St. Vincent Ferrer On Silence

st-vincent-ferrer-preachingThe following words of St. Vincent Ferrer are very strict, to be sure. But notice that St. Vincent does not prevent us from indulging in recreation – he just warns us against being severe and hurtful. I don’t know about you, but my examination of conscience turns up so very many places every day where I am too harsh on those around me. Come to think of it, Scripture, too, treats this as one of the most besetting sins, as I have written before.

Having laid the solid foundation of poverty inculcated by Jesus Christ Himself when, seated on the mountain, he said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit;” it behooves us to strive vigorously to repress the tongue. This organ ought only to be employed in useful speech, and never to become the instrument of vain and idle words.

In order the better to restrain the tongue, accustom yourself to reply rather than to express an opinion, and then only in answer to some useful and necessary question; all frivolous questions will be best answered by silence.

Yet, if you should sometimes indulge in a little pleasantry, by way of recreation, regulate your tone and manner in such a way as not to wound the sensibility of others. Avoid everything that would lead people to regard you as singular, severe, or as one who exceeds the bounds of piety.

Should they complain of you, or blame your behavior, it will then be needful to redouble your prayers for such persons, that God in His goodness may chase from their hearts all that is an occasion of trouble or annoyance to them.

Nevertheless, speak whenever a pressing necessity invites you, such as charity to your neighbor, or the obedience which you have promised to your Superior. In such cases, think beforehand what you ought to say, and express yourself in few words, and in a gentle and respectful tone, which will indicate the humility of your heart. You should also observe the same rule when anyone questions you.

If you remain silent for a time, it should be done with a view to edify your neighbor, and to foresee what may be conveniently said when the moment for speaking shall arrive. Beseech God to supply your silence, and to interiorly make known to others that the obligation you are under of subduing the tongue prohibits you from speaking to them.

–From the Treatise on the Spiritual Life

St. Vincent Ferrer, OP (1350-1419)


One Comment

  1. American Christians would surely benefit from more exhortations like this one along with cautions against gossip (and reading it – especially in the media!). I’m just glad St. Vincent has nothing to say about modesty in typing so then I don’t have to be concerned about typing and typing just so my words can be read and I can be thought of as funny or smart. Just typing.

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