In a poignant love scene from the movie Picnic (1955), Hal, played by William Holden, passionately embraces Madge, played by Kim Novak, and utters the line, "You make me feel… patient." The virtue of Patience was lacking in Hal's character and that lack was preventing him from facing the slow and deliberate process necessary for him to overcome a difficult childhood and a wasted youth. His true love for Madge opened up for him the transforming power and value of "patience."
Mark Kotsay has been playing major league baseball for nearly two decades. Currently, he is an outfielder for the San Diego Padres. If asked, wives across America would express their admiration for Mark. He gives credit to his wife for much of his success today. Mark Kotsay is a very devout Catholic convert and he praises his wife for being so instrumental for that conversion. Among the other positive influences attributed to his wife is the gift of patience. In an interview for Columbia Magazine, he says, "The areas I'm lacking in, my wife makes up for. She helps me to have patience when things aren't going well. With patience, you conquer yourself, and once you've done that, you can do anything else." Mark is fond of quoting Proverbs 16:32, "The patient are better than warriors, and those who rule their temper, better than the conqueror of a city." All would do well to ponder these words and then they might discover how many areas of life can be improved by following the wisdom of patience.
The link between the liturgical season of Advent and the virtue of Patience is self-evident. Advent is about waiting, waiting for the birth of Jesus Christ. But the period of waiting is not static, not passive. Advent is a season of action. Departing from the other forms of action during the holiday season, Advent invites an interior activity, a self-examination that tends toward the preparation of the self for the coming of the Savior. It is precisely the hope of a "savior" that provides the impetus and courage required for the task of "cleaning up" the house within which the soul and the person possessing it reside. Concurrently, the tie between Advent and patience mirrors the relationship between waiting and hope. Waiting for anything expresses the hope that it will arrive and the more intense the desire, the more fervent the hope.
Perhaps, you have been a patient in a hospital and you are scheduled for an operation that day. Much is occurring within your mind: anticipation, worry, prayerfulness, reflection, and, especially, the discipline of patience. You might find yourself waiting and waiting and waiting until you have become a bundle of nerves. Then, when the time has arrived and you are being prepped for the procedure and are being wheeled to the operating unit, the waiting is replaced with hope that all will go well. When you awaken in the Recovery Room, you want to hear the doctor assure you that everything is fine and that now all you have to do is get better. In Advent, you are the patient and also the physician. Over the four weeks of Advent you diagnose the illnesses of heart and soul that need healing and develop your protocol to spiritual health. The Operating Room and the Recovery Room may be the Confessional or the working of the mind and will repairing and remaking a better person. Thus, you will be prepared to meet the Savior.
I only would be stating the obvious to say that this is a time of the year filled with great energy, movement, and anticipation. This season also is one of reminiscences of times when the ability to wait, to be patient, either found or lacking, has a lesson to be taught with a smile or a tear. If there is anxiety in the gathering of loved ones at Christmas, let your fears be calmed with a patience that allows your good efforts to germinate and, in time, to flower. Persistence and hope is the foundation of the active and creative waiting of Advent.
Patience is the companion of wisdom.
– Saint Augustine
No matter how expectant parents desperately want to hold their child, they have to wait. No matter how those on a trip longingly may wish to return home to their loved ones, they have to wait. No matter how people dreamily look forward to retirement, they have to wait. When it comes to the greatest of treasures, the coming of Our Savior Jesus Christ, this joy calls for the most active and hopeful waiting of all.