Posted by Sofia Guerra
27 June 2013 Anno Domini
A Biretta Tip to our Internet Pastor, Father Z for posting this today. A much needed post. Particularly for me.
I have mentioned several times in posts that I have a very hard time with the sin against charity. My friend and sister in Christ, Lisa Graas has helped me tremendously with this. I should have been totally forthwright with her as it is truly anger which precedes the sin against charity.
I have struggled with the sin of anger for many years. I always try to justify it. I usually get angry when I help people (who have come to me for help) and then they will argue with me at my advice or ignore the advice and then expect me to get them out of their problem. Most people upon looking at the situation would say that my anger was righteous or justified. Not true. If I am angry at evil, then yes, it is justified. How do I make the distinction?
In the last couple of months I have been very angry concerning a certain battle on the Catholic blogosphere. I wrote and wrote until I came up with what I thought was the perfect retort to a certain well known blog and it’s bloggers. The battle has been ugly and has divided people. It started with one blog’s knee jerk reaction to something and then this well known blog and its bloggers counter attacked. The Editor unfortunately kept the fires stoked as I am sure the blog was getting high traffic because of the drama. Everyone of the bloggers who retorted knew nothing of the subject and committed the ad hominem attack. the original instigator did know the subject and acted foolishly and more important, uncharitably.
The post I wrote wasn’t kind and dealt with both sides equally. I met with my Spiritual Director at our monthly meeting. I discussed the piece with him. He referred me to my confessor who then ordered me under obedience not to publish it as it would keep the fires going and would be a sin of anger and a sin against charity if I did.
Most of you are probably saying “ordered you? under obedience?” I am a former Religious and now a member of a Third Order and I take my Catholic faith seriously. I agreed to be treated as a Religious since I technically am still one. I am not married, chaste and took vows as part of both Orders.
I know that both sides of this battle on the Internet were wrong. The original offenders sickened me because they do know the subject but can be extremely uncharitable, a misnomer usually given to this type of people. In this case, they deserved it. The other group, completely devoid of any real education on this particular subject showed their level of being uncouth by calling a certain group of people a stupid name. (and continue it to this day to describe a type of person who has certain preference with the same ridiculous descriptor) The blogposts by this group of bloggers were nasty, unintelligent,basically classless and beneath them. Just because you are baptized a Catholic and perhaps consider yourself devout and practicing, doesn’t give you the right to act as an expert on everything Catholic on Social Media. (Myself included)
Given all this, I must say not publishing the piece was a bitter pill to swallow. Still reading bloggers who use this name to describe Catholics like myself, hurts. Instead I pray for both sides to stop, breathe and forgive. I pray particularly for the Editor of this well known blog as this person has lost their way.
I pray for myself now to acquire humility, patience and meekness. This is a big task for me as I rarely pray for myself. My Spiritual Director said this is the first of my sins which causes all the others. Neglecting my soul…then and only then when I pray for myself will I acquire the humility needed to pursue all the other virtues. He is correct.
Normally I would crosspost something like this back to the original person who posted it. I found it so important that I only linked it back to Father Z and I hope he forgives me for that. I bet he will since I know how generous of spirit he is. Now, only to be as generous as he is, that’s the rub!
God love you.
The Three Degrees of Anger
by Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B.
Monastery of San Benedetto, Norcia, Italy
Today’s Gospel speaks of anger. The context is a debate against those who observe the Law of God superficially and exteriorly, but sin in their heart. He who lives superficially protests by saying “I’ve never killed anybody”, and therefore I’m not guilty of breaking the fifth commandment. But Jesus responds: “Look at the intentions in your heart: have you ever had feelings of anger or hatred towards your brother? The crime of murder has its roots in the heart!”
Therefore, the Lord directs this appeal to us, so that we can be more sensible to the presence of sin in our life—not only big sins, but especially those small ones.
Note how the Gospel distinguishes three degrees of anger, and assigns to each degree a suitable penalty.
1. He who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment, i.e. a trial.
2. He who insults his brother saying “Raca”—a word in Hebrew which is pejorative and strong—shall be liable to the council (a panel of judges)
3. He who says “you fool”—another word similar to “Raca”—shall be liable to hellfire.
It seems like a disproportionate punishment for so little! But the point is that the heart speaks through the mouth. Wrath that spreads throughout the heart and soul must be confronted and healed—so that our actions might be free from the consequences of anger.
The patristic tradition takes these considerations seriously. Let’s look at what St. Augustine and St. John Cassian have to say.
St. Augustine interprets these three degrees of anger in a psychological sense (cf. Breviarium Monasticum, V dominica post Pentecosten). In other words, by his acute observation of human behavior, Augustine makes this diagnosis:
1. Anger begins with an interior turmoil.
2. This turmoil is unleashed on the outside with a cry of wrath, a sound—but not yet articulated in words.
3. Finally, a cry rises from the wrath of a word—as, for example, “raca” or something similar.
Parallel to these three degrees of anger are three degrees of the judicial process.
1. The first degree is the meeting of the judges, St. Augustine says, where the case is discussed. There is still the possibility to exonerate the accused, because it deals with interior turmoil, which has not yet been expressed exteriorly.
2. The second degree presumes that the accused is guilty, and the panel of judges discusses the sentence, the punishment.
3. The third degree carries out the sentence with the fire of hell.
Summarizing the thought of St. Augustine, one notes the various degrees of anger from the interior turmoil to the explicit appearance in sounds and words. The punishment is very severe, as if it were not only a wrathful word, but actually homicide.
St. John Cassian, too, describes three species of anger (Conf. V,11).
1. The first is that which glows interiorly—here he repeats the concept of St. Augustine.
2. The second is that which breaks out in words and gestures—here he unites the second and third degree of St. Augustine.
3. The third is that which is not disposed of in a short time, but is cultivated for days and days. This third species, Cassian continues to develop, saying that such people who prolong their anger “for several days, and nourish rancorous feelings against those against whom they have been excited, they say in words that they are not angry, but in fact and deed show that they are extremely disturbed. For they do not speak to them pleasantly, nor address them with ordinary civility, and they think that they are not doing wrong in this, because they do not seek to avenge themselves for their upset. But since they either do not dare, or at any rate are not able to show their anger openly, and give place to it, they drive in, to their own detriment, the poison of anger, and secretly cherish it in their hearts, and silently feed on it in themselves; without shaking off by an effort of mind their sulky disposition, but digesting it as the days go by, and somewhat mitigating it after a while” (Institutes, VIII, 11).
In this precious description of the three species of anger, we can recognize ourselves and, with compunction and repentance, realize the negative consequences of our anger both for us and for those with whom we live.
What is the cause of anger? Normally, our wrath is provoked because we cannot have what we want. Our ego encounters an obstacle; our own will, in some way, is denied: and then boom, anger. To heal the wounds of wrath, according to this analysis, we must examine our desires: what do we want? That which we want: is it more or less reasonable? Should I change my expectations?
The opposing virtues are patience and meekness. Patience undergoes an injury and accepts the suffering experienced in the midst of the difficult situation. Meekness renounces the aggression of its own will, and says with St. John the Baptist: he must increase, but I must decrease (Jn 3:30). In this way, we will become like the disciples described in today’s Epistle: All of you, have unity of spirit, sympathy, love of the brethren, a tender heart and a humble mind (1 Pet 3:8).
Our model, as always, is our Lord Jesus Christ, who comforts us with these words: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart… (Mt 11:28-29).