A Year with the Saints – 7 March


One of the things that keep us at a distance from perfection is, without doubt, our tongue. For when one has gone so far as to commit no faults in speaking, the Holy Spirit Himself assures us that he is perfect. And since the worst way of speaking is to speak too much, speak little and well, little and gently, little and simply, little and charitably, little and amiably. Saint Francis de Sales

Saint Ignatius Loyola governed his tongue so well that his speech was simple, grave, considerate, and brief.

Saint John Berchmans was a man of few words, and so considerate in his speech that there was never heard from his mouth an idle word, one contrary to rule, one that was neither necessary, useful, nor directed to any good purpose. Being once asked by a brother novice how he managed never to commit a fault in speaking, he replied thus: “I never say anything without first considering it, and recommending it to God, that I may say nothing which can displease Him.” Besides, he was never observed to violate silence and when asked how he could keep this rule so perfectly, he answered: “This is the way I do: I salute humbly all those I meet; if anyone asks any service of me, I show the greatest readiness to render it; if anyone asks me a question, I listen, and answer briefly; and I avoid saying a single superfluous word.”

Saint Vincent de Paul made himself so completely master of his tongue, that useless or superfluous words were rarely heard from his mouth, and never a single one inconsiderate, contrary to charity, or such as might savor of vanity, flattery, or ostentation. It often happened that after opening his mouth to say something unusual that came into his mind, he closed it suddenly, stifling the words, and apparently reflecting in his own heart, and considering before God whether it was expedient to say them. He then continued to speak, not according to his inclination, for he had none, but as he felt sure would be most pleasing to God. When anything was told him which he already knew, he listened with attention, giving no sign of having heard it before. He did this to mortify self-love, which always makes us desire to prove that we know as much as others. When insult, reproach, or wrong of any kind was inflicted upon him, he never opened his lips to complain, to justify himself, or to repel the injury; but he recollected himself, and placed all his strength in silence and patience, blessing in his heart those who had ill-treated him, and praying for them. When he found himself overwhelmed with excessive work, he did not complain, but his ordinary words were: “Blessed be God! we must accept willingly all that He deigns to send us.”

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, when about to converse with anyone, fervently repeated this prayer: Set a watch, O Lord, before my lips, etc.

A certain virgin once observed silence from the Festival of the Holy Cross, in September, until Christmas, with such rigor that in all that time she did not speak one word. This mortification was so pleasing to God, that it was revealed to a Holy Soul, that as a reward for it, she should never pass through Purgatory.

Among the lofty eulogiums that Saint Jerome bestows upon his pupil Saint Paula is this – that she was as cautious in speaking as she was ready to listen.

MLA Citation