Today St. James exhorts us to practice meekness and overcome anger. Angry words destroy families and friendships. Marriages have been ruined, homes have been broken, Because the passion of anger flares up like a blazing fire out of control.
According to St. Thomas, the virtue of meekness restrains anger. Meekness is the type of humility that keeps our temper under control. Meekness preserves peace of soul. That’s why Jesus said, “Learn of Me, because I am meek and humble of Heart and you shall find rest for your souls.”
From teachers to parents, from businessmen to computer technicians, cooks to construction workers, and yes, even internet users, we must all practice the virtue of meekness…. But how? What does it mean to be meek in our everyday life? St. Francis de Sales, patron of our Institute, gives us helpful advice. He says that to be meek we must be gentle.
Now, gentleness like meekness is virtue which is much misunderstood. The world says that meekness is weakness--gentleness is for cowards. Many people think that strength means aggressive force. To be strong, you have to fight back.
One day when Jesus had been rejected by His enemies, the apostles said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from Heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus reprimanded them, saying: “You know not of what spirit you are. The Son of man came not to destroy souls, but to save.” Gentleness is not weakness; it’s the power of self-control over passion; the power of love over hate. Gentleness is the power to forgive. Sometimes, the very reason God places difficult people into our lives is that by our gentle patience toward them, we might obtain from God the graces of conversion they need.
Some people might think that to be strong, you must go out and attack the enemy head-on. But St. Thomas Aquinas, in speaking of the virtue of fortitude—the virtue of spiritual strength—says that the greatest act of this virtue is to endure, to bear with, to stand your ground in the midst of difficulty. Endurance is stronger than aggression. It takes courage… to stand your ground in the face of criticism and ridicule, to suffer with patience when treated unfairly, to stand up for the right thing when no one else is doing it. It takes courage to be gentle. It takes courage to keep self-control in the midst of all the evil surrounding us in this world. But that’s what Mary did. Our sorrowful Mother stood at the foot of the cross with a spiritual endurance greater than all the might of ancient Rome.
This most gentle of all women endured the blasphemies, the blood, the brutality of Calvary, and she offered it all up with motherly gentleness for the salvation of all humanity. Gentleness is not for the timid and weak-minded, but gentleness is true strength of character. To quote St. Francis de Sales, there is no strength which is greater than gentleness, There is nothing which is so gentle… as true strength.” Just like a trained horse… large and powerful… yields to the rider who directs it with the reins, so does, gentleness show strength under control. The gentleness of love is more powerful than any force on earth. Blessed are the meek, happy are the gentle.
Another misconception of gentleness: some people erroneously think that gentleness is a sort of tolerance for anything and everything. But our Mother most gentle tells us today, as she told the waiters at Cana 2000 years ago… “Do whatever my Son tells you.” Gentleness never compromises the truth, but the gentle seek to make the truth… better known and loved… in all its fullness by the attractive manner in which this truth is presented.
St. Francis de Sales is called the gentle saint. He became the Bishop of Geneva, a Calvinist stronghold. The sullen Protestants of this city had forbidden that anyone speak to Catholic priests, and so, at first, the city’s inhabitants avoided Francis like the plague. But when they saw him smiling and playing in the streets with their children, when they saw his smile, his unpretentious humility, when they heard his pleasant conversation, his gentle laugh, their hearts were softened.
Their ears opened up to the truth of his message, and were converted. His Catholic contemporaries urged Francis to retake the city by force. But our saint remarked, that the city was not to be reconquered by cannons and gunpowder, the very odor of which smells like the fires of hell.
“Nothing by force, but everything with love.” This was the Salesian battle cry… his strategy was gentleness and charity. After some years the fortress of Geneva could not resist the gentle assault of fraternal charity practiced by people of good example. The charity of gentleness reclaimed the city for Christ.
And finally, dear faithful, gentleness is the virtue for a happy home. How much better your family life would be if husbands and wives would be more gentle toward each other. St. James gives good advice in the practice of gentleness. He says, “Be swift to listen, but slow to speak.” Hasty words and impulsive talk will end in anger. But good listeners will be able to calmly work out their problems with greater wisdom and gentleness.
The Evil Prince of this selfish world is always seeking to divide and conquer families by means of anger. If we are angry, we open the door of our home to the demon. However, the virtue of gentleness will be a powerful defense against the forces of hell. If you want to teach your children a good lesson, you will accomplish much more by gentleness… than by severity. A firm, but loving correction will sink in far deeper and penetrate more effectively… than an angry, stormy rebuke. Cheerful behavior, a warm smile, a positive attitude.
Gentleness has a greater effect on children than mere words. Kids will not always remember what you said, but they will remember how you said it. Gentleness is the spoonful of sugar which makes the medicine go down. And that bitter flavor of discipline must have an aftertaste of gentleness.
Never correct an evil without encouraging the good. Be quick to correct, but also to congratulate and to compliment.
It’s not enough to teach children their prayers, It’s not enough to have them memorize the catechism. That’s good and necessary, but that’s not enough. But, if you want your children to be faithful Catholics their lifelong, then make them understand that Catholic morality and lifestyle will make them happy people. When children see gentleness and joy in you adults, then they will grow up as convinced Catholics. Children are great imitators. So give them something great to imitate.
Give them true gentleness, and the rest will follow.
And so, on this beautiful day, when we witness the moving sight of our children bringing flowers to our Lady most gentle, let us ask our Mother most meek to make us virtuous examples of gentleness.
In just a little while, your children will be grown up and gone. But if now you are truly gentle, your good example will remain with them their whole life through.
Nothing by force, but everything with love. Blessed are the meek, happy are the gentle.