These little trials are opportunities for us to respond with Marian virtue and patience.
If there is one thing that can make you lose the Christmas spirit, it’s shopping during the holiday season. You usually find a scene full of overworked salespeople, shoppers in a hurry loaded with bags, and lines so long that it seems like someone must be giving something away for free … but sadly, they’re not.
That’s where we headed, full of enthusiasm, the Saturday before Christmas. My husband and I went shopping at one of the city’s malls, accompanied by six of our 12 children.
At one of the stores, there was a woman right behind us in the checkout line who we could see was very, very tense.
When it was our turn to move forward in line, we delayed a moment (I confess I was looking at my cell phone). The woman asked us with some desperation if we were going to check out or if she should go first. As you can imagine, we stepped up quickly.
In the rush, I bumped into the protective plastic screen, making a tremendous noise. You can already imagine the woman’s gestures: rolling her eyes, sighing exaggeratedly and pointedly.
My daughters were embarrassed (I know it, even though they didn’t tell me). But above all, they were indignant at the woman’s faces, sighs and comments.
They came out of the store asking how I could stand not saying anything in reply to such a rude and impertinent person. How could I let myself be trampled on like that? Why had I not even given her a nasty look?
When you are treated badly, how do you respond?
The Holy Spirit did not abandon me. Acting with the usual discretion, the Spirit inspired in me the reasoning I gave to my daughters: What good would it do for me to respond harshly, to cast icy, challenging looks, or to make angry gestures? These are actions as tempting as they are useless.
With more or less success, we are all capable of being sharp-tongued. It’s very easy to get carried away by anger, to make a nasty face, to roll your eyes, to sigh exaggeratedly and pointedly, to mutter criticisms and harsh words. But there’s another way, and it’s the way of the Christian.
The more difficult but better option
Not doing what your adrenaline spurs you on to do, resisting the invitation to get in a fight, not paying attention to the rude words, not making an angry face, not rolling your eyes, keeping quiet, trying to behave as Mary would … This requires the ongoing practice of self-control and and of humility.
But it is the people who opt to be like Mary who change history. These are the people who change the hearts of rude people, and who make more people want to opt for that award too.
This is how the Virgin Mary transformed so many people during the Passion of her Son. Her resigned and loving attitude broke down walls in their souls. She did something extraordinary, in the face of how useless it would have been if she had started to insult or look with hate at her Son’s murderers.
That self-control when tempted by anger, wrath or indignation, that dominion of your own tongue, is a powerful weapon that we cannot leave unused.
Do you wonder if my daughters understood those explanations? Well, I can’t really say that my teenagers will imitate all of this. But I will pray that they will in time, with the help of the Holy Spirit.