Sticks and Stones

William Kinglake was dead wrong!

John Gualtieri

One of my heroes is the late, great Gerald Mann. In one of his sermons, he told the following story:

Many years ago, in a small village in Eastern Europe, an altar boy was assisting a priest at a Catholic Mass. At a critical moment in the service, the little boy dropped the crewet of wine, and the glass shattered all over the floor. The priest cuffed that little boy across the ear and told him, “Leave here and never come back!”

Believe it or not, that same week, the identical thing happened in a great Cathedral in America. But this time, when the altar boy dropped the crewet of wine, the bishop (who was saying The Mass) looked at the boy, put his hand on his shoulder, and with a twinkle in his eye he said, “My son, someday you are going to be a great priest!”

That little European boy grew up to be a cold-blooded autocrat named Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia, who was responsible for the suffering and deaths of thousands of people. The American boy grew up to become Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, who appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in April of 1952, and who was undoubtedly the greatest communicator of The Catholic faith in the 20th century. That same Time Magazine article reported, “His influence as a preacher is incalculably great.”

I cannot help but contemplate what difference it might have made in that little European boy’s life had he received words of empowerment and inspiration, instead of words that shattered his Spirit. I would share, with full transparency, that most of my regrets have a central theme — that of having injured another person, by the words that I had chosen to speak to him or her.

People of solid character understand that sticks and stones can break bones, but our words can leave a deeper scar than silence can heal. Well-chosen words have the power to uplift and empower our loved ones, our friends, our co-workers, and perhaps the entire world. The choice is ours.

Let us mind our mouths!

© John G. 2021

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