In studying the Spiritual Works of Mercy, specifically, the one to admonish the sinner, I learned that there is no obligation to correct someone unless you are in a position to have some influence on him. There is no expectation that a perfect stranger will take your advice to straighten up and fly right. It is more likely that the person will commit an additional sin in the course of reacting to the correction. My usual course of action is to make an act of reparation and pray for the person.
If the matter is grave and especially if they’re leading others into sin, I will opine. When I reprimand, I really try to reprimand the ACT, the SIN, not the person. I also guage my reprimand on how I think they’ll respond. If the matter is REALLY bad, I’ll be more severe, while if it’s less serious, I’ll go easy. If I KNOW they will not respond, even if the matter is grave, I’ll keep silent and simply pray for them
I’m still a relatively new Catholic, and am still learning. I’ve had more than a few dismal failures, where I’ve REALLY ticked people off. Usually the fault has been my tendency to be overly severe … Cure of Ars style. LOL! However, God, knowing I’m a dufus who lives with her foot in her mouth has made good come of all my dismal failures.
I am now having more success, now that I’ve toned things down.
My change in “tone of voice” can be likened to this metaphor. In the earliest episodes of Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy played Mr. Spock in a very severe and angry manner, uncharacteristic of a Vulcan. It took about 5 episodes for Mr. Spock to be a calm and unemotional Vulcan. I see myself like this. I started out very severe and vigilant, and now I’m less emotional in my evangelizatoin techniques.
Now, when I reprimand people, I really try to not point fingers and I try to present rational unemotional and seemingly disattached arguments.
The girls at work were using the Lord’s name in Vain saying “Oh my G-d,” all the time. It was driving me nuts, and I asked God how to stop it. The answer came quickly. After attending Daily Mass one morning, I later went to work and approached one of them, their leader, and said to her, “Did you know that today is Holy Name day?” She asked what it was. I said, “The Pope says that people misuse the Lord’s name all the time. He’s trying to crack down on it. Pope John Paul says that the word ‘God’ should be reserved for prayer and evangelization, but people say it all the time so casually, especially on TV.” That’s all I said.
I wanted them to hear the Truth and I wanted them to accuse themselves of the sin after knowing the Truth.
Now, at first, the response was an INCREASE of using the Lord’s name in vain. Two months passed, and I didn’t say anything more. I just prayed for them. Now, I don’t hear ANY of them saying “Oh my G-d.” I consider this a success.
All we can do is present the Truth as it is and hope that people will respond to it.
I have a friend who vocally and harshly criticises our lectors for accidentally transposing words when reading from the Scriptures during Mass. I told her that the people weren’t doing it on purpose, that we’re only human, and that we should be reading along in our Missal books anyway. She then told me, “Don’t start softening up now. What’s the matter with you? I was once a lector, and if you’re going to read Scripture you must do it right!”
I thought she was being totally unreasonable and uncharitable and blowing simple human errors that aren’t offensive to God into grave sins. I would NOT reprimand someone for such a thing. She has even done this loudly and within earshot of the lectors, so they’d hear her. Personally, I think it takes guts to be a lector, and quite frankly, I’d be scared to death to read anything from the Bible with her sitting in the crowd!
The Deacon gave the homily one day during Daily Mass (this is allowed on Daily Masses according to GIRM) and he accidentally mispronounced Kateri Tekakwitha’s name. This same friend went up to him after Mass and corrected him on the pronunciation, rather haughtily, I might add. I thought this, too, was totally unreasonable and not a sin and why even bother??? Who cares? This is another example of an act I’d just let go.
I then corrected HER on both these things, and I was somewhat severe, only because she treats other people like dirt and I felt like she needed a small dose of her own medicine. I told her her actions were like that of a Pharisee.
Now, if the priest was not saying “This is my body,” or not saying, “This is … my blood,” I WOULD intervene and I’d do so immediately, but I would do so privately, not publically. I’d intervene because this is grave. Haven’t encounted this yet, but if I do, I’ll do an act of Spiritual Mercy out of love for the Church.