Among the Japanese there are certain men called story-tellers. They stand on street corners and a group of children are listening to what he has to say. It happened that one day a Jesuit missionary was passing and he stood and listened, and this is what he heard.
Once upon a time a little boy went to heaven, and the first thing he saw was a long shelf with very strange articles upon it. "What is that," he asked, "is that something to make soup of?" The Japanese are very fond of soup, and the boy thought that the strange things he saw might be used for that purpose. "No," was the reply, "these are the ears of little boys and girls who didn't pay any attention to what they heard, and when they died their ears came to heaven, but the rest of their bodies did not." The little boy saw another shelf with things that were strange and queer to him, and asked what it was. "Those things are tongues," he was told, "they belonged to boys and girls who were always talking and telling other people how to be good, but they themselves never did as they told others to do, and when they died their tongues came to heaven, but the rest of their bodies did not."
Now you know what that story means. It is just a fairy story but like all fairy stories it has a lesson. God gives us ears and tongues and hands and feet and eyes and hearts, to help us if
used rightly, and if we don't use them as God wants us to use them, they do us no good, but evil. Jesus said it would be better for us to be blind than to see only bad things, and that it would be better for us to be deaf than for us to hear only wicked things.
Among your companions you will find boys and girls who always want to speak of their knowledge and cleverness, and when they have done something good they cannot rest until they have published it everywhere. Such discourses are objectionable for two reasons: First, they offend against humility; secondly, they deprive our good works of all merit before God. "Let another praise thee, and not thy own mouth; a stranger, and not thy own lips," so says Holy Writ.
During the cruel persecution of the Chinese Emperor, Hien Fong, A.D. 1850, a Christian convert named Yin came to settle down at the pagan town Lo, where he began to work at his trade, which was that of a tile-maker. He had not received much instruction, and, though fervent and pious, was by no means clever; accordingly he made no attempt to announce the gospel to his new neighbors. Being, however, a man of simple manner, and of a pure, innocent, and upright life, he preached much by his example.
He heard those around him cursing and swearing, but he never cursed. He saw them quarreling and fighting, but he was never seen in a passion or in enmity with his neighbors.
A course of life so different from that of his neighbors excited the curiosity of some gardeners who lived near him. To satisfy themselves they came to visit him. "How is it," they said, "that you do not live as we do? You are not like us; what sort of a man are you?" "I am a Christian," he replied, "and I do nothing but follow the teaching of my religion." "Your religion!" said they; "what is your religion and what is its teaching?" Explanations followed, and his religion was thought to be good because he himself was good. In a short time eighteen pagans became Christians.
Unprofitable speech is found in whispering and tale-bearing, which consists in telling a person the evil things another has said about him and thus sowing the seeds of dissension and discord. A tale-bearer frequently causes those who have loved one another and lived in peace to become bitter enemies. The tale-bearer pretends to be well-disposed towards his fellow men; he does not let it appear that he means any harm; by a friendly manner he endeavors to gain confidence; in the meantime, he lies in wait, like the sneak he is, watching all their movements and words, and then reports them, exaggerated and distorted, to the person or the persons whom he wishes to prejudice against them.
Children, tale-bearing is an abominable vice in the eyes of God; therefore the Sacred Scripture says: "Six things there are which the Lord hateth, and the seventh His soul detesteth: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that deviseth wicked plots, feet that are swift to run into mischief, a deceitful witness that uttereth lies, and him that soweth discord among brethren." Boys and girls, guard against this vice, and be faithful to secrets entrusted to you.
One day an English nobleman came to see John Wedgwood, the famous potter. You know a potter is a man who makes beautiful things out of clay. One of the employees, a lad of fifteen years, was delegated to show the nobleman around the factory. Now this nobleman was a man who didn't believe in God, and who, while he was learned, yet was very rough in his speech and used bad words and made light of sacred things. The boy was at first greatly shocked at the nobleman's wicked words, but after a while laughed at his smart remarks. Mr. Wedgwood, who followed them, heard much of the conversation and was very indignant at the way in which the nobleman spoke before the boy. When they came back to the office, Mr. Wedgwood picked out a very beautiful vase of the choicest pattern, and holding it in his hands, told the nobleman the long and careful way in which it had been prepared. The nobleman was greatly pleased with the explanation and was much charmed with the beautiful shape and color and design of the vase, and reached out his hand to take it.
Just as he touched it, however, the owner let it fall to the ground, and his visitor, uttering an angry word, said : "I wanted that one for myself, and now it is ruined by your carelessness." "My lord," said the old potter, "there are things more precious than any vase—things which when ruined can never be restored. I can make another vase like this for you, but you can never give back to the boy who has just left us the simple faith and the pure heart which you have destroyed by making light of sacred things and by using impure words in his presence." I have heard men say that they would give their right arm if they could forget some of the things they heard when they were boys.
Children, be prudent in your speech, and always reflect, before you open your mouth, whether what you are going to say is right and according to the will of God. Be moderate in speaking; the less you speak the less you sin, and the more easily you can give an account of your words. If you observe this one rule, you will not contaminate your conscience with any sinful word.
Source: Story Sermonettes for the Children's Mass, Imprimatur 1921