The phrase, “passion of patience” is not my own but instead is gleaned from the writings of Venerable Madeleine Debrel, former atheist turned Catholic apologist who lived and died during the last century. Her poem of the same begins with this searing line:
The patiences, these little pieces of passion, whose job is to kill us slowly for your glory, to kill us without our glory...
“Passion of patience:” three simple words but brimming with truth and with power. And seem, as I ponder them, to point to the woman: Mary, Mother of God, the quintessence of patience.
I have come to understand that patience is a critical virtue, perhaps the most critical. After all, we are taught that humility is the foremost of all graces, but undergirding humility lies patience; they are mutually dependent. And I am unceasingly reminded of how far short I fall of either of them.
This spiritual life is such a razor’s edge. On the one hand, our knowledge of the Gospel and the lives of the saints reveal that all spiritual progress is grace. But yet we know also that we must work at it through prayer, fasting, alms. And we do just that.
Consequently, there are rare and pristine days when we can feel the progress and trust that we are on the road to perfection. But the ordinary days seem to be colored a wintry gray of mediocrity, where we travel through them listlessly, all too secure in our failures and weaknesses.
And wonder: “Did the saints feel such despondence at their pathetic weaknesses?” As we ponder his or her martyrdom.
“Am I lying to myself or worse exhibiting pridefulness with that smile when I wanted to curse?” While we fantasize about the missionary killed by African terrorists.
“Were they as terribly distracted by dirty dishes, hard to please husbands or a sudden accident?” Considering Our Lady’s mild response to her Son whom she had been searching for for three days.
They are endless, the manner and means with which we can deride ourselves. The methods by which we rob ourselves of the joy that Christ yearns to cloak us with. When providentially, we come across one who expresses all of these dark thoughts and more. This woman from the last century who reminds us of the sacredness of that forced smile and the holiness of our banal, boring patiences.
Here is Debrel’s entire poem, translated from the original French:
The patiences, these little pieces of passion, whose job is to kill us slowly for your glory, to kill us without our glory.
From the morning they come to meet us:
These are our nerves too vibrating or too soft;
it is the bus that goes full,
the milk that runs away,
the chimney sweepers coming,
the children who confuse everything;
they are the guests whom our husband brings,
and this friend who does not come; it's the phone that breaks loose,
those we love who do not love each other anymore;
it is the desire to be silent and the duty to speak;
it is the desire to speak and the need to keep quiet;
it's wanting to go out when you're locked up
and stay at home when you have to go out;
it is the husband whom we would like to support
and who becomes the most fragile of children;
and the nervous desire of all that is not ours.
Thus come our patiences in tight ranks or in single file and they always forget to tell us that they are the martyrdom that was prepared for us.
And we let them pass with contempt, waiting to give our lives an opportunity that is worth it