Waiting Patiently

St John the Evangelist by Bernardo Cavallino

In his book Christian Patience, Archbishop Ullathorne elaborates upon the classical philosophical definition of a virtue as a mean between two extremes: “As every virtue holds on its way between two vices that bear some resemblance to it, the one in excess, the other in defect, patience holds on its way between the vice of obstinacy, as an excess, and the vice of impatience, as a defect. Obstinacy arises either from stupidity or pride. It looks like patience, because it seems to hold its own, and to resist what is not its own. But patience is reasonable, and obstinacy is unreasonable; patience resists what is evil, and obstinacy resists what is good; patience is tranquil, and obstinacy is turbulent.”

“Patience is the fence of the soul; and within the fence of patience the whole choir of the virtues flow in harmony and peace, and unite in the praise of God. But impatience is the destroyer of that securing fence.”

He addresses those who fear they have lost their way: “Self-love causes the will to vibrate like a pendulum, but in a very unsteady way, between God and one’s self, making the soul restless, impatient, inattentive, and wandering.” He gives this advice as a remedy: “Whenever you are perplexed as to what course you should take, if you go blindly into action you will be sure to repent of it. Wait for light; wait with patience, and light will not fail you.” Yet, he cautions: “But to delay where you ought to act is the very opposite to the spirit of patient waiting. When you put off until to-morrow what you ought to do to-day, and can do to-day, this is not the waiting of patience, but an unwillingness to exercise the patience required for the duty.”

In Groundwork of the Christian Virtues, he warns of the trouble an impatient imagination can cause. “Do not imagine difficulties before they come,” he advises. “To imagine them is to make them.”

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