What does Longanimity mean?

The word "Longanimity" jumped out at me one morning as we were watching an EWTN streaming mass & saying the rosary on TV.  The homily said longanimity was one of the Spirits of the Holy Spirit.

Your computer can find out things very quickly so I looked it up. The word was new to me and it translated  as “long-suffering" and longanimitas is a virtue similar to patience.  St. Thomas Aquinas’s careful distinction between these two virtues reveals some precious pearls of wisdom.  In Longanimity vs Patience, in his Summa theologiae, St. Thomas holds that longanimity and patience both deal with enduring difficulties for the sake of a good.  But patience focuses on the difficulties, whereas longanimity focuses on the good. Patience steels the soul, helping a person bear hardships serenely—like a parent calmly teaching teens over and over again. Meanwhile longanimity leads the soul towards a good for which we yearn, specifically for the spiritual growth that flows from delving more deeply into the mystery of  Christ. Thankfully, even the hardship of waiting itself can contribute to our spiritual life!   And, haven't we waited!

So longanimity is a virtue for those who wait: it entails steadfastness in hopefully awaiting a long-delayed good.

Oddly, after differentiating the virtues, St. Thomas draws them together again: the exercise of longanimity will always require patience too, he says, because “the very delay of the good we hope for is of a nature to cause sorrow.” He quotes Proverbs 13:12: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Longanimity is waiting in hope, but it also requires patience to fortify the soul against the difficulty of waiting itself.

God knows the human heart and recognizes that a long delay in attaining our deepest desires is a genuine cause of sorrow, silent and unobserved though it may be. We all have unanswered prayers: some of us wait in hope for a spouse, others for children, others for entrance to religious life, others for a diagnosis or a cure for the virus, others to secure a job, others to pay a debt, others to find the right home. In the midst of uncertainty, we can pray for the virtue of longanimity to strengthen our souls and guard us against despair. Second, longanimity points us beyond ourselves to God. The greatest good we all yearn for is union with God, and Christian hope is founded on the promise that He will fulfill this desire.

The Christian life, then, is a matter of waiting for God. As the ten bridesmaids of St. Matthew’s Gospel demonstrate, the proper attitude of the Christian is one of watching and waiting in hope, lamps filled with oil (Matt. 25:1-13).   Fruit of Longanimity: 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. John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

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The 12 fruits are charity (or love), joy, peace, patience, benignity (or kindness), goodness, longanimity (or long-suffering), mildness (or gentleness), faith, modesty, continency (or self-control), and chastity. (Longanimity, modesty, and chastity are the three fruits found only in the longer version of the text.)

Longanimity originated in the early to mid-1400s, derived from the Late Latin longanimis, which means patient.  The Latin longus, means long, and animus, means soul.  With roots in Catholicism, it serves as one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit.  According to Catholic belief, these "fruits" are virtues that can only be performed by an individual with the help of the Holy Spirit.

 

Marie Coppola  December 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Marie Coppola

Marie Coppola A long-time human resources administrator and paralegal (B.S. in Business Administration/ Psychology, Certified Paralegal), Marie writes to aid employees with positive career options and resources, and to assist in career development solutions for students and employees; counsels on resumes, securing employment, and being successful with promotable possibilities. Marie finds inspiration in her faith, which she enjoys passing on to others, and finds gratification in helping others wherever she can. Got a question, need advice? Marie can be reached at mcopp@ymail.com