Watching, waiting and wonder: the virtue of patience

| December 11, 2014

NienstedtBlWhen I was a pastor of a large suburban parish outside Detroit, I preached one Advent Sunday on the Advent virtue of courage as exemplified by the life of St. John the Baptist. I encouraged my parishioners to be fearless in speaking about their faith before others and not to be afraid of defending the truths of their Catholic faith. After Mass, a mother came up to me to thank me for the homily but added, “Father, next week could you preach on the virtue of patience? That’s the virtue I really need!”

And isn’t that true for all of us?

When I find myself waiting in long lines at the pharmacy, I say to myself, “I’ve got to be patient.” When I am trying to complete a project under deadline and someone calls with a long list of complaints, I say to myself, “I’ve got to be patient.” When someone misunderstands what I have said and misrepresents it to others, I say to myself, “I’ve got to be patient.”

Yes, indeed, that mother was right: Patience is an Advent virtue, a virtue exercised in the watching, waiting and wonder that characterizes not only the Advent season, but really the whole of our lives. We wait nine months to enter the world. We wait 16 years to drive a car on our own. We wait 18 years to qualify to vote. We wait several months for an engagement to end and a Christian married life to begin. Often we wait for weeks, if not months, by the side of a loved one as he or she prepares to meet the Lord. Thus, anything of real significance in life involves a certain amount of waiting, and a lot of patience.

Advent, as we know, is centered on not one, but the three comings of Jesus Christ. He came that first Christmas night. He comes to us in the Word and Sacrament at Mass. He will come again at the end of time to judge the living and the dead. The Scripture readings for the first part of Advent challenge us to consider how well we are psychologically and physically prepared for the Lord’s return in glory. Then, beginning with Dec. 17, the focus changes to emphasize the people and events that had to do with Christ’s first coming among us. By remembering His first coming, we should be more attentive and expectant to His coming in Word and Sacrament, and even better disposed and hopeful for His coming at the end of time.

And the attitude that should accompany our reflections of the three-fold arrival is one of watching, waiting and wonder. I believe this is best achieved in silence and prayer. The silence allows the prayer to happen and the prayer interiorizes the watching, the waiting and the wonder. And throughout this process, I try to be patient, knowing the Lord is near.

On the first Saturday of Advent, I had the privilege of celebrating Mass for the members of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women as part of their Advent day retreat. More than 150 women were present.

That same day, more than 100 women spent the day in retreat at the St. Paul Seminary, and another 100 women were on retreat at St. Pius X parish in White Bear Lake. Imagine! While these women could have been busy with many other things less than 30 days before Christmas, they chose to spend that time with the Lord. Advent watching, waiting and wonder doesn’t get any better than that!

God bless you!


La virtud de la paciencia en Adviento

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Category: Only Jesus

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