By Deacon Mark Krejci, Ph.D./Office of Marriage, Family & Life
Let me begin this column by taking a step back to consider the subject of my recent (and a number of future) columns. I have been leading readers through Pope Francis’ commentary on 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 found in his letter to the Church, “The Joy of Love.” This passage from Paul’s letter to the Church in Corinth explains what Christian love is meant to be. It is interesting that Paul describes more about what love is not than he does about what love is. If you read the passage, you will see that the first two descriptors of love reflect on what love is. Then he reviews eight things that love is not: jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, insisting on our own way, irritable, resentful, rejoicing in what is wrong. The passage concludes with a list of five things that love is, so Paul ends on a positive note. It is interesting that when it comes to love, Paul writes more about what it is not than what it is. In “The Joy of Love” Pope Francis often takes the passages concerning what love is not and describes the opposite state; he reflects on what love should be. He does this again when he writes about the passage for today’s column: “it (love) is not irritable or resentful.”
It would be great if every reader, upon seeing what I am going to write about, could rightly think, “this column does not pertain to me because I am never irritable or resentful in my marriage or in my family life!” But, on the chance that you might occasionally be irritable, or you perhaps become resentful once or twice a year, this column contains the answer to the questions: What must I do to never be irritated with my spouse, children or parents? and How can I keep resentment from creeping into my feelings about my family?
These questions reflect some big tasks, so to take these on, I need to use not one, but TWO popes – Pope Francis and Pope St. John Paul II. Pope Francis addresses the challenge of the question “How can I keep resentment from creeping into my family?” with some specific advice. It is written as if he was a parish pastor talking to a husband and wife or with parents and their children. He writes: “My advice is never to let the day end without making peace in the family,” and he goes on to suggest to do this, “… by a small gesture, a little something, and harmony within your family will be restored.”
Pope Francis states that this will work if the family members want to forgive each other. He writes that, “The opposite of resentment is forgiveness, which is rooted in a positive attitude that seeks to understand other people’s weaknesses and to excuse them.” Even though the Holy Father is writing about one of the descriptors about what love is not (love is not resentful), he presents what love should be (love is forgiving) as an antidote for resentment.
It would be great if we were never irritated in the first place because without family irritation there would be no reason for family resentment. How do you keep from being irritated with your family – even when someone does an irritating thing? Pope Francis in the “Joy of Love” quotes Pope St. John Paul II to address this. Pope St. John Paul II often spoke and wrote about the family as a “communion of persons” – an intimate union centered in the love of God. Just think, if all in your family could live as a communion of persons who have God at the center of everything they do, could you ever become irritated with your spouse, your children, your parents?
I suppose some are now thinking, “If my spouse/parents/children never did irritating things then I would never be irritated!” But Pope St. John Paul II showed us how to not be irritated even when irritating things happen. What is this good and holy path? How can I follow it? What is this antidote to familial irritation? I am sorry to say that I have lead you to a cliffhanger in this column. St. John Paul’s answer requires its own column, so stay tuned to OND and I will address how to be irritation free in your family.