Most people don't realize who they're quoting when they speak of catching more flies with honey than with vinegar. I was well into adulthood when I learned that this bit of wisdom had come from one of my favorite saints.
"You can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with ten barrels of vinegar." (St. Francis de Sales)
I often think of this in connection with another quote from this Doctor of the Church.
"It is an act of of charity to cry out against the wolf when he is among the sheep" (St. Francis de Sales)
These two thoughts may not appear to have much to do with one another. But in my mind, they work together. In fact, I often strive to "navigate between them," as one might drive between two lines painted on a highway to keep vehicles moving safely. Can I explain what I mean by this? I have no idea. But here goes a try...
As one of Our Lord's sheep, I have seen wolves come amongst us, oh - so many times. In saying this, I'm not thinking of people as much as I am of ideas and ungodly "values" that creep in, usually in sheeps' clothing. They enter in the name (very often) of freedom, tolerance, rights, happiness, prosperity, pleasure, modernization, peace, fairness, justice for all. Not wanting to be unkind, we can let them prowl freely among our families and groups and parishes without our uttering so much as a whisper of protest. We don't want to rock boats, ruffle feathers, stir waters, or cause anyone to be uncomfortable. Besides, we (I should say "I") don't want to appear, well... you know. Uncool. Behind the times. Uncharitable.
It takes a lot to cry out against wolves. But if we know the truth and do not speak it, are we acting in genuine charity toward the sheep? Francis would say no.
However, there are a couple of ways of speaking. We can lash out in anger, in sharp words that can sting and personally wound our "opponents"... in other words, we can dish out the vinegar. Or...
we can speak in honeyed tones. Not fake ones, but in words and actions that carry a gentleness... a genuine kindness that enables our fellow sheep to hear. After all, ears tend to turn off at the sound of vinegar. The truth we're trying to communicate can pass by totally unheard if we allow frustration and anger to "vinegar-ize" what we say.
We all know there are wolves among us. I don't have to name them; we see them in newspapers, on television, in magazines, on the Internet, in politics, in workplaces and healthcare systems and schools and so many "areas of et cetera" that this page isn't long enough to list them. They rob children of innocence, families of stability, societies of integrity, preborn babies of life, and individuals of eternity spent with God. The cost of our silence could be staggering.
But we dare not speak without honey.
We dare not speak without love.
"I take in my hands the two rays that spring from Your merciful Heart; that is, the blood and the water; and I scatter them all over the globe so that each soul may receive Your mercy..." (St. Faustina)