Saint John Vianney, holy Curè d'Ars
Let Christ's example spur us on to acquire the virtue of meekness. Not content with staking a claim to meekness - Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart (Matt. xi, 29) - He proved His possession of it by countless acts of perfect Self-mastery. How obvious it is, from the Gospel, that not once did the eruptions of anger obfuscate the August Serenity of His wonderfully clear mind and powerful will! Neither the tirades bespattered with insults, nor the vile calumnies which no one could prove, nor ignominious buffetings, scourgings, blows, and spittle. At every hour, in the most trying circumstances, the words of Isaias apply to Him most aptly: "Lamb that stands dumb while it is shorn; no word from him" (Is. 53, 7).
No wonder St. Paul, in summing up the character of the Messiah, tells us: "Then the kindness of God, our Saviour, dawned on us, his great love for man." (Titus iii, 4); and the Baptist, when setting eyes on Jesus, sums up the Divine Graciousness of everything about Him in the lovely expression: Behold the Lamb of God!
The words "humanity" and "humaneness" signify meekness and mercifulness. By nature, man possesses no other weapons with which to win over the hearts of other men. If other weapons there are, to turn the world upside-down and sow the seeds of terror and death, it is men themselves who have deliberately fashioned them. Such weapons of force were given by God to animals. To me God gave for my only defence: wisdom and gentle persuasion… so often a source of strength unmatched by swords and cannons. If this does not convince me, let me convince myself that there is nothing more fruitful for good than love, nothing more sterile than hatred. What good history record ever came from hatred? Hatred is as fruitless as fire and death; hatred dissolves, sterilises, and kills every living germ of goodness.
Happy the man who, disarmed of all hatred even in persecution the most iniquitous, even when anger would seem the heart's natural flowering of strength and wounded dignity's inevitable redress, can quench the flame and say with St. Ambrose: "My prayers and my tears are the only weapons I wield" - Preces et lacrymae meae mea arma sunt. If they do not always succeed in leading souls to goodness and to God, they will never lead to evil and to Hell.
Forbearance and gentleness, you'll say perhaps, is beyond you; your temperament doesn't allow you to be meek; and, after all, who can subjugate the wild impulses of the heart? That you can't give copious alms, because you haven't the means; yes, I understand that; but meekness and kindly dealing with others is not from the pocket, it issues from the heart: "A good man utters good words from his store of goodness" (Matt. 12, 35). Or is it that you haven't got a heart? Or is there nothing in your heart but bitter gall?
The least you can do is to abide by what the Gospel commands: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. What is it that rankles in your mind; that has been the cause of bitterness; that you find the hardest to forget and forgive? Perhaps the bad treatment or raw deal you thought you received from those in charge. How often and how bitterly you have resented it! But haven't other people, however lowly their station, feelings as well? Haven't they the same rights to consideration as you?
Continuing in self-defence, you will allege that you are harsh by nature, of an austere type of temperament. Well then, if you are not ready to soften down a little, keep on with your harshness and austerity, but turn them on yourself alone. "Be austere towards yourself," says St. Augustine, "towards others be kindly; let people hear you giving few orders and accomplishing great things."
I shall be obliging in everything and towards everyone, great and small, so long as I can be so without infringing the demands of duty, the rights of God and my neighbour; limits which no kindness may ever transgress.