Saturday, July 7, 2007


1. It is easy, unfortunately, to abuse the gift of speech which God has given us. If anyone does not offend in word, says St. James, he is a perfect man. (James 3:2) "As often as I have been amongst men," says the Imitation o f Christ, "I have returned less a man." (Bk. I, c. 20:2) Why is this so? It is because it is easy when we are in the company of men to enter into useless and even harmful discussions. As a result we lose the purity of intention which we ought to observe in all our thoughts, words and actions. We lose the spirit of recollection which keeps us in contact with God, and when we return home we are less perfect Christians because we are dissipated in mind and in heart.

It is true that if we were really holy and were accustomed to speak with people holier than ourselves, our conversations would be spiritually beneficial to us. We should go away more perfect men and closer to God than we were before. But what kind of conversations do we normally have with others? What kind of relations have we with our friends, with our superiors and inferiors, and with everyone whom we meet a Are our conversations inspired by a love for truth and charity and by a desire for the spiritual welfare of ourselves and of our neighbour?

Let us examine ourselves in this important matter and resolve that our conversations will be a means of sanctification for ourselves and others.

2. The tendency to complain about others is a most insidious cancer which can corrode all that is good in our conversation, making it harmful and even gravely sinful. Grumbling is always more or less sinful according to the circumstances. It may be a sin against charity, which demands that we love our neighbour as ourselves and help him as much as possible by word and by deed. It may be a sin of scandal, because the person to whom we are complaining may be provoked to throw stones in his turn at the subject of our detraction. It may be a sin of theft because it takes away the reputation of the person whom we are criticising. This could carry with it the obligation to make restitution by withdrawing what we have said if it is false or doubtful or by speaking charitably of the person whom we have wronged in order to restore his good name. Uncharitableness in speech is also a sin of injustice when it involves calumny, in which case there is an obligation to repair the damage done in the best way possible.

Since criticism of others can be such an evil thing, we should take care not to form the habit of employing it as a means of making our conversations more lively and acceptable. The life of a Christian should be governed by charity, and grumbling about others is always an offence against charity.

3. It is no excuse to claim that we only speak of matters which are true and known to all. They may be true, but God alone can judge the human conscience. They may be known to all, but by our maliciousness we are spreading evil about our neighbour, whereas we ought to try and spread only what is good. Besides being opposed to Christian charity, unkind conversation ruins whatever opportunities we may have of practising the apostolate, in which everyone is obliged to play his part. If we are apostolic, we promote our neighbour's spiritual welfare, whereas uncharitable criticism spreads evil about him and gives bad example to others.