Church Fathers, Day 149: Hermas advises us to not listen to slander

Don’t even listen to slander The visionary Shepherd of Hermas was a very influential book in early Christian times. Here the writer is commanded to keep away from slander. Even listening to malicious gossip makes you part of the sin. Be simple and guileless, and you will be like children who don’t know the wickedness that ruins man’s life. First, do not speak evil of anyone, and do not listen with pleasure to anyone who speaks evil of another. If you do listen, you will share in the sin o … [Read more...]

Church Fathers, Day 148: St. Clement tells us to tell good jokes from bad

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Learn to tell good jokes from bad It’s quite reasonable to joke about people when you know it will actually make them feel good, says St. Clement of Alexandria. But making fun of people is a dangerous sport, and one a Christian needs to avoid. Older people, looking on the young as children, may (though very rarely) be playful with them, joking with them to train them in good behavior. For exam­ple, if you’re with a bashful and silent young man, you might jokingly say, “This son of mine is alw … [Read more...]

Church Fathers, Day 147: St. Clement tells us to always avoid insults

Always avoid insults Watch what you say to the people around you, says St. Clement of Alexandria. A Christian’s job is to spread goodwill, not to stir up ill feelings. We should keep away from mocking, the beginning of insults, from which fights and disagreements and grudges burst forth. A man is judged from his words, not just from his deeds. “Do not reprove your neighbor at a banquet of wine,” as the saying is. “Speak no word of reproach to him” (Sirach 31:31). We are told especially to a … [Read more...]

Church Fathers, Day One Hundred Forty-Six: St. Augustine reminds us that lying is always a sin

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Lying is always a sin We often think a lie is good, or at least harmless, if it brings some good effect. But it isn’t, says St. Augustine. The truth is a sacred thing, and we should no more think of lying for a good reason than we would think of committing adultery for a good reason. We must consider every lie a sin, because we should always speak what is in our hearts: not only when we know the truth, but even when we are wrong, as can happen to anyone. And this is true whether it is really … [Read more...]

Church Fathers, Day One Hundred Forty-Five: Palladius advises us to weigh our words carefully

Weigh your words carefully Palladius of Galatia, who spent years among the desert hermits of Egypt, tells the story of Pambo, who thought so carefully before he spoke that he preferred to let months go by rather than give an ill-considered answer. On his death-bed, at the very moment of his passing, Pambo is reported to have said this to the bystanders, Origen the priest and steward and Ammo­nius—famous men, both of them—and the rest of the brethren: “From the day that I came to this place … [Read more...]

Church Fathers, Day One Hundred Forty-Four: St. Ambrose tells us to keep silent until the right moment

Keep silent until the right moment St. Ambrose, one of the great thinkers in Christian history, weighed his words carefully. When we run the risk of being judged by our words, he says, silence is better than speaking. Now what should we learn before everything else? To be silent, so that we may be able to speak. Otherwise my voice may condemn me before that of another acquits me; for it is written, “by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37). Why should you rush to risk con … [Read more...]


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