A Year with the Saints – 26 May


If it be possible, never yield to anger nor admit any pretext for opening to it the door of your heart; for should it once enter there, it will not be in your power to expel it when you please, or ever to control it. If you see that through your weakness it has gained a foothold in your spirit, instantly gather all your forces to establish peace and tranquillity. But this must be done quietly and never violently; for it is a matter of much importance not to irritate the wound. Saint Francis de Sales

The same Saint employed in his own conduct this principle of applying self-control where it could be useful, without concerning himself with what was involuntary, as he says in these words: “Have I made, for example, a resolution to acquire mildness? Very well, now let anger make. a chaos of my poor heart, let my brain be all on fire, let my blood boil like a seething cauldron – I make no account of all this. Meanwhile, I do not cease to be mild in all such ways as are possible, and I silence and choke all the reasons that nature would offer in justification of this passion.” It once happened that one of his relatives, aggrieved by something which he thought this holy man had done, went to his house and loaded him with insults and threats. The Saint, who was entirely innocent, sought to undeceive him and tried to pacify him with great mildness and courtesy. But the gentleman, overcome by anger, would listen to nothing and went on abusing and insulting him, until he finally went away still storming and full of ill-will. Then the Saint, turning to a Religious who was present and was much astonished at his patience, said to him: “Father, it was not desirable to exasperate this good man still more by showing him his rashness. He will know it well some day, and will repent of it.” And so he did; for, a few days after, he came to ask pardon. It is said that the patience of Saint Francis was never known to waver, nor was his heart ever known to cherish resentment against anyone. From this it clearly appears that this holy virtue which shone so remarkably in him did not result, as many believe, from a disposition all sweetness by nature, but from the great and continual violence he had done to himself. On the contrary, he was of a bilious temperament and confessed of himself that he had taken the greatest pains to conquer it, and that he had labored at this for 22 years with great constancy and courage. This was clearly shown after his death, for when his body was opened there was nothing found in the gallbladder but 300 grains of sand, which was a manifest proof of his innumerable struggles to repress the emotions of anger.

Such was the case of many other Saints, in whose Lives we read that they were never seen to give way to anger, but that even on the most exciting occasions they always showed the same tranquillity of countenance and serenity of soul. Among these were Saint Anthony, Saint Ephrem, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Vincent de Paul, and others – especially the glorious Saint Philip Neri, who would sometimes put on an appearance of severity to exercise his novices in humility. Then, as soon as they were gone, he would turn to any who might be present, and say, “Did I not seem to be in a passion?” and instantly resume his previous serenity of expression.

MLA Citation