“Please, thank you and sorry” are the three words that Pope Francis “would write on the door of every family home” as they are the key to living well and in peace both inside and outside the home. They are simple words, much easier to say than to put into practice, but “they contain great strength: the strength of protecting the home, even through a thousand difficulties and trials; instead, when they are lacking, cracks gradually open up that can even lead it to collapse”.
The Pope dedicated the catechesis of Wednesday’s general audience to these three words, normally considered as the words of politeness. “A great bishop, St. Francis of Sales, said that kindness is halfway to holiness. However, beware”, he warned, “as in history we have also known a formalism of good manners that can become a mask to conceal an arid heart and lack of interest in others. … Not even religion is immune to this risk, in which formal observance may slip into spiritual worldliness. The devil who tempts Jesus shows off his good manners and cites the Sacred Scriptures. His style appears correct, but his intention is to deviate from the truth of God’s love”.
The first word is “please. “To enter into the life of another person, even when that person forms part of our life, requires the delicacy of a non-intrusive attitude, that renews trust and respect. Confidence, then, does not authorize us to take everything for granted. Love, the more intimate and profound it is, the more it demands respect for freedom and the capacity to wait for the other to open the door of his or her heart”.
The second phrase is “thank you”. “At times”, observed the Holy Father, “it seems that we are becoming a civilization of poor manners and unpleasant words. … Politeness and the capacity to thank are seen as a sign of weakness, and at times even arouse distrust. This tendency should be opposed within the family itself. We must become intransigent in the education of gratitude and recognition: the dignity of the person and social justice both come from this. If this approach is neglected in family life, it will also be lost in social life”.
The third word is “sorry”, as “when it is lacking, small cracks become larger … to the point of becoming deep trenches. It is not by chance that in the prayer taught by Jesus, the Lord’s prayer that summarizes all the essential questions for our life, we find the expression ‘forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’. Acknowledging our errors and being willing to restore what has been removed – respect, sincerity, love – makes one worthy of forgiveness. … If we are not capable of apologizing, it means we are not capable of forgiveness either. … Many hurt feelings, many lesions in the family begin with the loss of those precious words: ‘I am sorry’. In married life there are many arguments … but I advise you never to let the day end without making peace. And for this, a small gesture is enough”.
“These three key words for the family are simple words, and perhaps at first they make us smile. But … perhaps our education neglects them too much. May the Lord help us to restore them to their rightful place in our heart, in our home, and also in our civil co-existence”.