Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gossip

Dear Parishioners,
In preparation for last week’s homily I read the following anecdote:
Once four priests were spending a couple of days at a cabin.  In the evening they decided to tell each other their biggest temptation.

The first priest said, "Well, it's kind of embarrassing, but my big temptation is bad pictures.  Once I even bought a copy of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition."

"My temptation is worse," said the second priest. "It's gambling.  One Saturday instead of preparing my homily I went to the race track to bet on the ponies."

"Mine is worse still," said the third priest. "I sometimes can't control the urge to drink.  One time I actually broke into the sacramental wine."

The fourth priest was quiet. "Brothers, I hate to say this," he said, "but my temptation is worst of all.  I love to gossip - and if you guys will excuse me, I'd like to make a few phone calls!"
Gossip.
Throughout my life (and my almost 24 years of priesthood) I have found that gossip has done more severe damage than most people realize.  Sometimes the hurt caused by the things said about people (true or untrue) is virtually irreversible. 
There is a scene from the play or film Doubt that illustrates my point.  The assistant pastor, Fr. Brendan Flynn, is preaching a homily and relates the following:
A woman was gossiping with her friend about a man whom they hardly knew--I know none of you have ever done this. That night, she had a dream: a great hand appeared over her and pointed down on her. She was immediately seized with an overwhelming sense of guilt. The next day she went to confession. She got the old parish priest, Father O' Rourke, and she told him the whole thing. 'Is gossiping a sin?' she asked the old man. 'Was that God Almighty's hand pointing down at me?  Should I ask for your absolution?  Father, have I done something wrong?' 'Yes,' Father O' Rourke answered her. 'Yes, you ignorant, badly-brought-up female. You have blamed false witness on your neighbor. You played fast and loose with his reputation, and you should be heartily ashamed.' So, the woman said she was sorry, and asked for forgiveness. 'Not so fast,' says O' Rourke. 'I want you to go home, take a pillow upon your roof, cut it open with a knife, and return here to me.' So, the woman went home: took a pillow off her bed, a knife from the drawer, went up the fire escape to her roof, and stabbed the pillow. Then she went back to the old parish priest as instructed. 'Did you gut the pillow with a knife?' he says. 'Yes, Father.' 'And what were the results?' 'Feathers,' she said. 'Feathers?' he repeated. 'Feathers; everywhere, Father.' 'Now I want you to go back and gather up every last feather that flew out onto the wind,' 'Well,' she said, 'it can't be done. I don't know where they went. The wind took them all over.' 'And that,' said Father O' Rourke, 'is gossip!'
For Lent I make a suggestion that rather than giving up candy, desserts or something similar, we make an all-out effort not to be responsible for any more feathers being let out into the wind.
Fr. Ed Namiotka
Pastor

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