For Crying Out Loud

According to the idioms section of TheFreeDictionary.com, “for crying out loud” is “An exclamation of anger or exasperation, as in For crying out loud, can’t you do anything right? This term is a euphemism for for Christ’s sake.

For crying out loud, I’ve been reading Joan Chittister’s monthly pamphlet for more than four years now. The pamphlet for last month (May 2015) is the first one that I really haven’t liked. This year, instead of reflecting on beautiful paintings each month, she’s reflecting on one particular quotation for a whole month. Brother Mickey McGrath creates a new illustration of the quotation for the front flap of each month’s pamphlet.

The quotation for the month of May was by St. Catherine of Siena:

Cry out with a thousand tongues. I see the world is rotten because of silence.

Cry Out Pamphlet CoverThe quote is an order to do something – to cry out – because of a terrible observation – that the world is rotten because people don’t cry out. Unfortunately, the quote is more depressing to me than uplifting. That’s not the way I want to begin each day – being depressed.

Chittister’s reflection for Thursday, May 21, was probably my least favorite of all.

Silence is a virtue only when it prepares us to act well later. Otherwise, it runs the risk of becoming nothing more than a symptom of spiritual narcissism.

I took a little offense at that comment. Most people who know me would describe me as a quiet person. I rarely speak unless I think I have something worthwhile to say. If I have to make small talk, I will, but I don’t like it. It’s far from my favorite thing to do.

In contrast to making small talk, I see silence as something good. Silence is an opportunity to think, to learn, and to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. For crying out loud, I certainly don’t see silence as a “symptom of spiritual narcissism.” (Or is it? Maybe I need to think about that a little more – but not this week.)

Silence ripplesBut perhaps, I’m taking Chittister’s comments too personally. Toward the end of May I decided to re-read all the daily reflections in one sitting. I understand that her point for the month wasn’t to criticize the golden moments of silence that I treasure, but rather to criticize the silence that is the opposite of standing up for what is right – the  silence that is the opposite of working for justice.

In her introduction to the month’s reflections, Chittister quoted Pastor Martin Niemoller who wrote during World War II:

Martin Niemoller 2

Martin Niemoller

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

For 31 days I read a paragraph each day about the need to cry out for justice. On May first Chittister talked about all the injustices worldwide and ended with another quote – this time one by Helen Keller.

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all – the apathy of human beings.

The next day she pounded the same point. “Evil can only remain evil as long as the rest of the world continues to be silent about it.”

One day she brought Anne Frank into the discussion, who had written,

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

Finally. A ray of hope. Something uplifting. We can start improving the world any time we want.

snowflake-avalancheAnother day Chittister asked the question, “What did I do today to minimize the evil in the world, in my neighborhood, in my family?” Just in case we feel that we are too little and insignificant to have any real impact by what we personally say and do, Chittister reminded us of what Stanislaw Jerzy Lec said:

No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.

Chittister summarized the month’s reflections with, “It is your voice and mine, alone as well as together, that are meant to raise the alarms. If we don’t point out the breakdowns in human community and make clear the unseen millions in need, they go on being unseen by the many.”

Okay. So this wasn’t my favorite month of “The Monastic Way” pamphlet. But, by the end of the month, I was maybe a little inspired by the message. For crying out loud, “the world is rotten because of silence.” For Christ’s sake, I guess I can join with others and “Cry out with a thousand tongues” to try to make the world a better place, especially for people who are treated unjustly. Now I just need to decide where to begin…

Cry Out

4 thoughts on “For Crying Out Loud

  1. Marian, the minute I started reading your post I thought of Pastor Niemoller’s quote. I think you found the right meaning in the end. I definitely agree that silence has its place – for solitude and for calming our souls and for keeping one’s mouth shut instead of saying hurtful things – but staying silent in the face of injustice and cruelty is wrong and that’s when we need to shout! Sometimes the difference is a thin line though and worth pondering, i think. Not as black and white as her first statement, but, ah, she made you think, didn’t she? mary

  2. I’ve read this through at least 3 times, and find a bit more meaning each time. It nudges me to speak out about an issue that I just don’t want to. I’ve been nudged about this before and continue to hold back. Right now I can say I have a good excuse through chemo, but ….. It is certainly an important going to think through. Thank you.

  3. Thanks for your comment, RuthAnn. I’m glad this post provided something else for you to think about during your latest round of chemo. Be sure to focus your limited energy now on healing your body. Then you can speak out later as you have both strength and opportunity. Meanwhile, know that you remain in our thoughts and prayers daily. Peace.

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