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Journey with Colin: A doorway to the Marist Project

Nazareth 9

Being patient

Journey with Colin: Being Patient

Disarming oneself with patience

Only the Creoles have the secret of the following proverb: "with patience and spit you can insert the seed of a calabash into the backside of a mosquito".

Patience and spit, surrender and activity, both are required on a spiritual journey. I never tire repeating, in the face of suffering, it is above all a matter of action, of consoling, of appeasing, of healing as best and as quickly as one can. And a healthy impatience can solve many of our problems, push us to commitment. Yet, there are trials that resist, sharp pains that cause all of our best efforts to fail. What does one do, then, when there is nothing one can do?

The expression one must arm oneself with patience has always been a source of exasperation for me, as it calls for a voluntarism, the kind of effort that someone suffering powerful torments is precisely incapable of making. Without speaking of a fatalism, of a kind of indifference that is hardly disguised. Patience has little to do with resignation.

It may well mobilise the entire soul and provide the essential availability to what is. The "be patient" calls load with a further burden the one who is already bowed low and who is on the point of collapsing.

The Persian poet Djami said: "you seek, by mysticism, to escape from yourself. You must bear the wound of one hundred trials without shifting from your position".

The author issues a warning: against the danger of escaping from oneself and seeking in spirituality, philosophy, or whatever other way the means of building for oneself a facile happiness, of protecting oneself from life itself.

God, religion, spiritual exercises all become ramparts, bandages, crutches. Angelus Silesius, in the Cherubic Pilgrim pointed to the same danger: "Man, if you are seeking God for a rest, you are once again fooling yourself – you are seeking yourself, not Him, you are not yet a child, but a slave".

What is demanded here seems to reach a summit. How can I put up with the wounds of one hundred trials without shifting my position? Nevertheless, it points out to me a path towards patience. I remark, first of all, that I am not asked to be patient forever, but to be patient here and now, second after second, instant after instant, one wound after another.

When I imagine having to be patient, discouragement takes over and I am subject to the most lively agitation. What if the verb to be patient is only conjugated in the present tense? "Without moving from my position". Such a practice already seems more accessible. In this case, the body can come to the rescue. Whenever the spirit gets agitated, whenever it draws me in all directions, to dare to stand still, to avoid making the slightest gesture. There already is an action: to do nothing, to remain there, available, without wanting to react, without desiring to escape from myself.

Thus, to disarm oneself with patience, by means of patience, comes to leaving, progressively, all of these mechanisms, these reflexes, this tendency to act, this armour which, rather than protecting us, isolates us and cuts us off from the world. No armoured breastplate can preserve us from the blows of fortune, from the daily disappointments, from the one thousand and one disturbances. It is an illusion to think so.

Djami invites me to a less warrior attitude. When there is no other way out, to become one with the wounds, welcome them, put up with them, or, rather, just let them pass by. If I know fear, I can live it without resisting, no longer oppose it, no longer adopt the pose of a warrior fighting against the unconquerable adversary. Patience is not a weapon, it is the sovereign act which does away with them all because it realises they are useless.

Alexander Jollien, on the internet,
à propos The Naked Philosopher, Seuil, 2010

Fr. Jean-Claude ColinIt's true, when a work is being launched, you make calculations, you consider carefully whom to put at its head, you weigh carefully everything and everybody: but the judgment is a human one. That is not the way here: things must be seen in God, and people in the hands of God, who works through them. Let things happen, let people have their say. God will lead everything in time and when the proper moment comes. Our Lord Jesus Christ stayed thirty years in the hiddenness of Nazareth... Yes, look for your spirit in the house of Nazareth.

The soul of Father Colin, p. 174

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"Brothers, as you wait for the coming of the Lord, have patience.

Look at the farmer: he waits patiently for the precious products of the earth, until he has taken in the first and last harvest.

Have patience, you also, and remain firm, because the coming of the Lord is near."

James 5: 7-8

 

Exercises
for personal reflection
or group sharing

• Put a small pebble in your pocket. Whenever you feel mounting exasperation, take it in your hand, turn it over and pass it from one hand to the other. That will help you break the cycle of anger and will give you the opportunity to compose yourself.

• Your children, your parents, your spouse all annoy you? Recall what it is of yourself that you would like to leave in this world. That your father will say, when he dies, that you were so attentive? That your son will thank you for educating him with so much patience? Take a moment now to think of the memory that you would like them to keep of you, and remember it when these relationships are put to the test.

• Act in favour of patience. Thank others for being patient with you when you tried awkwardly to improve matters and you held up everybody. That will defuse their stress and your own, and will perhaps encourage others to do the same.

• Find a stimulating quote and place it on your computer, on the mirror of your bath room or in your car. Whenever you notice that your patience is evaporating, read it as an immediate prick to remind you.

• Ask for help. We are often impatient because we are overburdened. At the close of your life, you will not have gained anything for having done so much, especially if it is in order to do it to the point of exhaustion.

M.J.Ryan, the Power of Patience, extracts