You are the master of the unspoken word,
and the slave of the spoken word.
These days it seems everyone collects something. Not being different, I collect refrigerator magnets. One I have had for years reads: You are the master of the unspoken word and the slave of the spoken word. I read it every now and then and usually go back and read it again, to reinforce it’s message, whenever I have said something I wished had never left my mouth.
I don’t think there’s a person who hasn’t, at some time, said something they’ve regretted. Something that could even have had years of impact on their life and once it’s said it’s out there, it can’t be taken back, there is no way to erase it. So these words should speak to everyone. On the surface it would seem these words are recommended for the secular world but it is amazing how often the advise on “prudent use of words” is contained in Catholic Tradition and the Scriptures.
In a Bible search the expression “words” is found 286 times. We are always advised to speak our words carefully, never foolishly and to use words to spread the faith and belief in Jesus Christ. The one I like best is from John Chapter 15, Verse 7: “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, then you will ask for anything you wish, and you shall have it.” John Chapter 15 is one of my favorites in all the Bible. If you would like to read it click here.
In Catholic tradition the virtue of careful, considerate speech is stressed. One place where this is apparent is in Iconography. Icons come from the ancient Eastern Church and are religious images that were used for the purpose of instruction and edification. They are paintings and mosaics and filled with symbolism. The Blessed Virgin Mary is always pictured with a small mouth representing the virtue of prudent, wisdom-filled speech.
Catholic seminaries have always taught their candidates for the priesthood the value of wise and prudent words. Classes in homiletics are stressed for this purpose. And most important to us lay folks is the sacramental seal of the confessional. The Code of Canon Law 983.1 states: “he (the priest) must keep secret all sins confessed, may ask only those questions pertinent”.
Children are especially inclined to blurt things out and good parents make it a priority to teach their children the proper thing to say at the proper time. They have the wonderful example, coming right from God, that He created us with two ears and one mouth so that we would listen twice as much as we would talk. It’s a difficult lesson to teach and it’s a difficult lesson to learn.
It has to be approached with great finesse because the most important part of teaching a child to guard their speech is making them know there are times when it’s absolutely mandatory that they come to their parent and tell, no matter who else may be telling them it’s a secret. It’s a must for a mother to make her children feel so loved, comfortable and confident that they come to her, before anyone else, with difficulties they are having in their lives.
A wonderful example of how important it is for mothers to treat their youngsters with tender love is illustrated in the story of the Fatima visions. Little Jacinta, the youngest of the three Fatima children and barely six years old, slipped and told her mother about the wonderful vision they had seen. The children had made a pact that they would keep it a secret between the three of them.
Jacinta’s mother told Lucia’s mother and she, in turn, was very rough on her daughter. She thought it was a lie and beat Lucia, demanding she retract the story. When little Jacinta heard what was happening to Lucia she probably wished she had never let the secret of the vision slip out. I relate this story here because Jacinta’s mother treated her children with loving concern while Lucia’s mother distanced herself and relied on strict discipline.
I close this Commentary hoping these thoughts I have presented on the wise and prudent use of words will help you in your everyday life and more importantly in your spiritual life.
1 “I am the real vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He breaks off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and he prunes every branch that does bear fruit, so that it will be clean and bear more fruit. 3 You have been made clean already because of the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he bears much fruit for without me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither; and they shall gather them up and cast them into the fire and they shall burn. 7 If you abide in me, and if my words abide in you ask whatever you will and it shall be done to you. 8 In this is my Father glorified, that you may bear very much fruit, and become my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you obey my commandments you will abide in my love, as I also have obeyed my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. 12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 The greatest love a person can have for their friends is to give their life for them. 14 You are my friends if you do the things I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, because the servant does not know what his master does. But I have called you friends, because all things that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures; so whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you. 17 This then, is what I command you: that you love one another.” 18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love what is its own. But because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I have spoken to you: No servant is greater than their master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also; if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 I f I had not done among them works such as no one else has done, they would have no sin. But now they have seen, and have hated both me and my Father; 25 but that the word written in their Law may be fulfilled, ‘They have hated me without cause.’ 26 But when the Advocate has come, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness concerning me. 27 And you also bear witness, because from the beginning you are with me.”