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October Article for The RI Catholic

Patricia McCarthy, CND

Pope Francis’ document on the family, “The Joy of Loving,” gives many helpful reminders for dealing with the stress and challenges of everyday life. One that is stated very early is, “Where love is concerned, silence is always more eloquent than words.”

In our age of Instagram and Twitter, texting and posting, silence seems to be a rare response. How many people regret the emails that they posted before they took the time to think! In general silence seems to be a rare commodity in today’s world. We are constantly bombarded by noise and media. In response to this, colleges have quiet dorms and trains have quiet cars. Some families keep cell phones off the dinner table.

Every primary teacher knows that quiet time is a critical part of early education. Competent middle school and high school teachers never try to talk above noise or chatter. First they calm the classroom and then they proceed. A disruptive child in school or home is never helped by yelling above the crying or screaming. Political debates where the opponents constantly interrupt each other, not allowing one person to finish before another responds, are turning many off regardless of party affiliation. An employer that rants and raves is hardly effective. The work may get done, but not as well as it would have in a more peaceful environment.

In families, as in other societal units, unimportant things can become a source of unnecessary conflict. It’s hard enough to keep a family together when serious issues are at stake that it seems a terrible waste of harmony to fight about nonsense. “Patience takes root when I recognize that other people also have a right to live in this world just as they are. It does not matter if they hold me back, if they unsettle my plans, or annoy me by the way they act of think, or if they are not everything I want them to be. Love always has an aspect of deep compassion that leads to accepting the other person as part of this world, even when he or she acts differently than I would like.” We have nothing to lose by patience and everything to gain. Just waiting before speaking can diffuse a potentially volatile situation. The waiting time gives everyone involved time to breathe and think and calm down. The end result will always be better even when it is still a difficult situation.

Silence, however, is not an appropriate response to abuse, hurt, injustice or injury. Some members of families have kept silence from one another over a hurt decades in the past. Families can be torn apart by silence as well as by angry words. Speech is an imperative of conscience in the face of resentful silence. Pope Francis helps us with the breaking of the silence, “Please, thank you, sorry – the right words, spoken at the right time, daily protect and nurture love.” Rather than silence creating an environment of peace, it can harbor hatred and fear. “When problems are not dealt with, communication is the first thing to go.”

In the Church, which Pope Francis calls a Family of Families, the same caution and advice about silence and communication needs to be heeded. The Church is clear about what is right or wrong, but not so clear on “Please, thank you and sorry.” We have sinned as an institution in many public ways – in not protecting our children, in judging those couples who live outside the sacrament of marriage, in not reaching out to those who don’t cross the thresholds of our churches, especially the poor and marginalized. “Such persons need to feel not as excommunicated members of the Church, but instead as living members, able to live and grow in the Church and experience her as a mother.” We are a family of God who are called  to “treat the weak with compassion, avoiding unduly harsh or hasty judgments.” “Do not let the day end without making peace in your family.”

Article first published by the Rhode Island Catholic


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