Written by Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan, Visitation Alumna

Sunday we attended mass at Ascension. After listening to Father Michael O’Connell’s voice read the Gospel with beauty and conviction we listened to him unpack the following scene:

Where did this man get all this?
What kind of wisdom has been given him?
What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands!
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary,
and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?
And are not his sisters here with us?”
And they took offense at him.”

Father Michael O’Connell, paused, looked at us, and began to speak of addictions that hold us back, or that might be our “thorn,” to heal from to become whole, able to do God’s will here. Then he became quite serious. He said, “I think our country has an epidemic happening, and the epidemic is talking about people in unkind, unjust ways.” He continued, “The most dangerous weapon I know, and for me to say this in the context of north Minneapolis says something, is right here!” He pointed at his mouth. Silence filled the congregation.

How do we cease this epidemic from continuing? How do we stop it from being passed on to the next generation?

Father O’Connell then lovingly invited us to use our mouths, our voice for love, for healing, for spreading the good news about ourselves and one another. And to let go of what has become a “knee-jerk reaction” in our country of looking for people’s short comings.

I might add to this invitation to not tolerate others talking ill about others in your presence. It is each of our duties to invite one another to use our mouths for the greater good of our community. For far too often what we say becomes not only our perceptions but then our reality. Think with care, and speak with care.

How can you curb the tendency to speak ill-will in your life? How can you use your voice for beauty, for love, for healing, for justice and compassion?


Elizabeth Eilers Sullivan is a 1993 graduate of the Mendota Heights Visitation; she currently resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with her husband and three sons. She is a freelance writer who is passionate about motherhood and sharing Salesian Spirituality . We are happy to feature her here as a guest blogger from time to time.


Jody · July 11, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Great questions. I struggle with this more often than I would like to.
For me it boils down to
a) stopping to think about what I am about to say
b) stepping away from the situation if great emotion overcomes me
c) hearing my mom saying ‘if you can’t say someting nice don’t say anything at all’

I think that children live what they learn. If they see adults modeling speaking well of others, they will do so also.

But another thing your post brings up is How do you react/do you react when someone is speaking ill of others in your presence? Do you say something? Walk away? Keep quiet? I don’t think it is enough for us to not speak ill of others or for us to set a good example for children, I think we also need to speak up when others in our presence speak ill of others.

We are human beings and we all slip up sometimes. We must learn to forgive ourselves and forgive others for being human.

Elizabeth · July 17, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Ahhh Jody, thank you for your wisdom and honesty here. Tis true, and such a welcomed voice in the midst of mediating on speaking peaceful words. Thank you.

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