September 24, 2021

Love’s Litmus / Natalie Hoefer

Saints’ examples teach us to answer anger with love

Natalie HoeferThree cars turn left in front of me after my light turns green. I honk my horn in anger.

I hold the door for a family walking into a store. When no one says, “Thank you,” I call out “You’re welcome” with a saccharine sweet tone.

Incidents arise that can lead to an angry response. I’m a person full of flaws, so I invite you to learn from me how not to act in such situations!

Far better to turn to the saints, who so often gave Christ-like examples of responding not with anger but with patience and kindness, as called for in 1 Cor 13:4.

Myriad examples exist, but this column will focus on three: St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Theodora Guérin and St. Dominic Savio.
 

‘I accept this for me’

There is a story about Mother Teresa found abundantly on the Internet that I recall hearing before there even was an Internet. It involves the saint begging for bread from a baker for children in her orphanage.

As the story goes, the baker responded to the request uncharitably. Rather than giving her bread, the man spit upon the simple, small nun.

Nonplussed, Mother Teresa responded something to the effect of, “I accept that for me. Now, may I please have some bread for the children?”
 

‘She fell on her knees and begged for his blessing’

The relationship between Bishop Cèlestine de la Hailandière of the Diocese of Vincennes and Mother Theodore Guérin, foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods in St. Mary-of-the-Woods, was a tense one. He sought authority over the community, disregarding St. Theodora’s role as the congregation’s leader.

As recorded in the saint’s diary, one day the bishop locked her in a room and left her there all day.

When he released her at the end of the day, the bishop announced that she was no longer the superior or a Sister of Providence and forbade her from communicating with any of the sisters.

What was the saint’s response? Out of respect for the bishop’s authority, even though he was wrong, Mother Theodore humbly fell to her knees and asked for his blessing. (Read more at cutt.ly/StTheodora.)
 

‘Christ died rather than seek revenge’

One day in school, one boy insulted another boy. The two youths, both friends of St. Dominic Savio, agreed to fight.

After school, Dominic stood between his two friends as they faced each other angrily, each with a pile of rocks at his feet. Dominic raised over his head a small crucifix he wore around his neck.

He told the boys they could fight, but on the condition that each must first look at the crucifix then throw a stone at Dominic.

Both boys declined. Dominic chided them, saying, “You want to commit this sin over a stupid remark made at school. Christ, who was innocent, died for us rather than seek revenge from those who hated him.” (Read more at cutt.ly/DominicSavio.)

These three saints met anger with love. But there are plenty of saints who struggled with anger themselves—well-known ones like St. Jerome, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Francis de Sales and more. Read how they learned to overcome this fault at cutt.ly/AngrySaints.

I’ll turn to St. Thérèse of Lisieux for this parting advice: “When you are angry with someone, the way to find peace is to pray for that person and ask God to reward him or her for making you suffer.”
 

(Send your stories of people you know who live out agape as described by St. Paul in 1 Cor 13:4-7 to Natalie Hoefer at nhoefer@archindy.org, or call 317-236-1486 or 800-932-9836, ext. 1486. Include your parish and a daytime phone number where you may be reached.)

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