On Fraternal Correction.
PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.
My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.
On Fraternal Correction.
After our Lord had instructed His disciples concerning the avoidance of scandal, He proceeds to exhort them in the most emphatic manner to correct one another in a spirit of fraternal charity. Thus it will be seen that not only are Christ’s disciples in duty bound not to be an occasion of sin to others, but if through no fault of theirs their Brother has fallen into sin, they ought to endeavor to set him right. Represent to yourself our Lord, speaking on this subject to His apostles, and listen to His words.
1st. “If thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between thee and him alone.” (St. Matt, xviii. 15.) This is truly a heavenly doctrine, for by following it man is made like to God. For as God seeks to rescue the soul that has gone astray although that soul has offended against Him, the almighty and most high God, so we, supposing that someone has deeply wronged and sinned against us, and thus incurred the risk of eternal perdition, ought to forget our own grievance and only think how we can save our brother. Our Lord says: “go”; therefore we are not to wait until the delinquent himself comes to us, for, as St. Chrysostom remarks, he may perhaps be so enslaved by anger or overcome by timidity as to be unable to acknowledge himself at fault. Therefore go to him and administer the medicine of fraternal reproof; but let the two feet of compassion and charity carry you to him. Do not seek to correct him with proud, vindictive, angry or contemptuous words, but have pity on his frailty. Regard him as a soul purchased with the precious blood of Christ and love him as such; do not rebuke him in public, but “between thee and him alone,” for, as St. Ambrose says, a kindly correction does far more good than a harsh accusation. The first awakens a salutary confession, the latter only embitters and does harm. Oh how much mischief would be avoided, how much good would be effected, how many souls would be won if all Christians and above all every Religious were to act in accordance with our Lord’s admonition and the wise maxims of His saints! Consider what has been said, my soul, and form your resolutions accordingly.
2d. Consider the conduct our Lord further enjoins on us: “If he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them, tell the Church.” (v. 16, 17.) It is the voice of the Good Shepherd that speaks. If he cannot bring back the wandering sheep of himself alone, the Christian is told to call upon others for assistance, and take no rest until his object is attained. Lay this to heart, my soul. If your erring Brother will not listen to you, do not give him up because of it; perhaps he will pay more attention to others, to persons whom he considers wiser, more pious and more impartial than you are; do not hesitate humbly to ask them to mediate for you with him. Very often this means is successful in restoring peace and effecting a reconciliation. And if this too is fruitless, then “tell the Church,” that is to say lay the matter before the proper authorities in a charitable and humble spirit. The neglect of our Lord’s precept in this respect occasions great injury to soul and body, and causes much mischief in Communities and convents. Mistaken kindness often prompts the offended to spare the offender’s feelings, and thus he injures his own Mother, the Church, the Community, the Order to which he belongs, without really benefiting his Brother by such unwise leniency. Ought not the welfare of the Mother be thought of before the feelings of Brethren and Sisters? Why then do you disregard the former (in weighty matters, be it understood) and pay no heed to the counsel of St. Augustine? “Do not imagine,” he says, “that it shows malevolence on your part to speak of your Brother’s fault. On the contrary, you will be as much to blame as he is, if, when you might have led him to amend by making his fault known, by your silence you cause the loss of his soul. For if your Brother had a wound on his body, which he persisted in concealing from dread of the surgeon’s knife, would it not be cruelty to say nothing about it, and real kindness to call in medical advice? How much the more is it your duty to disclose the spiritual sore, lest it eat into the heart, and mortification should ensue?”
3d. Consider how, in conformity with our Lord’s exhortation, you ought to listen willingly to anyone who administers to you a fraternal reprimand, and pay heed to him as to a true follower of Jesus Christ. He complies in your regard with the injunction our Lord Himself laid on us, and to resent his reproof would be to rebel against our Lord. To repel his correction bruskly would be tantamount to shutting the door in your benefactor’s face. Plutarch, the sage of antiquity, says the enemy who will speak the truth to us should be purchased with gold. Solomon in his book of Proverbs tells us: “Better are the wounds of a friend than the deceitful kisses of an enemy” (xxvii. 6); and again, the Holy Spirit speaking through the lips of the Wise Man, says: “He that hateth reproof is foolish.” (Prov. xii. 1.) We may go further; not only is he a fool, but the man who cannot endure to hear the truth about himself is both haughty and conceited. Do you belong to this class? How do you behave when the Superior censures your conduct, when a Brother rebukes you, or a Sister tells you of your fault? Ask yourself this question, and then ponder well those words of St. Francis Borgia: There are two evils which ensue from want of patience in taking a reproof given in fraternal charity. Either those who are so obstinate are left to themselves, and then their faults grow and strike deep root, or the whole house is soon filled with gall and bitterness, for such individuals take as a wrong what they ought to consider as a favor, and turning all the means of grace into poison, they view that as an insult for which they ought to be eternally grateful. Meditate upon these two evils, and perhaps you will then learn to take a brotherly correction in the right spirit.
PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.
My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.
– Meditations on the Life, Teaching, and Passion of Jesus Christ
(Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur: New York, December 31, 1900)
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