Uncharitable Conversations

Father Valuy asserts that uncharitable conversations are the principal danger to fraternal charity. Consult the wisdom of Sacred Scripture: “Truly death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov 18:21). “Although the sword has been the instrument of innumerable murders, the tongue has at all times beaten it in producing death” (Sir 28:18). “It forms but a small part of the body, and has done mighty evil: as the helm badly directed causes the wreck of a fine ship, and as a spark may enkindle a forest” (Jas 3:4-5).

“St. Francis of Assisi said to his religious one day: ‘Uncharitable conversation is worse than the assassin, because it kills souls.’ . . . St. Bernard goes further: ‘Do not hesitate to regard the tongue of the backbiter as more cruel than the iron of the lance which pierced our Saviour s side, because it not only pierces His sacred side, but one of His living members also.'”

“The philosopher Zeno, hearing a man relate a number of misdeeds about Antisthenes, said to him: ‘Ah! Has he never done anything good? Has he never done anything for which he merits praise?’ ‘I don’t know,’ he replied. Then said Zeno, ‘How is that? You have sufficient perception to remark, and sufficient memory to remember, this long list of faults, and you have had no eyes to see his many good qualities and virtuous actions.'”

St. John Chrysostom would have us say to the calumniator: “If you can praise your neighbours, my ears are open to receive your perfume. If you can only blacken them, my ears are closed. . . . What matters it to me to hear that such a one is wicked, and has done some detestable act? Friend, think of the account that must be rendered to the Sovereign Judge. What excuse can we give, and what mercy will we deserve—we who have been so keen-sighted to the faults of others, and so blind to our own? You would consider it very rude for a person to look into your private room; but I say it is far worse to pry into another’s private life and to expose it.”

Quotations from Benoit Valuy, Fraternal Charity (New York: Benziger Brothers, 1908).

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