Hope and Patience in the Pursuit of Sainthood

“Hope” is the thing with feathers —
That perches in the soul —
And sings the tune without the words —
And never stops — at all —

And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard —
And sore must be the storm —
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm —

I’ve heard it in the chillest land —
And on the strangest Sea —
Yet — never — in Extremity,
It asked a crumb — of me.

— Emily Dickinson

Hope is confident expectation; the opposite of despair. Hope is desire of something coupled with the expectation that it will be obtained. For the Christian, hope is the joyful knowledge that in the end, God will win; in the end, if we are faithful, we too will win. We will win a place in heaven, a place within the beatific vision. Scripture has it: “But, as it is written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love him.”

The patron saint of hope is St. Jude. Perhaps you may recognize him as the patron saint of lost causes. The patron saint of hope and that of lost hope are one and the same! Hope is like that, just when you think it lost, you find that hope was there the whole time, waiting for you to notice, to listen, to take strength from it.

Dickinson’s hope is a beautiful bird, strong and sweet and constant. Hope is enduring, undaunted in the face of difficulty.  Hope asks nothing of the hopeful. Hope is a beautiful, wonderful concept. I understand hope, I possess hope, I wait in joyful hope… and then there is patience. Patience is a much more difficult and demanding concept. St. Monica is the patron saint of patience. St. Monica whose son is St. Augustine. St. Augustine gave St. Monica reasons upon reasons for exercising patience. I am quite certain that the trials and tribulations of my own experience are exponentially trivial in comparison to those of dear St. Monica.

People and events don’t try our hope quite as easily as they try our patience. We can maintain hope while succumbing to petty irritation, illegitimate annoyance and unjustified anger; or even justified irritation, annoyance, or anger. Patience gives us a choice… will we choose the virtue or let the vices have their way with us, spouting their perhaps unkind, irreverent or even vile thoughts, actions or verbalizations?  

Concentrating on the hope that is within us and keeping our hearts close to the promise of heaven must make patience an easy thing. Hope comes naturally to me, patience less so. Hope springs eternal, patience runs dry.

The answer for Christians is keeping proper contempt for the world; remembering in times of trial as well as in times of great joy that this is all fleeting. As Abraham Lincoln quoted in one of his speeches while running for office:

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction.

What then is worth becoming impatient? May we all allow hope to reign in our hearts and then the deep joys and the fiery frustrations of this transitory life can all be taken as passing scenery on the road to heaven.

Bette Hamann