Making Sense of Sensus Catholicus (aug9ssc.htm)

Tuesday
August 9, 2005
vol 16, no. 221

Speech Therapy



    We must all be careful what we say for what comes out of our mouths can lessen the value of our treasure of graces. The more we say, the more it can come back to haunt us just as the famous Norman Rockwell painting on gossip illustrates. We must learn to hold our tongue for, as Christ shows us so clearly, silence is golden.
by
Father James F. Wathen

    "The list of sins of the tongue is long, because men are evil and they use their tongues to work evil against and in the hearing of their neighbors. Some of the more common sins of speech are lying, cursing, blasphemy, unkindness, calumny, detraction, perjury, complaining, threatening, impure and suggestive speech, ridicule, taunting, boasting, insults, criticism, scandal, quarreling, screaming, and on and on."


    In the parable of this past Sundayís Gospel, the Lord speaks of the good deeds of the Samaritan. We speak here of words, bad words, which should never be spoken, good words that should always be on our lips.

    Under this heading, we remember the words of our Savior, "But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment" (Matthew 12:36). Sayings like this on the lips of Truth Itself remind us of the momentousness of our lives. In Godís eyes, none of us is unimportant, and nothing we do or say is beneath His notice. Only an infinite God can say to every one of billions of human beings, "I shall hold you accountable for every word you speak." Only an infinite God knows and will always know every single word of every man and woman who ever lived beginning with Adam and Eve. He will judge and He will judge with perfect justice. Let no one imagine that the Lordís warning is "an idle word." This is a negative incentive to good speech; the positive is that Christ, our beloved Master, always spoke with perfect virtue, and we wish to be like Him; we are called to be "Other Christs."

    The list of sins of the tongue is long, because men are evil and they use their tongues to work evil against and in the hearing of their neighbors. Some of the more common sins of speech are lying, cursing, blasphemy, unkindness, calumny, detraction, perjury, complaining, threatening, impure and suggestive speech, ridicule, taunting, boasting, insults, criticism, scandal, quarreling, screaming, and on and on.

    Some sins of the tongue deserve special attention, those which have long term and deadly consequences, particularly, calumny and detraction. Calumny is false accusation, detraction is the revealing of the secret sins and faults of another. In this connection, the Lord says, "Amen, I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to Me;" (Cf. Matthew 25:40), which means that He will regard all the evil we speak as having been directed against Himself.

    Calumny and detraction are especially wicked because their injury is irreparable, no matter how laborious the effort to amend it. A grave sin of calumny cannot be forgiven unless restitution is made. This means that if you falsely accuse someone so as to gravely damage a person's reputation, correction must be made to everyone who has heard the accusation. It is not sufficient simply to confess the sin. To repair the damage it may be necessary to publish an admission of calumny (which few indeed have the virtue to do). Unfortunately, it is impossible to repair the injury done to one whose secret sins have been revealed, because once revealed, they cannot be hidden or denied. These sins are particularly evil because the damage they do spreads like a wildfire, and there is no quelling it; men (and women) gorge themselves on gossip like voracious swine.

    St. James elaborates on this truth in his Epistle; thus:

    Be ye not many masters, my [Catholic] brethren, knowing that you receive the greater judgment. For in many things we all offend. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man. He is able also with a bridle to lead about the whole body. For if we put bits into the mouths of horses, that they may obey us: and we turn about their whole body. Behold also ships, whereas they are great and are driven by strong winds, yet are they turned about with a small helm, whithersoever the force of the governor willeth. Even so the tongue is indeed a little member and boasteth great things. Behold how small a fire kindleth a great wood. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is placed among our members, which defileth the whole body and inflameth the wheel of our nativity, being set on fire by hell. For every nature of beasts and of birds and of serpents and of the rest is tamed and hath been tamed, by the nature of man. But the tongue no man can tame, an unquiet evil, full of deadly poison. By it we bless God and the Father: and by it we curse men who are made after the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. (James 3:1-10)

    There is good speech also. As ardently as we should abhor evil talk, we should speak so as to increase our merit. Our Model in speech is Jesus, the Word made flesh, Who is Wisdom Itself. We observe that His speech was never offhanded or trivial, always godly and magisterial, never emotional or intemperate, always simple and straightforward, never loud or inconsiderate, always serious and purposeful.

    He spoke clearly and bravely to His friends and His enemies, kindly to the weak and needy, firmly and consistently in His doctrine, in His warnings, and in His promises, and always humbly and reverently of His Father and the Holy Ghost.

    We must always speak the truth, simply and courageously. At all times, speak humbly, never egotistically or boastfully, always mildly and thoughtfully, never rashly or offensively, always purely and nobly, never falsely or deviously, always respectfully and politely, never crudely or vulgarly.

    Not a day, hardly an hour passes, that we do not have occasion to speak to someoneís benefit by instructing, by consoling, by encouraging, by sympathizing, by entreating to repentance and reform, by defending the Faith, by forgiving and begging pardon, by expressing gratitude, by praying for the good and the bad.

    Hardly less meritorious is silence, holding the tongue, when we think we will burst if we do not. In this regard, Mary our Mother is our perfect model, as she was a woman "wrapped in silence," turned always to God, attuned always to the Voice of the Spirit, laconic in all her utterances. As St. Luke says, "But Mary kept all these words, pondering them in her Heart" (2:19).

  • When you are insulted, keep silent, and you will be rewarded;

  • When you are falsely accused, keep silent, and you will be rewarded;

  • When you are not invited, keep silent, and you will be rewarded;

  • When nothing seems to be going right, keep silent, and you will be rewarded;

  • When you are made to wait, keep silent, and you will be rewarded;

  • When you are boiling with anger, keep silent, and you will be rewarded;

  • When you are caught in traffic, keep silent, and you will be rewarded;

  • When you are in a great hurry, keep silent, and you will be rewarded.

  • When you are overwhelmed with sorrow, keep silent, and you will be rewarded.

  • "And the high priest rising up, said to Him: Answerest Thou nothing to the things which these witness against Thee? But Jesus held His peace" (Matthew 26:62, 63).

    ________________________________

        My brother, John, who has been preparing my evening meal for many months, had a stroke this past Tuesday. He is now in St. Mary's Rehabilitation Unit here in Evansville, for what may be extended therapy. He is partially paralyzed on his left side, which is especially difficult for him, since he is left-handed. Someone remarked to me that having a stroke of this kind is doubly dispiriting, because the stroke itself causes depression, and accepting the disability makes it worse. John, who has found a new life since he rediscovered his Catholic Faith, is loved by everyone who knows him, as he is a most affable and jovial man. May I ask everyone to remember him when he remember me? And do continue to pray for me.

        I thank again everyone who has supported and encouraged me during the months of my illness, and helped me with gifts of money; especially those who have prayed for me all this time. God grant that I be able to repay the many kindnesses. Again, I send my priestly blessing, looking forward to when I will do it personally.

    In Christ,

    Father James Wathen


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    • August 9, 2005
      vol 16, no. 221
      Making Sense of Sensus Catholicus