THE MISSIONARY IS PATIENT
J. Hudson Taylor said: ‘There are three requirements for missionaries: Patience, patience and patience.’ Judging by what he wrote in this letter, Claret must have felt wounded and humiliated by the attitude of some of his parishioners. He had gone to his home-town full of zeal and enthusiasm to work that God would be better known, loved and served there. But he met with such opposition that it led him to think of asking for another parish.
He said ‘prudence tells me to be calm’. Probably it was the best he could have done at that point to avoid later collisions. Claret had sufficient patience to masterfully control his dislike and frustration. Patience is an important quality for a missionary; in the future he would experience the need to exercise it even more vividly.
In our missionary territories, we have the experience that people don’t arrive on time for communal activities, don’t always co-operate with the missionary and even at times act against him. But he must have patience with them, following the unparalleled example of St John Mary Vianney, the ‘Curé de Ars’. Patience is the fruit of humility and the experience of the real presence of Jesus in us. After all, a witness of Jesus is never alone. He carries Christ with him, such that he is not carrying out his own whim but participating in Christ’s unique mission.
When an apostle – whether priest or layman – is aware that the Lord has chosen him to participate in his mission, he automatically feels humble, the bearer of an overwhelming gift. The mission he exercises springs from the presence of Christ in him. Thus the experience of rejection may perhaps affect him positively, seeing himself more identified with Jesus. Bearing such suffering in company, patience will permit him to live this hard situation with elegance. May patience make us mature witnesses of the Gospel!