work?

At my current place of work, we have such a diverse group of people that we serve every day. All of my colleagues have to exhibit patience and care toward each student that we encounter. We have students who come from all over the world from various ethnicities, cultures, and language groups. Some students have special needs, or are at different points in their spiritual life and struggle with issues needing support. They also have questions about their faith, they may not understand a church teaching, or in some cases may be quite opposed to Catholic Church values. In each situation, we need to respond and be a reflection of God's love. That begins with the patience needed to actively listen and understand what is being asked of us.

Rachelle Ezechiels is currently the Operations Manager of the Newman Centre Catholic Mission at the University of Toronto St. George Campus, and has worked for the Archdiocese of Toronto since 2015.  Prior to that, she was employed at one of the world's most respected brands in the banking industry before making the move to work within non-profit organizations, which eventually led her to work for the Roman Catholic Church. With gratitude for all the training, experiences, and leadership roles she has been entrusted with, Rachelle continues to integrate these learnings and skills from the corporate world into her current work and ministry at the Newman Centre, serving the students, staff, faculty, and patrons of the chaplaincy and church in downtown Toronto. Born and raised in Toronto, Rachelle graduated from York University with a Specialized Honours Degree in Marketing & Management.  Rachelle lives out her primary vocation as a mother of two, serving the domestic church, and she actively participates in the life of the global church by serving at her local parish and reaching out to the broader community.

Editor: Doug Kelly

Designer: Michael Bilardo

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