“We are not helpless, we are men. What lies between us, it can be set aside and ended.”

— Stephen Stills

The Spiritual Works of Mercy guide us to help our neighbors with their spiritual needs. Therefore, it is vital that we elevate “bear patiently those who do us ill” beyond the mere act of “suffering fools gladly.” The requirement to love our neighbor demands more of us than passive, lukewarm behavior — tolerance is not equal to love; it is a bland imitation. What an opportunity we have to exemplify active forgiveness (“go first and be reconciled with your brother”)!

Emerson wrote that, “It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no person can sincerely try to help another without helping him or herself.” By demonstrating mercy, we also give ourselves the gift of a changed self. If you desire a world at peace — an integral goal of our faith — the first step is patience with those who do you ill.

On July 5, we celebrate the feast of St. Elizabeth of Portugal, patron saint of peace. These stories illustrate the peacemaker she was and the patience she bore. Early in her marriage, Queen Elizabeth suffered the chauvinistic attitudes of her husband. Through the grace of God and Elizabeth’s forbearance, her husband amended his ways and made amends, which included a public apology. Elizabeth later served as intermediary between her husband and her son during a civil war, preventing the King from killing his son. Twelve years later, Elizabeth again stopped another conflict, this time between her son and a neighboring king.

Peace in the world must start with peace within our hearts? Where do we start?

“Assume everyone you meet has a broken heart, because they probably do.”

Years ago, we conducted a series of listening sessions on the “Catholic Culture of Life” and from more than five dozen people we heard tales of pain, remembrances of experiences, and stories of compassion. We understood that people arrived at their attitude on life because of a personal story.

Everything is connected. The violence we see in our communities is symptomatic of the pain that the perpetrators and participants have suffered. The roots of the anger that discolor civic discourse were planted in contaminated soil. The individual's wrath hides his or her pain.

“Patience is a virtue but I don't have the time,” songwriter David Byrne said

God is patient with us. Let us pray to St. Elizabeth to intercede on our behalf for the grace to bear the same level of patience with others.

Cato is director of the Office of Life, Justice and Peace for the Archdiocese of Portland. Fr. Libra, pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish, is director of pro-life activities in the archdiocese.