Friday, November 11, 2011


I've recently noticed myself lacking patience.  I'm like the Right-Now Family from the old Netflix commercials.  You know, those ultra-chipper people who decided to watch a movie and said "Let's watch it RIGHT NOW!!!" and they could because they could stream it on Netflix?  Sometimes I feel like them.

I waited a long while to buy our new curtains.  I waited until we had settled in to our new house, and then I needed to think about what to get, and then I waited for the right time to ask my husband about spending some extra money for decorating, and when I finally got the go ahead, I wanted to do it RIGHT NOW!  As in I needed them on the walls in 24 hours or less.

I knew this was crazy.  Haste makes waste-right?  But it was making me anxious.  I was thinking about curtains non-stop.  And I still needed to find the curtains I was envisioning at the store and corner my husband at the right time so he'd mount the hardware, and then I had to iron them...  Very stressful.  Only it was a waste.  Why worry about curtains?  What are curtains in the grand scheme of life?

So I decided I needed to develop my patience.  Because there was no sense in getting rattled by every little thing that came my way.  I thought I could learn patience by making myself practice it.  Instead of running out to buy future curtains I could make myself wait for several days.  Or instead of feeling angst while making dinner because I'm in a rush to get it on the table, I could just stand in the middle of the kitchen for a minute and do nothing.

I think there is some goodness in this idea.  I did some research and discovered true patience isn't something you really learn.  It's a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Here's how I think it works.  We have to start with virtues.  There are 3 theological virtues: faith, hope, and charity, and 4 cardinal virtues: justice, temperance, fortitude, and prudence.  Here's what the Catechism says about virtue:

1804 Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.

The moral virtues are acquired by human effort. They are the fruit and seed of morally good acts; they dispose all the powers of the human being for communion with divine love.

These are the things we must work on.  Then, we can receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Here's the CCC definition:

1832 The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: "charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity."112

While I was searching "fruits of the Holy Spirit" I came across this information at Loyola Press:

“Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. So by their fruits you will know them.” (Matthew 7:17-20)

This passage in Matthew's Gospel helps us to understand the Fruits of the Holy Spirit, which are the observable behaviors of people who have allowed the grace of the Holy Spirit to be effective in them. 

I especially took note that I must allow the Holy Spirit's grace to be effective in me.  

Finally, I found this in the Catholic Encyclopedia:

But, with St. ThomasI-II.70.2, the word is ordinarily restricted to mean only those supernatural works that are done joyfully and with peace of soul. This is the sense in which most authorities apply the term to the list mentioned by St. Paul (Galatians 5:22-23): "But the fruit of the Spirit is, charityjoy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continencychastity." Moreover, there is no doubt that this list of twelve — three of the twelve are omitted in several Greek and Latin manuscripts — is not to be taken in a strictly limited sense, but, according to the rules of Scriptural language, as capable of being extended to include all acts of a similar character. That is why the Angelic Doctor says: "Every virtuous act which man performs with pleasure is a fruit." The fruits of the Holy Ghost are not habits, permanent qualities, but acts. They cannot, therefore, be confounded with the virtues and the gifts, from which they are distinguished as the effect is from its cause, or the stream from its source. The charity, patience, mildness, etc., of which the Apostle speaks in this passage, are not then the virtues themselves, but rather their acts or operations; for, however perfect the virtues may be, they cannot be considered as the ultimate effects of grace, being themselves intended, inasmuch as they are active principles, to produce something else, i.e. their acts. Further, in order that these acts may fully justify their metaphorical name of fruits, they must belong to that class which are performed with ease and pleasure; in other words, the difficulty involved in performing them must disappear in presence of the delight and satisfaction resulting from the good accomplished.  

If I want to be truly patient, I must practice virtue and be open to receiving the gift of patience from the Holy Spirit.  Moreover, I must delight in my patience because I know it is pleasing to God.  So when I'm out Christmas shopping in a couple weeks and I'm waiting in a long line in a noisy store when I just want to be home because I'm exhausted, I will need to delight in being patient or else it isn't really patience as far as fruits of the Holy Spirit are concerned.  

I also find this interesting as I quite often tell my three-year-old to have patience.  Obviously three-year-olds are not patient by nature.  But I'm realizing the real patience I long for my son to have will come as he develops virtue.  So while it's good to tell him "be patient" it's more important to instruct him and help him 
grow in virtue.

I'm going to stick a list of the "big seven" virtues on my fridge.  That's where I need to start.  It seems overwhelming, but I suppose we aren't called to master them but to strive for them.  I'm just glad the Holy Spirit is sending me fruits and gifts and graces.  I really need them. 


  1. I like the idea of posting the virtues--maybe I'll post them on my studio desk, to read over at 3am when my model-due-tomorrow-at-one is only halfway finished.
    ~Ink (from CF)

  2. You've learned something really big here - and your diligence in figuring it out, and sharing it here is a clarification to me, too. Thanks!!