Anyone who is acquainted with me knows that I am impatient in little things. I am incapable of waiting for a bus! I believe, however, that in big things I am patient in an active way about which I would like to say a word here.

This is something quite different from merely marking time. It is a quality of mind, or better of the heart, which is rooted in the profound, existential conviction, firstly that God is in charge and accomplishes his gracious design through us,  and secondly, that, in all great things, delay is necessary for their maturation.

One can only escape the servitude of time in a time which is not void but in which something is happening, something the seeds of which have been confided to the earth and are ripening there.

It is the profound patience of the sower who knows that "something will spring up" (cf. Zech 3:8; 6:12).

I have often thought of the words of Saint Paul: "Patience breeds hope" (Romans 5:4). One would have thought that it was just the reverse, that a man could wait patiently because he had hope in his heart

In a certain sense this is true, but the order in which Saint Paul puts it reveals a more profound truth. Those who do not know how to suffer, do not know how to hope either. People who are in too much of a hurry, who wish to grasp the object of their desires immediately, are also incapable of it. 

The patient sower, who entrusts his seed to the earth and the sun, is also the man of hope. Coventry Patmore has said that to the man who waits all things reveal themselves, provided that he has the courage not to deny in the darkness what he has seen in the light.

This active patience of which I speak is particularly suited to the work of ecumenism, if it be right to regard the latter as a long process of convergence, bound up with an inner renewal of each communion in accordance with the sources, the calls, and the demands which are fundamentally similar to all, if not common to all.

If this patience is that of the sower, it is necessarily accompanied by a cross. "Those who sow in sorrow, reap in shouts of joy" (Psalm 126:5), but sometimes they do not reap at all, for "one sows and another reaps" (John 4:37). 

The cross is a condition of every holy work. God himself is at work in what to us seems a cross. Only by its means do our lives acquire a certain genuineness and depth. Nothing is meant wholly seriously unless we are prepared to pay the price it demands. "It belongs to the place in our poor hearts which is not even there until
suffering has entered in" (Leon Bloy). 

Only when a man has suffered for his convictions does he attain in them a certain force, a certain quality of the undeniable, and, at the same time, the right to be heard and to be respected. 

O crux benedicta!

—Yves Congar OP, Dialogue between Christians, trans. Philip Loretz, S.A. (Newman, 1966). Father Yves Congar was made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II.

return to OPTHIRDLinks Page

return to Table of Contents Page