The children know when I’m becoming angry. I tend not to raise
my voice, but I add a certain sense of mysterious danger to my words.
The kids hear it and know they’ve pushed me too far. Usually, they make
themselves scarce so Daddy can have a time-out, but every once in a
while they’re in a bad mood, too, and my frustration only encourages
them. It’s like a game to see when Daddy will explode. That’s when I
give my wife a helpless look and she sends me out for a good, long
Those episodes have made me realize that,
when we give in to anger, it’s impossible for us to fulfill our
vocations. I literally need a break from being a father to get my head
straight. It’s the same with work. When frustration at the office turns
into simmering anger, it distracts us and leaves the job undone. When
anger enters into our friendships and families, it drives us apart and
ruins the relationship. Even something small like anger during the daily
commute causes us to lose focus on the road.
St. John Cassian, a
fourth-century monk, said that anger is similar to a deadly poison in
the depths of our souls. He says that when we are angry, “We can neither
discern what is for our good, nor achieve spiritual knowledge, nor
fulfill our good intentions, nor participate in true life; and our
intellect will remain impervious to the contemplation of the true,
divine light.” In other words, anger blinds, takes our peace, robs our
joy and makes us selfish.
There are times when, yes, anger is
appropriate. After all, Our Lord displayed vigorous, righteous anger
when He cleansed the Temple. I have to admit that, over the past month
as I’ve read about scandals in the Catholic Church, I have been angry.
I’ve had to ask myself if that anger is righteous or if it’s an emotion
that I’m wallowing in and allowing to become a negative presence in my
In reading the Scriptures, it seems to me that there are a
few principles by which we can know if our anger is good or bad. First,
righteous anger is directed at sin, not people. Second, it’s
God-centered, meaning that we are angry on behalf of God and not from
selfish motives. Third, it is combined with positive virtues, meaning
the anger itself is a temporary emotion that motivates us to act in a
positive manner. It gives us courage. In this way, righteous anger is
soon enough revealed to be hope. We are angry because we know and
believe that any injustice can and will be made right.
should be a rare emotion. When we feel it, it’s a good habit to ask
ourselves why we are so angry and how to combat it. If it turns out the
anger is righteous, ask yourself what positive effects can arise from
Father Rennier is parochial administrator of Epiphany of
Our Lord Parish in St. Louis. A former Anglican priest, he was ordained
in 2016 under a pastoral provision for the reception of Anglicans and
Episcopalians into full communion with the Catholic Church. He and his
wife, Amber, have five children.