Thoughts from St. Josemarie Escriva

Never reprimand anyone while you feel provoked over a fault that has been committed. Wait until the next day, or even longer. Then make your remonstrance calmly and with a purified intention. You'll gain more with an affectionate word than you ever would from three hours of quarreling. Control your temper (The Way, n. 10).

The irascible passions, such as anger, or to a lesser extent, annoyance, can color our thoughts and actions a lot. St. Therese of Lisieux sometimes fled a situation in order to avoid acting upon the anger that she felt. Based on this, St. Josemaria gives two reasons for waiting, if possible, before our anger or irritation subsides before acting to remedy a situation, by reprimanding someone, correcting an error, etc. First, our action will be calmer. Consequently, it will be seen as more reasonable by the other person. It is well known that anger makes us less reasonable, and so a reprimand or correction given while one is angry is taken less seriously. Even if the reprimand is objectively justified, the reasonableness of it is less apparent, since it manifests itself under the appearance of anger. In the words of St. Francis de Sales, "it is a duty to resist evil and to repress the faults of those for whom we are responsible, steadily and firmly, but gently and quietly…. Correction given in anger, however tempered by reason, never has so much effect as that which is given altogether without anger; for the reasonable soul being naturally subject to reason, it is a mere tyranny which subjects it to passion, and where ever reason is led by passion it becomes odious, and its just rule obnoxious" (Introduction to the Devout Life III, ch. 8).

Secondly, our intention will be purer. Even if our main intention in correcting a person is good, namely to guide them to act well, out of concern for them, anger brings its own motive, which weakens this main intention, even if it does not destroy it.

Will-power. A very important quality. Don't disregard the little things, which are really never futile or trivial. For by the constant practice of repeated self-denial in little things, with God's grace you will increase in strength and manliness of character (The Way, n. 19).

If you don't get up at a set hour, you'll never fulfill your plan of life. (The Way, n. 78)

I put these two sayings together because there is a close connection between the second, particular advice, and the first general principle. Because sleep, like food, is a basic human need, regularity in this matter conditions the will overall to obey a reasonable rule rather than whatever impulse moves it at the moment. This advice, however, needs two qualifications. First, from the point of view of orderliness, the "rule" for wakefulness and sleep need not be as simple a rule as going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time every day (although there is much to be said for this, on account of the body's natural waking and sleeping cycle). Someone whose work requires him sometimes to work days and sometimes to work nights cannot keep the same waking and sleeping schedule all the time (at least if keeps a basically normal schedule). Secondly, like all concrete practical rules, this rule is open to exceptions. If one stays up most of the night with a sick person, the good of regularity and of getting up at the usual hour is in quite a few cases more than offset by the harm produced by the deprivation of sleep, and one ought therefore to get more sleep (though sometimes, for the reason to be stated below, it is better to make up for the short sleep by way of a nap or going to bed earlier).

The reason for stating "get up at a set hour," rather than "go to bed at a set hour" is probably for two reasons. First, sleeping later than usual more frequently leads us to skip a significant part of our daily plan (e.g., morning meditation or spiritual reading, breakfast, or a shower) than going to bed early does, and sleeping later than usual leads directly to these omissions, while staying up late only leads to them indirectly, inasmuch as it makes it more difficult to get up at the customary time. Secondly, getting up at a set hour is a more reasonable rule than going to sleep at a set hour. Because, by and large, our activities on various days differ more than our activity on various nights, the time when we are tired enough to sleep may vary more than the time when we wake up does.

One thought on “Thoughts from St. Josemarie Escriva”

  1. "The spiritual life begins and ends in bed"

    "If you can't even get into bed when you plan to do so, how do you expect to achieve anything else in your life?"

    the quotable Don Reto Nay 🙂

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