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Ministries, Charisms, Fruits -21-Gentleness

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength - St. Francis de Sales

Gentleness is not often associated with strength. An alternative translation of praotes, the Greek word used by Paul, is meekness. Neither of these translations suggests strength. Far too often the opposite is assumed: to be gentle is to be delicate, weak and even feeble. The concept of gentleness does not seem to fit into the dog-eat-dog world we live in. However, gentleness, properly understood, is far from these negative connotations. To be gentle is to be in control of oneself. It is to have a balanced and tranquil spirit. It is to be even-tempered, and to have hold over the passions. The gentle person is the master of their strength and power. The Latin Vulgate expresses this by using the compound mansuetudo - being accustomed to taming the hand. Gentleness is being appropriately restrained in our actions and words, especially in our interactions with other people. We all recognize how hard it is to practise this virtue. Sartre said “hell is other people” and all too often we might feel that he is right. But because it is difficult we need the Holy Spirit to aid us in being gentle.

Gentleness, however, does not turn us into punching-bags for the world. Whilst we must always be willing to pardon offences; we must also be able fraternally to correct faults gently and with love. Gentleness helps our actions to have a positive effect. To use an old saying, 'you catch more flies with honey than vinegar'. It is a sign of real and true strength to be able to act with restraint and gentleness, and the Holy Spirit allows us to overcome all obstacles to this practice. Like the message to Elijah the Gospel will not be proclaimed by great winds, earthquakes, or fire but by the whistling of gentle air.

Mark Davoren


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