Friday, August 1, 2014

Saint Alphonsus: Love is not prone to anger

Today is the feast day of St. Alphonsus.  In his book on The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ, Chapter 8, he writes about anger and how easy it is to fall into sinful anger. 
Still, as we all know, there are times when it seems absolutely necessary to answer insolence with severity. Occasions do occur when we may resort to righteous anger. But this we must remember: It may sometimes be expedient - speculatively speaking - to answer someone severely; but in practice it is very difficult to do so without some fault on our part.

We should take great care to practice meekness, especially when we are corrected, either by those who hold authority over us, or by our friends. Saint Francis de Sales writes: "To receive a correction cheerfully proves that we love the virtue in which we have failed. And, consequently, this is an indication of growth in holiness". We should even practice meekness toward ourselves in this case. Anger at ourselves is a deceit of the Devil to make us think that it is somehow virtuous to act in this way after we have committed a fault.

Gentleness is even more important when we must correct others. Corrections made in anger often do more harm than good, especially when the person corrected is also excited. In such a case, the correction should be postponed. If we correct others when we are angry ourselves, our correction will always be mixed with harshness, and the person being corrected will, consequently, ignore our admonition.

We must prove how dearly we love Jesus Christ by meekly and gladly accepting every kind of injury and contempt.

We are what we eat

Years ago, after reading that chapter, I stopped following Catholic sites that seemed to gin up anger by focusing on some outrage or another, daily.  I'm not talking about the occasional thing someone might talk about; rather, I'm talking about Catholic sites that seem to draw traffic on scandal and outrage.   Our human fallen nature is drawn to it - whether it is in a printed tabloid in that check-out line, or in an online tabloid masquerading as orthodox Catholicism. Don't allow yourself to be dragged into those things.  Jesus told us to imitate Him because He was meek and gentle of heart, not because he flipped tables.

So, what do we do about the evil around us? Go to an Adoration chapel and pray.  Pray a Rosary.  Read Scripture. Read classic works by the saints.  Go find some charitable work to do or help an elderly neighbor. Spend time with your spouse and kids doing wholesome activities.  Make use of labor in prayerful silence.  All these things can be offered up to convert souls from their evil ways.  Do you want to really help the Christians being persecuted by radical Islamists?  Here's the Catholic response.  Does this mean we can't talk about those things? No. But, we should be discerning whether something is causing us to be in a chronic state of anger.

I shared a post yesterday on the movie of Saint Sharbel with English subtitles online.  At one point, two monks from another monastery enter where he was dining with other brothers. He explained that they were being persecuted by the Turkish regime and monks from several monasteries rose up against them.  Blood was shed - some were killed on both sides.  A young monk turns to Saint Sharbel and appeals to him using Scripture, after seeing him lower his head in disapproval. He responds, in part:

By acting on anger, we can cross into sinful anger very easily, and become tools of the devil, all the while thinking we are doing God's work.  There is a thing called righteous anger, but let me pull out one sentence from the quote by St. Alphonsus:

It may sometimes be expedient - speculatively speaking - to answer someone severely; but in practice it is very difficult to do so without some fault on our part.

I priest I know of a very traditionalist bent, who doesn't seem to get too worked up the way we see some traditionalists online, once told me that much of the anger we see displayed is not authentic righteous anger. We were, in fact, talking about bitter Catholics online.   I think this will make good content for a follow up post some day.  I will try to get more perspective from him on this. In the meanwhile, we need to learn about how to counter sinful anger.

Meekness is the virtue that is contrary to anger.  Fr. Hardon writes:

"...I would like to just for a moment pull out what I consider the key to the mystery of meekness and gentleness. How can we remain unmoved when we see so much that is wrong in the world especially when the wrong touches us? The key is to recognize that sin is also part of the providence of God. So that in practicing meekness and gentleness we imitate God himself in human form, Jesus Christ who couldn’t have been more meek and gentle with sinners always assuming they recognized their misdeed and were willing to repent. If God in human form practiced meekness and gentleness who are we to act otherwise."

In another talk on meekness Fr. Hardon said:

People watching you, people maybe even try testing you, and they find you meek under provocation. God gives meek people such influence over others as no one else on earth has a right to enjoy. It may be that the one toward whom I am to practice heroic meekness, it may be that the person toward whom I must practice heroic meekness, is the one over whom God wants me to exercise that influence. That it maybe without me and my meekness that person may never be converted to God.

That is what I mean when I often refer to the face we put on the Catholic Church.  I know, that every time I lose my temper, and am impatient or angry with others, I cause harm to the mission of the Church.  The anger we wear on our sleeve is like the bumper sticker on our cars that tells everyone we are proud to be Catholic, as we screech past them offering a salute with a few choice words.


For interesting news items I don't have time to blog on, check out my Twitter Feed: @TeDeumBlog

Te Deum Laudamus! Home

The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

Note: The recommended links below are automatically generated by the tool, so they are not necessarily related content.