Speech is silver, but silence is golden, and here I am speaking again (by way of this blog). I haven’t posted anything for two weeks, and that may be a relief to some. A nice lady told me last week that she likes “getting my emails” (meaning she had, perhaps unwittingly, hit the subscribe button on frilloblog.com), but she is glad my “emails” only come once a week or so.
Speech is silver, but silence is golden, so let me say something briefly, if I can, and then retreat into silence. In my morning Scripture reading from Ecclesiasticus 28, I read these silent words:
A curse on the scandal-monger ….
That ‘third tongue’ has shaken many,
pulled down fortified cities,
driven virtuous wives out of house and home.
Anyone who listens to it will never know peace of mind.
Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but many more have fallen by the tongue.
Almost every bit of what we call “news” is what the Talmud called the “third tongue.” It is a talking head, a wagging tongue that interferes between two quarrelling people, provoking conflict, fear, and hatred. If any two people have any kind of disagreement anywhere in the world, the “media” is there, escalating division, broadcasting it to every iphone and television set. From CNN to Fox to Lifesite News to NPR: where can one find a balanced, disinterested, honest source of information? For several years now I have not watched or read any major news sites. I get all my information from “commentary” sources, that is, writers who wait, who keep a prudent silence, before weighing in. Reserving judgement for a week vastly reduces the tendency to scandal monger. I’ve never been on social media, thanks be to God, but useless curiosity drives almost all of it. Curiosity killed the cat.
How is it that so many people are locked down in fear, anger, and confusion since March of 2020? Well, might I suggest that our fear is generally proportionate to the amount of time we spend on “news” and social media? If a lady is wearing two masks alone in her car, I can almost guarantee she watches CNN every night. If a man confesses hatred of our political leaders and despair over our country’s decline, I counsel him to stop watching FOX. The solution is simple: break the addiction. Stop watching "the news.”
About a year ago I clicked a link someone had texted me to a CBS newscast about some “horrendous” event. Within 60 seconds a dread fear overcame me, a kind of panic and sadness. They are really good at what they do! What if it really is as bad as this lady is saying? What if her hysteria is justified and this really is "the news I need to know?” I shut it down and went on with my life. And nothing bad happened. For almost two years now I’ve been operating my parish as if there is an all-beneficent Father in heaven who provides for His children. And indeed nothing “horrendous” has happened to any of us at the parish. Quite the opposite, thanks be to God. Since March 2020, among the thousands that attend Mass every week, one older gentleman got Covid and stayed home for a week. No one else in the parish, that I know of, has gotten sick. We opened a small hospital in Nairobi, we opened a classical Academy in San Francisco, and we provided a clean, well-lighted place to pray in community.
The temptation to panic, to talk too much, and to doubt God’s providence is always a problem. As the father of this parish, I have to pray a lot, provide for my children’s needs, and calm their fears. And I have to limit what I say. “Put a door with bolts across your mouth,” the sage Ben Sira writes in Ecclesiasticus 28. “Take care you take no false step though it, in case you fall a prey to him who lies in wait.” There is a God, and there are demons. The demon lies in wait for those who step through doors they should not, for those who talk too much, and for those who listen to things they should ignore. The good news is that God is greater than the demon, and He will rescue everyone who wants to be rescued. To be rescued, however, we must trust Him more than we trust CNN and FOX. We must listen to Him more than we listen to anyone else.