Thursday, June 23, 2005

On restraint of speech

"Rara fides ideo est quia multi multa loquuntur."--Cato
"Trustworthiness is rare, for many say much."

Monks prize restraint of speech. There is a quasi-Freudian idea about that we should say what we really feel because otherwise it will come out in some other way or make us hypocritical in our actions. The monastic tradition recognizes the danger of unexamined thoughts, but instead of willy-nilly accepting how I feel as being authentic, we are encouraged to 'be renewed in our minds' by putting on Christ. A sign of dislike or anger toward a brother is not 'who I really am' but rather an invitation to be converted more and more into the likeness of Christ by recognizing the gap between my feelings and thoughts and the ideal of Christ.

Indeed, monks refrain from much speech, except in the divine office, where we constantly repeat the words of Scripture. Eventually, our minds begin to operate on the terms of God's Word rather than on our feelings. This is an example of the effect of words on versus thoughts embraced: rather than speech being an 'outlet' for pent-up grievances, speaking our minds tends to solidify whatever unformed idea we have inside. We know how often we exaggerate and then start to believe our exaggerations. The monk seeks to replace evil thoughts with good thoughts. By speaking only "to God or about God" (St. Dominic) we reinforce the salvific words and bring the thoughts of our hearts into conformity with what we speak.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The words of St Dominic you cite are interesting. Sometimes during the day I find myself wondering, "What am I supposed to be doing?" It's like I'm a stranger. So I ask for help: "Lord, I'm obviously here for a reason. Help me to see it, but more importantly, to do it..."

Formerly, I would start thinking thoughts that, if they weren't "evil", could easily become so!

Thanks for this place, Prior!


This blog is published with ecclesiastical approval.

If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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