Strength of the Meek

Why it takes guts to live mercy
by Stephen Dardis, LC | Source: Virtue's Clues

His anger raged inside him.  The blow had been as unexpected as it was uncalled for—and right in the face.  Mike’s every limb cried out for the adequate response: a fist straight at Rob’s jaw.  But something held him back.  Always prone to act without reflection, Robert’s face now showed both rage and regret.  Something had triggered the punch—mistaken as it might be—but slamming him to the ground wasn’t going to fix the problem.  There was a tension in Mike’s heart.  His passions instigated immediate retribution: hit first, clarify later.  Yet something else called for compassion, humility, and understanding.  With a strength of heart greater than that of his right fist, Mike extended his hand: “I don’t know what I said, but I’m sorry if I hurt you.” 


Sometimes a man needs to stand up in defense of justice; but it takes a greater man to let go of his own justice, and respond with mercy.  Turning the other cheek is always hard, and we naturally tend to assume that “the meek will inherit the earth” only in the next life; but humility is the foundation upon which the other virtues can firmly stand, and compassion recognizes both the reality of my offender’s human weakness, and my own countless offenses against others. 


St. Therese of Lisieux loved these two virtues, and all who knew her spoke of these during the process of her beatification.  Often highlighted as the saint of little children, she nevertheless stood out throughout her life for an inner strength which surpassed even the mightiest of mortal men.  She endured many injustices, insults, misunderstandings, gravely hurt feelings and a broken heart; yet her reaction was always the silence of humility and the compassion of true mercy.  Totally given to her Christian Faith, she had emptied her heart of all pride and surrendered her will to God’s burning love for every soul—even those who might hurt her.  In every face she saw—above all—that of Christ, distorted though it was with the wounds of sin and the “baggage” of life, and all the while immensely loved by God.  For her there were no unjust souls, only souls—just like hers—in great need of understanding and love.  Her voice never cried out for her own justice, but for his great compassion.  She responded to any offense with the compassion which Christ had always responded to her.  “Learn from me,” he invited all men, “for I am meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29).


Stephen Dardis, LC studies for the priesthood in New York.


Question or comment? Please, write to Fr. Nathan Miller, LC at

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