Reflection: Some Spoken Words We Live to Regret
by Father Don Thomas
Often has it been said that our most precious words are the ones that we never speak. The passing of time is what proves that fact to be true, and how often have we found ourselves eventually saying: "Am I glad I didn't say that" or "Am I glad now that I kept my big mouth shut!” On the other hand, incalculable is the pain and harm we can cause by saying some things before we think. I know I have made that mistake in my life, and have heard others who had serious regrets along these lines. That is why I feel fairly qualified about selecting a few of these "mistakes" and allowing you to read about them and then agree or disagree as pleases you. Here they are.
Mistake Number 1
"We are becoming just like the Protestants.” This statement is so offensive and wrong that I wrote a separate reflection about it, and you can look it up and read it if you so desire. It is under that very title: "We are becoming just like the Protestants.” First of all, it is not true, and it can really be embarrassing when one finds out afterwards that someone in the group is Protestant.
We thought everyone in the group was Catholic. It is usually said in a condescending or uncharitable tone of voice, and that in itself is an offense against the eighth commandment. The truth is that many non-Catholics put us to shame by their example, conversations, Christian living and the sincerity of their faith. Many times has that fact been clearly proven. Also, as stated in the other reflection on this topic, I think it would be wonderful if, as Catholics, we did become like the Protestants when it comes to appreciating and reading the bible and tithing in support of our church and programs to further the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Indeed, we can learn a great deal from people of all faiths, while exercising our own Catholic Faith that condemns unjust criticism of others. Many a friendship has been lost, I am sure, due to such uncharitable and careless comments. Let's avoid that one!
Mistake Number Two
Another tragic scenario I have witnessed a number of times over 50 years occurs when, on the occasion of a wedding between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, the priest asks if they would like to have a Mass with the ceremony. The Catholic bride-to-be cuts the priest short, almost interrupting him, and says something like: "Absolutely not. Ralph is not a Catholic and I do not want him or his non-Catholic parents and friends to be embarrassed all during the ceremony. The Mass is too long, they can't go to communion, the sermon is too long, and no one will be comfortable at all, not knowing what to do.”
What a mouthful, and what a thoughtless, unexpected and offensive response to that priest! I will show you how this type of talk comes back to haunt and hurt the woman throughout her marriage. First of all, she could simply say "No thank you, Father, as we have discussed the ceremony and would prefer to have just the marriage ceremony with no Mass.” Nothing wrong with that, as it is not up to the priest but rather for the couple to decide. Notice that she does not even give the priest an ounce of credit for the ability to guide Catholics and non-Catholics through the Mass, with suggestions like "Please stand or please sit or kneel as you prefer.” But no, she prefers to do a "hatchet job" on the Mass, embarrassing the priest and even her husband-to-be. Here is how it all happens to backfire many times from what I have experienced in these situations.
Maybe a year or so after the wedding, the priest runs into the couple, asking how things are going with them. The Catholic woman proceeds to mention that everything is great, except for one very important thing. It is religion. She mentions that going to Mass together as a couple is very important to her, and recently there has been a lot of tension over that very issue. It is then, as a priest with human weaknesses like everyone else, that I would love to lash out and let her know that she is getting exactly what she deserves. (Note: I never did lash out as much as I would have loved to, because that would be wrong and give scandal and probably help destroy the marriage.) I would like to remind her that I am not a bit surprised that her husband does not want to go to Mass, after the terrible "hatchet job" she did on the Mass while preparing for the wedding. Why would he want to go to Mass when everything about the Mass is so unattractive according to the way she described it? She is the one who ruined everything.
The wedding preparation provided the priest with the opportunity to explain what the Mass was all about, and the priest would have helped him in many ways to appreciate the Mass, even if he never became a catholic. But no, she spoke without thinking, and now she is reaping what she sowed on that occasion. Very often, many arguments about religion take place over the years, and going to Mass alone while the partner stays at home is often the cause, thus resulting in a lot of pain, resentment and hurt.
On the other hand, weddings and later on the baptisms of children very often are occasions upon which the seeds of conversion to the catholic faith are planted, thanks to the encouragement and kindness of the priest and the catholic partner. This particular reflection is just another example of how we can pay a severe price for "talking before we think.” The bride's verbal attack on the Mass was her fatal mistake in this case. Let a word to the wise be sufficient.
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