May 09 2011
“The spirit of meekness is peculiarly the spirit of God (Eccles. xxiv. 27.) Hence, the soul that loves God, also loves those who are loved by God, that is, all men. It seeks every opportunity to assist, comfort, and gratify all to the utmost of its power. St. Francis of Sales, the master and model of holy meekness, thus expresses himself on the subject. Humble meekness is the virtue of virtues, which God so earnestly recommends to us; and for this reason we should practice it at all times, and in all places. Do that which you see you can accomplish by love, and omit what cannot be done without dispute; of course we speak of that which may be omitted without sin, because as long as we are bound to prevent an offense against God, we should constantly, and to the utmost of our power, oppose it.
We should particularly practice meekness towards the poor and the sick ; towards the poor, because, generally speaking, they are ill treated on account of their poverty; towards the sick, because they are afflicted with their illness, and are often without succor. But above all, we should be meek towards our enemies. (Rom. xii. 21.) We must overcome hatred by love, and persecution by meekness. It was thus the saints acted, and in this manner they conciliated the regard of their most inveterate enemies.
St. Francis of Sales says, that nothing edifies our neighbor so much as meekness in our conduct. Hence every thing in him partook of this beautiful virtue ; his air, his words, his manners, all was meekness. St. Vincent of Paul said of him, that he never knew any man more meek; and added, that he seemed to find him the living image of the meekness of our Savior. If he was obliged in conscience to refuse any favor, he accompanied the refusal with so much charity, that the unsuccessful applicant went away satisfied. He was equally meek to every one, superiors, equals, inferiors, and in the midst of his family, as well as amongst strangers; far different from those of whom he says himself, that they are angels abroad, and devils at home. He never complained of the deficiencies of his domestics; it was with difficulty he sometimes reproved them, but he always did it with mildness. This is most laudable in a superior, who should use all possible meekness towards those committed to his care; and who, imposing a task upon them, should rather intreat than command. St. Vincent of Paul says, that superiors cannot employ a better means of making themselves obeyed, than meekness; and St. Jane Frances de Chantal: I have used various methods of governing, and discovered none more effectual than that which is founded on forbearance and meekness.
A superior should use meekness even in his corrections. It is one tiling to reprove strongly, and another to reprove’ angrily. We should sometimes give a strong reproof when a fault is great, and when it has been repeated after due admonitions; but we should take care never to reprove bitterly in a passionate tone, because this would do more harm than good. This would be the angry zeal, which St. James condemns. There are some who boast of keeping all their family in order by this means, and who say that it is thus they should be governed. But St. James says quite the contrary. (James iii. 14.) If, on a rare occasion, it be necessary to speak with some severity, in order to make a grievous crime be felt, we should always at the conclusion of the rebuke add some kind words. We must heal wounds as the Samaritan did, with wine and oil. But as oil floats above all other liquors, so, says St. Francis of Sales, meekness should predominate in all our actions. If the person whom we have to correct be in a passion or disturbed, we should defer the correction until he becomes more tranquil—for otherwise we should only irritate him more. St. John, Canon Regular said: when the house is on fire, we should not throw wood in the flames.
Jesus Christ himself teaches us this spirit of meekness. (Luke ix. 55, 56.) You know not of what spirit you are, said he to his disciples, James and John, when they wished him to punish the Samaritans, who had driven them out of their country. Ah! said the Savior, what manner of spirit is that? It is not mine; my spirit is one of meekness and benignity. I have come not to destroy, but to save souls; and you would have me destroy them! Be silent; and never ask me any similar requests, which are opposed to my spirit. And, indeed, with what mildness did he not treat the woman that was taken in adultery? (John viii. 10, 11.) He contented himself with telling her to sin no more, and he dismissed her in peace. It was the same meekness that converted the Samaritan woman. First, he asks her for a drink, and then he says to her: Oh,! if you knew who it is that asks you for a drink! He afterwards reveals to her that he was the expected Messiah. What meekness did he not employ to convert the wicked Judas! He received him at his table, he washed his feet, and at the very moment he was betrayed by him, he said to him: Judas, is it by a kiss that you betray me? Peter denied him ; and how did Jesus make an impression upon him? He did not reprove him; but when he was going out of the house of the high priest, he gave him a look of tenderness, and converted him; and converted him in such a manner, that during his whole life, Peter wept for the insult, which he had offered to his Master.
We gain much more by meekness than by severity. St. Francis of Sales said, that at first there is nothing more bitter than almonds, but that when dressed, they become sweet and pleasant; it is precisely the same with corrections: disagreeable as they are, they become amiable and useful when they are given with meekness and tenderness. St. Vincent of Paul tells us, that he made during his whole life, but three severe reprimands, and that he was afterwards sorry for them; because, although he thought he had good reasons for using them, they were not attended with a happy result; whereas those which he made with meekness always succeeded.
St. Francis of Sales obtained from others any thing that he wished, by his meekness, and he even had the happiness to convert the most obstinate sinners to God by this means. This was also the spirit of St. Vincent of Paul, who gave this amongst other lessons, to his missionaries. Affability, love, and humility have a wonderful efficacy in gaining the hearts of men, and inducing them to embrace things that are most repugnant to nature. This saint once sent a great sinner to a father of his society for the purpose of being converted; but without any effect The priest begged the saint to undertake the task. He did so, and succeeded. This sinner afterwards declared, that it was the saint’s charity and meekness which had gained his heart. Hence, St. Vincent would not suffer his missionaries to treat their penitents with severity, and he declared to them, that the devil made use of the severity of some priests for the destruction of souls.
We should be mild and affable with the whole world, at all times, and in all places. St. Bernard observes, that there are some who are affable and meek only as long as things go on according to their wishes; but if a contradiction, or a cross befall them they are immediately inflamed, and emit smoke like Mount Vesuvius ; they resemble burning coals, that are concealed under ashes. He who is anxious for his sanctification ought to be in this life, like a lily among thorns ; although the lilies are pricked by the thorns, they do not cease to be lilies; that is, to be equally beautiful and agreeable. He that loves God preserves peace in his heart, and displays it in his countenance, which is always equally calm, both in adversity and prosperity.
t is in adversity that men are known. St. Francis of Sales tenderly loved the Order of the Visitation, which had cost him so much trouble. He frequently saw it in danger, on account of the persecutions which it had to endure. But the saint always preserved an unalterable peace, and an entire submission to the will of God, if it was his will that this order should be suppressed. It was then he spoke these words: The oppositions and contradictions which I have endured for some time, have made me experience a profound peace; they are a presage of the immediate union of my soul with God, which is the only desire of my heart.
When we have to reply to any one who has insulted us, we should be careful to do it always with meekness. A soft answer extinguishes the fire of wrath. (Prov. xv. 1.) If we feel ourselves angry, it is better for us to be silent, because we should speak amiss; so that when we become tranquil, we see that all our words were culpable.
We should also use meekness towards ourselves, when we have committed a fault. To be in a passion with ourselves after a crime, is not humility but pride; it is refusing to acknowledge that we are weak miserable creatures. St. Teresa said, that all humility which afflicts the soul, does not proceed from God, but the devil. To be angry with ourselves, after the commission of sin, is a greater fault than the former—a fault, which brings many others in its train; such as the omission of our usual devotions, of prayer, of communion, or the imperfect performance of them. St. Aloysius Gonzaga said, that the devil fishes in troubled waters. When the soul is in trouble it has but a weak knowledge of God and of its duty. When we have committed a fault let us address God with humility and confidence, and ask his pardon: saying to him, with St. Catharine of Genoa, O Lord, these are the fruits of my garden. I love you with my whole heart. I have offended you. I am sorry for it, and will never do so again. Grant me your holy grace.”
** Alphonse de Liguori – The Love of our Lord Jesus reduced to practice.
** May crown placed upon Our Lady of Mount Carmel