Pondering on the various virtues attributed to St. Dominic in the Hymn ‘O Lumen’ sung each evening in his honour by all his children throughout the world, I was drawn to the title ‘Rose of Patience’, this is a virtue in which most of us need encouragement from time to time, if not all the time! There are so many facets associated with this vibrant virtue. Making the effort with God’s ever present help, to be patient in our daily dealings with one another and in the various situations that occur each day, is already an important beginning – but there is of course, a much deeper level to this beautiful virtue to which God calls us, of which St. Dominic gave such ample evidence in his own humble life.
Witnesses at his canonisation mention repeatedly in one way or another – that he was a man of patience, of humility, compassion, encouragement, cheerfulness, obedience, to name but a few, all so closely linked with patience. But, we may ask why ‘Rose of Patience?’ – what is the connection? Roses symbolise ‘love’. Love and patience are two words closely associated – St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians: ‘Love is patient’ – we cannot have true patience without love and we cannot have true love without patience. Patience is also linked to obedience – ‘the sign that thou hast this virtue of obedience’ said the eternal Father to St. Catherine, ‘is patience’. All these virtues shine forth so brightly in the life of our father, Dominic, and invite or rather, urge us to imitation.
So how does one learn to cultivate this most necessary virtue? It cannot be achieved by sheer will-power alone – no, we must ask for it in humble prayer. How well St Dominic knew this as he spent long hours by day and by night communing with God in prayer. Alongside prayer, we turn for help and enlightenment to the holy Scriptures, we know St. Dominic constantly carried the holy Scriptures with him on his long journeys, and he would have been very familiar with the text in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans – ‘everything written in the Scriptures is written that we might have hope through the patience and encouragement which the Scriptures give’ – the letter goes on to say ‘God is the source of patience and encouragement’.
Blessed Jordan, St. Dominic’s successor, set himself the task of training the first nuns of the Order, in patience, which he rightly believed to be of utmost importance to the cloistered contemplative life as well as to every walk of life. He reminds us that it is the virtue of patience that will be subject to vigorous attacks by the Devil as the soul progresses.
The virtue of patience is so all embracing, not just patience with one another, but patience with God: ‘wait for the Lord, keep to his way’ the Psalmist tells us. and of course the need for patience with ourselves cannot be over estimated – it is a journey of a lifetime for most of us. Asking Jesus in humble prayer for his help as he told us to, is the only way: ‘Learn of me for I am gentle and humble of heart – true gentleness and humility are as we all realise, closely intertwined with patience.
So each evening, as we sing the Antiphon ‘O Lumen’ to St. Dominic and invoke his title ‘Rose of Patience’, let us make it our plea with him to foster continually in his sons and daughters, this pearl of great price.