Holy anger

conscience

Mannono’s comment to my post ‘Niente crisi per i veggenti’ – “irascimini et nolite peccare” – gave me much food for thought.

There is a kind of minimalist approach to the Faith to which many Catholics are prone, not because they are Catholic, but because they are men.  There is something irksome about religion, and we have a tendency either to shirk off or minimalize all that is irksome to us.  And religion is irksome because it asks of us the most difficult of all things: that we reform our lives.  Genuine reform. 

For beginners, and even for veterans of many failed campaigns, in which number I include myself, the first objective must be to make friends with one’s conscience.  It may sound odd to speak of such a necessity, but our conscience is often regarded by us as a hostile force rather than a valued ally.  We are wont to indulge in activities in which conscience cannot participate; so it stands and looks on, and its aloofness and expression of regret can be irritating in the extreme.  We rather wish it would go elsewhere for the time being and return when we summon it, not hang about with its long face casting a gloom upon our pleasures.

So how does one befriend his conscience?  The problem was addressed admirably by a monk of the late fourth century named Isaiah the Solitary.  Isaiah quotes Our Lord’s advice that we come to agreement with our adversary before he turns us over to the judge, and the judge turns us over to the officer, who will cast us into prison.  The adversary, Isaiah explains, is our conscience, whose claims we must satisfy if we are to escape judgment and condemnation.  Chief among the means of satisfying conscience is the proper use of what he calls “the incensive power” – an anger of the intellect that is in accord with nature, which he identifies as the nature which God gave us, not our fallen condition as a result of original sin, which he regards as unnatural.  He writes: “Without anger a man cannot attain purity; he has to feel angry with all that is sown in him by the enemy”.  This “holy anger” can help us in our efforts to establish a habit of attentiveness.  We must develop a detestation of sin, realizing its ugliness and malice, and then set about rooting out its causes.  We must stop aiding and abetting the enemy and stand on the side of the angels, and then conscience will be transformed from being our accuser to being our defender.

6 Responses to “Holy anger”


  1. 1 Don Alfredo June 27, 2009 at 13:28

    Non ho niente da aggiungere – brava – il tuo post lo prendo come spunto per la mia prossima omelia🙂
    Il peccato è un potere vivente e dinamico, una forza che risiede nella natura umana. Paolo l’ha descritta come una legge (Rm. 7:21-23). Alle spore del peccato non dovrebbe essere permesso di moltiplicarsi e di spandersi nelle nostre vite. Quindi … tutti neri di rabbia contro questo mostro!
    Buona e santa domenica a tutti!

  2. 2 Ron June 27, 2009 at 13:40

    “Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment. . . . For man has in his heart a LAW inscribed by God. . . . His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths.”

  3. 3 Mannono June 27, 2009 at 16:48

    I found the following passage from the book, Two Series of Lenten Sermons, by the Rev. Francis X. McGowan, O.S.A (1910)

    Anger may be best defined as an inordinate transport of the soul occasioned by an evil or an injury which we have received or believe we have received, and accompanied by the desire of revenge.
    Anger is not always a sin. It is, in general, a displeasure caused by an evil which we suffer and which we wish to be removed. To combat an evil which is opposed to sound reason and the law of God is not a culpable act. It is virtuous and praiseworthy zeal for the glory of God. Such was the conduct of Moses, who seeing the idolatry of the Israelites , was seized with indignation, and forthwith gave orders that twenty-three thousand of them should be put to death. (Ex 32) Such was the anger of Phineas, the son of Eleazar and grandson of AAron who killed, at the critical moment of the licentious idolatry of Settim, a prominent violator of God’s law, and thus appeased the divine wrath. (Num 25, 7) We have another instance of holy anger in the conduct of our Blessed Lord when he drove at the end of a lash the buyers and sellers from the Temple. To this legitimate anger are referred the Royal Prophet’s words: Be ye angry and sin not (Ps. 4,5), though many commentators explain them as referring to the indignation with which a penitent arms himself against his own sins.

    He also adds St. Francis’ advice: It is much more easy not to be angry at all, than to be angry without sinning in it.

    God Bless

  4. 4 Ron June 27, 2009 at 20:45

    Interesting Mannono, but in the case of the OT facts you mention wouldn’t the killings be considered a sin…. therefore ‘be ye angry and sin’…. in such cases it’s allowed?

    ps…. Fr. McGowan, if I’m not mistaken, translated Sister Anne Katharine Emmerich’s biography to English.

  5. 5 Mannono June 28, 2009 at 23:13

    Murder is a sin, but killing as a form of punishment and for the sake of justice is not a sin.


  1. 1 The advantage of being on holiday … « Churchmouse Campanologist Trackback on June 30, 2009 at 03:58

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