Friday, September 5, 2008

On gossip

from The Duty of Fraternal Correction, Gospel Commentary for 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap:

When, for whatever reason, fraternal correction is not possible in private, there is something that must never be done in its place, and that is to divulge, without good reason, one’s brother’s fault, to speak ill of him or, indeed, to calumniate him, proposing as fact something that is not, or exaggerating the fault. “Do not speak ill of one another,” Scripture says (James 4:11). Gossip is not something innocent; it is ugly and reprehensible.

A woman once went to St. Philip Neri for confession, accusing herself badmouthing people. The saint absolved her but gave her a strange penance. He told her to go home, get a hen and come back, plucking the bird’s feathers as she walked along the street. When she had returned to him he said: “Now go back home and, as you go, pick up each feather that you plucked on the way.” The woman told him that it would be impossible since the wind had almost certainly blown them away in the meantime. But St. Philip was prepared: “You see,” he said, “just as it is impossible to pick up the feathers once the wind has scattered them, it is likewise impossible to gather gossip and calumnies back up once they have come out of our mouth.” (by Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the Pontifical Household preacher. The readings for this Sunday Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20)

Saint Philip Neri

I'm busy at the moment, chasing feathers...

3 comments:

Dcn Scott Dodge said...

I just love what you are posting by Fr. Cantalmessa. His book on the Eucharist is so lovely, so deep. I love his preaching and have been known to quote him in my own.

Sharon Leigh said...

I appreciated your excerpt on gossip. Since our society is so obsessed with celebrity gossip, many people think gossiping is natural, harmless, and not even a sin. More priests need to address the issue of gossiping, calumny, and detraction in their homilies.

Suzanne said...

Thank you, both of you. I really appreciate this feedback. I'm a huge fan of Fr. Cantalamessa. Even though what he says is often very simple, I always find something new and fresh. He certainly has a gift.

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."