"The greatest grace that a man can have under Heaven is to know how to live well with those among whom he dwells." (Brother Giles, companion to St. Francis)In her book describing cloistered life, Mother Mary Francis recounted a story about a group of local women who were conjecturing as to the austere penances of their newest neighbors, a monastery of Poor Clare nuns, when one of their group interjected with an astute observation:
"Penances, nothing! If they didn't do anything but stay cooped up in there all their lives, that would be enough."Certainly, all those subject to communal living can attest to the veracity of this poignant remark. Man was not created to be a solitary being, and is meant to exist with and for others. Both monastic and domestic life pose this challenge: to abide with others peacefully. It requires setting aside personal preferences, relinquishing control, and being content to yield in inconsequential matters so that harmony may reign. This demands great patience, self-denial, and an abundance of mercy, for peace cannot dwell in an abode where forgiveness is not easily attained.
It does not suffice to simply tolerate another's faults, but all the while allowing the roots of resentment to run deep, eventually producing the bitter fruits of cynicism and judgment. Rather, it is imperative to love the other in his weakness, being mindful of our own need to grow in the lacking virtue. St. Teresa of Avila said,"Nothing ever shocks me."
"The true proof of charity is never to be shocked but only to redouble our efforts to practice the virtue opposed to the fault we have seen." (A Right to Be Merry)Yet these efforts must not be performed in an ostentatious manner; one must shed the self-soothing habit of seeking moments to subtly broadcast the endless litany of sacrificing deeds he has hitherto compiled. One who truly loves the other will be determined to hide, not highlight, the other's faults, especially in front of others. He will strive for the heroic virtue that characterized the saints- silent sanctity.