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  • Sean O'Leary

Learning to Speak Graciously

Isn’t the spoken language a challenging way to communicate? We so often say things that we don’t really mean.


Last year I heard someone say: ‘The Irish Government and UCD had to be shamed into sending representatives to the canonisation of Cardinal Newman’. Later that same day, I heard another person say: ‘Isn’t it great that the Irish Government and the university finally agreed to send people to Rome for the canonisation’.


This got me thinking about the Word of God and how our human natures often hinder us from speaking truthfully in everyday life. So I asked myself: ‘Which sentence is closer to the truth?’


In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI issued an encyclical letter ‘Caritas in Veritate’, which means ‘Charity in Truth’. In the introduction, he wrote: ‘All people feel the interior impulse to love authentically: love and truth never abandon them completely, because these are the vocation planted by God in the heart and mind of every human person’.


God is love and truth and goodness. Our everyday lives invite us to constantly re-discover God’s eternal truth and bring it forth into the world. We do so in our thoughts, prayers, loving actions, religious practice, art and language.


Sacred Scripture reminds us that the ‘wise speak graciously …’ (Eccl 10:12) but also that ‘we all stumble in many ways …’ (James 3:2). Growing up in Ireland, a favourite piece of advice from our elders was: ‘If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all’. And so, there is wisdom in the old adage to ‘think before you speak’.


God guides us. When we contemplate God’s truth to help us in our daily lives, we are better able to bring God’s love, truth and peace to people everywhere. We can also bring this truth-filled love to our interactions with the natural world. The earth and all its inhabitants desperately need healing.


In the encyclical Laudato Si (2015), Pope Francis offers us a vision of the common good in which ‘everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others’.


God helps us. The Spirit of God blesses our daily efforts to cultivate love, a love that goes well beyond the spoken language. This helps each one of us to prepare the soil for our own growth so that we can mature in love, propagate truth-filled love and appreciate God’s bountiful harvest.


‘I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil …’ (Ezekiel 37:14).



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