Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Gentle is the new Strong

In the last post, the comments were heartfelt; we all felt convicted of talkativeness, "helpfulness," lack of gentility (great and almost-lost concept, thanks for the reminder, martha martha.) So let's spend a little more time with St. Francis de Sales:

On Mildness

"Learn of me," Jesus said, "for I am meek and humble of heart." Humility perfects us towards God, and mildness and gentleness towards our neighbor.

But be careful that mildness and humility are in your heart, for one of the great wiles of the enemy is to lead people to be content with external signs of these virtues, and to think that because their words and looks are gentle, therefore they themselves are humble and mild, whereas in fact they are otherwise. In spite of their show of gentleness and humility, they start up in wounded pride at the least insult or annoying word.

As someone who is waaay too fast with the upflung hands and cutting comment in the car when someone else is dreaming at the wheel, but who loves to be seen as mellow when talking to certain irritating people in my parish, I wonder where on earth I met this Saint, how he figured me out so thoroughly.

There is a story about St. F de S that he was counselling a particularly nuts-making woman. She would go on and on and on, and the good Saint is said to have worn deep finger-shaped grooves under his desk, gripping the table in his effort to keep from responding in impatience to her. There's no end to that story that I know; we don't know if she became a saint, but at the least my money is on him overcoming his frustration, to glorify the Lord.

Don't you just love the saints? Their stories stand out in sharp relief for me, and are my particular helps towards loving God.


TS said...

Great post but I'm a bit confused.
St. F said "But be careful that mildness and humility are in your heart" and yet he wore a grove trying to suppress his irritation? It sounds as if his external actions were somewhat at odds with his internals? (Of course, I couldn't hold his spiritual jockstrap so I'm just trying to understand.)

Therese Z said...

I can see that, and I presume that he was holding the table while he controlled himself and asked that God place humility in his heart. So I presume (like I know the guy) that the Saint grew in this grace with practice, holding the table the while.

~pen~ said...

Roz, I find that when I read the great saints, the more *pricked* my conscience is, the more *spot-on* they are with their teachings.

But that's just me. :) Apparently after my post yesterday, I am in a minority of sorts. I know I have issues with moderation and I think that was the heart of what his teaching on food was.

I would love to grow in gentility. That is something I am most desirous of being; how do you change your personality after 42 years?

Therese Z said...

Did you mean me, Therese Z? Assuming you are....

No, you're not in a minority. WE're in a minority, seeking gentleness, gentility, moderation, temperance, prudence.

I don't know about anyone else, but I CAN'T change MY personality after 4(coughcough) years, but God can and has. It's proof to me that He not only exists, but cares about my life on earth, to help me take away greed, selfishness, pride. I grab it back and He takes it away, but there's a little less each time.



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