A young man, who was subject to anger, was often ailing. The physician, who knew the cause of his illness, advised him to avoid the passion of anger. But in vain; he soon again fell into a dreadful rage. The doctor, who happened to be present, held a looking glass before his eyes. When he saw the deadly pallor of his face and the ferocity in his eyes, he trembled, but the physician said: "Do you see the effects of your passion? Frequent storms like this uproot the tree of life." The young man amended his life and removed the cause of his illness. I wish that those subject to anger would look at themselves in a mirror when they are in a fit of rage.
In their anger, people often lose their heads, and do not know what they are saying or doing. Anger is a burning fever; it darkens the understanding, so that a person does not know what he says or does. A pagan philosopher relates that as a boy he saw a man attempting to open a door with a key, but could not. He bit the key, kicked at the door with his feet, foamed with rage and broke out into dreadful oaths. At this spectacle the philosopher conceived such a horror of anger that he never in his life gave way to it.
Anger, my dear children, when it is not checked, is the fruitful source of innumerable crimes. Quarreling and fighting, cursing and swearing, revenge and hatred, bloodshed, even murder, are often the terrible consequences of this strong passion. Hence we cannot watch against it too carefully, nor fight against it too earnestly.
For anger is like a viper which, if we cherish it in our bosom, may at any time turn against us and inflict a mortal wound. So may our passion, if we are in the habit of indulging it, lead us, when we least think of it, into the most frightful crimes. Moreover, it is the cause of great misery and unhappiness, for the passionate man is a torment to himself and a torment to every one about him. He is not, indeed, fit for the company of men, for he is no longer a reasonable being, but is guided, like a brute beast, only by the blind impulse of his rage. Have you ever seen a child in a great fit of passion? His eyes start from their sockets, and glare like the eyes of an angry cat; his cheeks become pale and livid, his face ugly and frightful, so that you would hardly know him. He shouts at the top of his voice like a madman; he stamps on the ground; it is dangerous for any one to come near him, for he cares not what he strikes at.
In order to preserve yourselves from the fatal consequences of the sin of anger, you must fight against it while you are still young. Like every other bad passion, it grows stronger the older you get and the more you indulge it; while, on the contrary, if you earnestly strive against it, it grows weaker, and it gives you less trouble to overcome it. One of the Wise Men of Greece advised the Emperor Augustus to recite, whenever he felt angry, the twenty-four letters of the Greek alphabet before saying or doing anything. A nobleman once broke out into most offensive language against St. Francis of Sales; the saint looked at him calmly, and answered him not a word. The angry man considered this moderation as a sign of contempt, and redoubled his rage; but the saint kept his silence; at length the man departed. Another nobleman asked the saint how he managed to control himself so well. He replied : "I and my tongue have made an inviolable covenant, and have agreed that whenever I am excited, my tongue must be quiet, and that I must not speak until the inward fever is cooled down." Take an example from this saint, and treasure up the lesson he gives you. If anger arises in your heart close your mouth and do not speak a word.
Children, how are you to strive to avoid anger? In the first place you must earnestly ask God to help you in the combat, both when you say your daily prayers, hear Mass, or frequent the Sacraments, and also in the moment of danger, that is when you are beginning to feel vexed or impatient. Then you must join to the grace, which God will certainly give you, your own good efforts, keeping back the angry word which flies to your lips, and trying to speak gently and kindly to him who has injured you, or not to speak at all till your anger is gone. Finally you should keep before your eyes the example of our dear Lord, who bore with such infinite patience the greatest injuries from His own creatures, allowing Himself to be insulted, spit upon, scourged and nailed to the Cross, without so much as uttering a single word of reproach.
The holy Count Eleazar, although overwhelmed with business, was never seen to be angry or impatient. When his wife asked him one day how this was possible, he said: "When I feel a motion of anger, I represent to myself the ignominy and injury which my Redeemer suffered from me and others, and say to myself: If your servants were to pull out your hair and beard, kick and beat you and inflict other injuries on you, it is right that you should endure all this, for it is nothing in comparison with what Jesus suffered for you.' This is how I manage to suppress my anger."
My dear boys and girls, follow these rules, and you will soon obtain a glorious victory over the passion of anger, a victory which God will reward with many blessings here, and hereafter with the crown of eternal life.
Source: Story Sermonettes for the Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921