Not too many years ago, there was a student who was called before several teachers for an oral exam because he hadn’t finished all of his assignments. When asked which question he intended to address in his oral presentation, the student answered, “All of them.” He proceeded to give thorough explanation of all the assigned material, thereby demonstrating that he had learned it very well.
After the presentation, a teacher told him, “Strictly speaking, you should get a ten (an A) but we will give you a nine (a B). This is not to punish you but it’s so you remember that what matters is fulfilling your duty everyday; performing systematic work without letting it become routine; building things up brick by brick, rather than in a fit of improvisation that seduces you so.”
The teacher was Fr. Jorge Bergoglio and the student was Jorge Milia, who recounts this incident in his memoirs entitled “From the Happy Age.” Milia says, “I never forgot that lesson, which I keep in mind even today and I didn’t think they could’ve treated me more fairly.”
Since Fr. Jorge Bergoglio, S.J. became Pope Francis three months ago, a week hasn’t gone by in which he hasn’t mentioned the word ‘patience’ in one of his morning homilies at daily Mass or in his more formal teachings. In the fascinating book, “Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio” by Ambrogetti and Rubin, the then-Cardinal Bergoglio goes on the elaborate at some length about an insight that is obviously close to his heart and teaching: Traveling through patience.
When asked to explain this phrase, Cardinal Bergoglio said, “I thought of it while I was reading a book called “A Theology of Failure” in which the Italian author sets out to show how Jesus entered into patience by confronting limits and thereby forging patience. Sometimes life forces us not to ‘make’ but to ‘suffer’; enduring, from the Greek ypomeno, our own limitations and those of others. Traveling with patience is knowing that what matures is time. Traveling with patience is allowing time to rule and shape our lives. To travel with (or in or through) patience means accepting that life is a continuous learning experience. When you’re young, you believe you can change the world and that’s as it should be. But later when you seek this change, you discover the value and logic of patience in your life and the lives of others. To travel with patience means to make peace with time and allow for others to open up their lives to you. A good parent knows how to intervene in the life of their child just enough to demonstrate guidelines for growing up, to help, but later who knows when to be a bystander to successes and failures and to endure them.”
“So often in life we should slow down and not try to fix everything at once. To travel through patience means these things: It is giving up the presumption of wanting to solve everything. You have to make an effort but also to understand that one person can’t do everything. You have to put the myth of self-sufficiency into perspective.” He goes on to observe that often “A shortcut has the element of an ethical trap…you see this in small things whenever we avoid making the effort.”
So it’s easy to see why, as a teacher, Fr. Bergoglio didn’t give his excellent student an A when he avoided doing the daily work he was assigned to do. His student learned a valuable lesson that he carried throughout his life about conscientiously observing what Therese of Lisieux called her “Little Way.” It’s a lesson I need to re-learn everyday!
Source material here: http://tinyurl.com/l7w3gpo