Just last week, I was at St. Joseph Abbey in Covington, LA to address about thirty Benedictine abbots from around the country who had gathered for some days of reflection and retreat. Covering the walls of the abbey church and the refectory of the St. Joseph monastery are marvelous paintings executed by Fr. Gregory de Wit, a monk of Mont César in Belgium, who worked for many years in our country before he passed away in 1978. A novelty of de Wit’s painted program at the abbey is that he added an eighth deadly sin that he felt was particularly destructive within a monastery—namely, gossiping.
He was right about monasteries, of course, but I would say he would have been right about pretty much any type of human community: family, school, workplace, parish, etc. Gossip is poison. Period. De Wit’s painting prophetically anticipated the magisterium of our present pope, who has often made gossip the object of particular opprobrium. Listen to this from a recent discourse of Francis: “Please, brothers and sisters, let’s try not to gossip. Gossip is a plague worse than COVID. Worse! Let’s make a big effort. No gossiping!”
Might I make a friendly suggestion? We are at the beginning of Lent, the Church’s great season of penitence and self-discipline. Instead of giving up desserts or smoking this Lent, give up gossiping. For forty days, try not to comment negatively to those who have no ability to deal with the problem. Trust me, you and everyone around you will be a lot happier.