A Father’s Wisdom

village

It is interesting that in reading the life of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos the figure that stands out most in his life is that of his (unlearned) peasant father. His father was clearly a man of great faith. St. Silouan thought his father to be wiser than many so-called spiritual fathers. The following story is an interesting account of how a father dealt with anger in correcting his son.

This excerpt is from the Elder Sophrony’s St. Silouan the Athonite.

Young, strong, handsome, and by this time prosperous, too, Simeon [later to become the monk Silouan] revelled in life. He was popular in the village, being good-natured, peaceable and jolly, and the village girls looked on him as a man they would like to marry. He himself was attracted to one of them and, before the question of marriage had been put, what so often happens befell late one summer evening.

Next morning, as they were working together, his father said to him quietly,

‘Where were you last night, son? My heart was troubled for you?’

The mild words sank into Simeon’s soul, and in later life when he recalled his father the Staretz [elder] would say,

‘I have never reached my father’s stature. He was absolutely illiterate – he even used to make mistakes in the Lord’s Prayer which he had learned by listening in church; but he was a man who was gentle and wise.’

They were a large family – father, mother, five sons and two daughters – all living in affection together. The elder boys worked with their father. One Friday they were out harvesting and it was Simeon’s turn to cook the midday meal. Forgetting that it was Friday, he prepared a dish of pork for their lunch, and they all ate of it. Six months later, on a feast-day in winter, Simeon’s father turned to him with a gentle smile and said,

‘Son, do you remember how you gave us pork to eat that day in the fields? It was a Friday. I ate it but, you know, it tasted like carrion.’

‘Whyever didn’t you tell me at the time?’

‘I didn’t want to upset you, son.’

Recalling such incidents from his life at home, the Staretz would add,

‘That is the sort of staretz I would like to have. He never got angry, was always even-tempered and humble. Just think – he waited six months for the right moment to correct me without upsetting me!’

9 comments:

  1. Thank you Father Stephen for reminding us of this beautiful story of St. Silouan’s life. Of how to be a good parent. Very timely for this mother of three young men… 🙂

  2. We are having our monthly men’s breakfast this morning and I was planning on giving a short teaching in what it means (and even more importantly, what it does not mean) to be the spiritual head of the household. This is definitely going to be used, thank you.

  3. The longer I live, the more I recall my father’s gentleness towards us, his children. It upsets me to think that, for so long, I only remembered all the slights and things I disliked as a child. Day by day I grow more thankful for the love he showed us in his life.

  4. We have to grow old enough to know what wisdom is. I regret that it took me so long for that first awareness. There seems to be no end to it: I guess that’s a good thing.

    A Mark Twain example is one of my favorites. Mark Twain said he was amazed at his father’s increase in wisdom as he (Mark Twain) grew from 17 to 21 years old.

  5. My oldest son once gave me a wonderful compliment. He said, “it was not what you taught me that impressed me, it was the life you lived as I grew up that impressed me.”

    I would never have thought that.

    My father was not perfect, but he was consistent.

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