As a mother of nine children, I need patience. It is a daily requirement, in fact. However, requirements do not automatically produce results. If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me "You must have a lot of patience," I would be a rich woman. Yet rich in patience I am not.
Patience is something I pray for constantly. And it's one of the things I mention in the confessional just as often. I have this vision in my head of what patience is supposed to look like: a mother with a soft expression, gently speaking to her child who has just done something wrong; calmly reprimanding the child who, in turn, is obediently sorrowful.
Somehow this is not how it usually plays out in my own home. Unfortunately, I'm much quicker to anger than I am to this vision of patience.
Of course we all know that "patience is a virtue," and yet we also know how hard it is to remain patient in this life. Oftentimes, when daily annoyances nag us, or we are faced with seemingly unanswered prayers, it is easy to lose patience.
We also know that we have the perfect model of patience in Our Blessed Mother. So often she is the one I appeal to when my own patience seems utterly absent.
"Mother Mary, allow me to borrow your Immaculate Heart," is a prayer I learned in the book 33 Days to Morning Glory. While Mary is the perfect example of the holy virtue of patience, many other saints also offer us examples of patience through their lives.
Saint Monica, who prayed for her son's conversion for seventeen years, certainly knew what it felt like to have to wait; to encounter hardships, frustrations, and disappointments with a strong faith and with perseverance. Often invoked as a patron of the virtue of patience, she never wavered in praying for the conversion of her husband and son. In the end, both of them converted and her son, Augustine, even became a Doctor of the Church.
The word “patience” is derived from the Latin word pati, which means to suffer, to endure, to bear. This is why patience is one of the moral virtues that comes under the general virtue of Fortitude. Thomas Aquinas said,
“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.” (Comp. to Summa, III, 394)
While we know patience is necessary, it is also a difficult virtue because it requires control over our emotions and passions. Father Paul Duffner, O.P. said,
"There is a close connection between Christian patience, and awareness of and trust in the Providence of God; an awareness that there is nothing that happens in our life except that God foresees it, allows it, and can bring good out of it if we trust in His loving and all-wise concern for each of us."
Saint Monica must have known this. It is worth looking at the story of her life to understand how this beautiful woman of faith relied on God's providence to sustain her patient suffering.
The Story of Saint Monica
Saint Monica (322-387) was raised in a Christian home in Tagaste, North Africa. Early in life she struggled with alcoholism, sneaking draughts of wine from the family cellar, before being caught and subsequently giving up the habit. She was later given in marriage to a pagan Roman man, Patricius. He was not an entirely bad man, but was licentious and had a violent temper; Monica had to endure this daily as well as live with his similarly ill-tempered mother.
Monica suffered greatly, and she fervently prayed for long years for the conversion of her family members. Her patience and kindness became a source of encouragement to other unhappy housewives with whom she came in contact. Monica gave birth to three children and was grieved that her husband would not allow them to be baptized.
Her eldest son, Augustine, was the most wayward of her children and caused her the most pain, and for his conversion she prayed fervently for years. Through her persistence in prayer and good example, her husband became a Christian shortly before his death.
When Augustine was caught up with heretical sects and moved away to Milan, Saint Monica followed him. A holy bishop comforted her, saying, "The child of those tears shall never perish."
Monica became friends with the Bishop of Milan, Saint Ambrose, who eventually led Augustine to convert to the Christian faith. He was baptized shortly before her death, but not before they had spent peace-filled, joyous days together, discussing the mysteries of God, whom they loved so much.
Patience In Our Own Lives
I am grateful for the story of Saint Monica. While I am certain I will be praying for patience and confessing my lack of it for many years to come, I can look to her and know that her years of patient longing included days of frustrations and even crying out to God for help
Just like the vision I have in my head, we often think of patience as something that only comes with a calm and serene countenance. However, as we contemplate the life of Saint Monica, we can see that it is often accompanied by consternation. Patience means to endure hardships with trust and hope in the providence of God. It doesn't necessarily mean that it comes without sweat and tears. As the bishop said: "The child of those tears shall never perish."
I am grateful that I can look to Saint Monica for holy assistance and intercessory help in the constant practice of patience in my own motherhood. Let us remember that her continual and persistent prayer for her husband and for her son ultimately paid off. Ours will, too.
A Prayer to Saint Monica
Dear Saint Monica, you were once the mournful mother of a prodigal son. Your faithfulness to prayer brought you and your son so close to God that you are now with him in eternity. By your intercession and God’s grace, your son St. Augustine became a great and venerable Saint of the Church. Please take my request to God with the same fervor and persistence with which you prayed for your own son.
(Mention your intentions here)
With your needs, worries and anxieties, you threw yourself on the mercy and providence of God. Through sorrow and pain, you constantly devoted yourself to God. Pray for me that I might join you in such a deep faith in God’s goodness and mercy.
Above all, dear Saint Monica, pray for me that I may, like your son, turn from my sin and become a great saint for the glory of God. Amen.
Are you familiar with Saint Monica's story?
Is there another saint that you turn to as an example of patience?
Let us know in the the comments below! We want to hear from you!