The Terrible Power of Meekness

by Catherine Doherty

The meek will inherit the earth (Mt 5:4), said the Lord! He also said, Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:29).

***

I once witnessed the terrible power of meekness. It happened this way.

During the early days of Friendship House in Toronto,* I was returning home when I came across a preacher holding his “pitch” at the corner of a slummy street.

He was surrounded by quite a large audience of the poorest people, especially the Brothers Christopher** who were so plentiful then, for these were the Depression years, and folks had little to do but hang around the corners of streets listening to whoever wanted to talk to them.

Always interested in anyone speaking of God and the things of God, I stopped to listen and I liked what I heard. For this evangelical sect preacher was talking, of all things, about love and peace, talking forcibly, with sort of a flaming faith.

Amongst his audience was a hulking, big brute of a man, slightly worse for liquor but not drunk. He interrupted the preacher and started verbally abusing him in no uncertain terms.

The preacher went on preaching. His voice got gentler and a little kind smile touched his eyes and lips and gave a lovely light to his otherwise plain face.

The big man got angry. He opened the palm of his hand and gave a resounding smack with his open palm to the cheek of the preacher, who was a slight man, standing on a soap box to give himself height, I guess.

The big man hit hard. The preacher fell from the soap box onto a dirty pavement. It must have hurt him, that fall, for he got up painfully.

Slowly, he got back on his box and with a face dirty from the dirt of the pavement, slightly bloody for he had scratched himself and with a big red spot on his cheek from the slap—he smiled gently again, a real loving smile.

You knew he meant it, and he turned the other cheek to the big man saying, “Brother, here is my other cheek, for I love you in the Lord. And I love the Lord and He said to turn the other cheek to him who smites you. So here is my other cheek!”

There was a dead silence for a spell. The big man suddenly crumpled and fell to his knees before the preacher, weeping bitterly.

I felt a shiver, a cold one, going down my spine, for I had witnessed the terribilis power of meekness the Lord Christ spoke about.

As I looked over the faces of the motley audience, I saw many who were wiping tears furtively from their eyes, mostly with the back of their hands or with their dirty sleeves.

That night, the preacher, whom later I got to know very well and whose name was Mr. Friday—of all things—reaped a great harvest for the Lord.

*the first house of hospitality Catherine Doherty founded

**the street people whom we call this  for they carry Christ within them
—Excerpted from
Dearly Beloved, Vol. 1, Feb. 1961, pp. 171-172, MH Publications