Longanimity (Long-Suffering)


In case you missed it, this new blog, Standing Before Mount Carmel, is explained in the first post.

I’ve been reflecting of late a lot on long-suffering. It’s not really discussed and yet, it is very relevant to our own spiritual formation.

Long-suffering is expressed in an old word not heard so much in contemporary world: Longanimity.  My WordPress spell-check does not recognize it.  The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines longanimity as, “a disposition to bear injuries patiently.”

Longanimity, or long suffering, is explained in Fr. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary this way (emphasis mine in bold):

“Extraordinary patience under provocation or trial. Also called long suffering. It is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It includes forbearance, which adds to long suffering the implication of restraint in expressing one’s feelings or in demanding punishment or one’s due. Longanimity suggests toleration, moved by love and the desire for peace, of something painful that deserves to be rejected or opposed.”

Fr. Hardon was using the Vulgate text when listing the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is, charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity.

To me, these are much more clear than most contemporary versions even if we need to study some of the terms to grasp their meaning.  In fact, the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE) lists only 9. If you want more confusion, the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives us a full twelve, but there are some differences from the Vulgate.  We will use what Fr. Hardon presents since this post is about longanimity.

Christ exemplifies longanimity in his passion and death

Jesus was mocked, scorned, spit-upon, beaten, endured long thorns shoved into his head, and even deeper nails penetrating his hands and feet.  This, by those whom he loved. He met it all with silence when it was clear this was the will of the Father for him.  In one piece attributed to St. Augustine on patience we read:

This patience the Lord taught, when, the servants being moved at the mixing in of the tares and wishing to gather them up, He said that the householder answered, Leave both to grow until the harvest. That, namely, must be patience put up with, which must not be in haste put away. Of this patience Himself afforded and showed an example, when, before the passion of His Body, He so bore with His disciple Judas, that ere He pointed him out as the traitor, He endured him as a thief; and before experience of bonds and cross and death, did, to those lips so full of guile, not deny the kiss of peace.

The Angelic Doctor, Thomas Aquinas, lists seven reasons why Christ had to suffer on the cross. In his sixth reason, he says, in part:


Hans Thoma Kreuzigung” by Hans Thoma – Festkalender von Hans Thoma, Verlag von E. A. Seemann, Leipzig. Mappe mit 31 farbigen Tafeln.. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

“Not without purpose did He choose this class of death, that He might be a teacher of that breadth, and height, and length, and depth,” of which the Apostle speaks (Ephesians 3:18): For breadth is in the beam, which is fixed transversely above; this appertains to good works, since the hands are stretched out upon it. Length is the tree’s extent from the beam to the ground; and there it is planted–that is, it stands and abides–which is the note of longanimity. Height is in that portion of the tree which remains over from the transverse beam upwards to the top, and this is at the head of the Crucified, because He is the supreme desire of souls of good hope. But that part of the tree which is hidden from view to hold it fixed, and from which the entire rood springs, denotes the depth of gratuitous grace.”

In the beginning of paragraph 2 by St. Iranaeus in Against Heresies: Book III, Chapter 20, he explains:

This, therefore, was the [object of the] long-suffering of God, that man, passing through all things, and acquiring the knowledge of moral discipline, then attaining to the resurrection from the dead, and learning by experience what is the source of his deliverance, may always live in a state of gratitude to the Lord…

There was more to read, but I did not want to make the post too long, so continue reading what St. Iranaeus had to say by following the link.

In another post, we will look closer at how the fruit of long-suffering is manifest in ordinary living and in extraordinary circumstances.

Flagellation-of-christ- Rubens” by Peter Paul Rubens – http://www.aiwaz.net/uploads/gallery/flagellation-of-christ-3728.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
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