BY ELIZABETH WONG
You know what it is. It appears in the library between (or during) study sessions with friends, it pops up when grabbing lunch with a classmate, it weaves its way through every social situation from household commitments to workout time in the Fieldhouse.
It’s gossip, and everyone knows it.
As we’ve all attended high school at some point, we’ve all been exposed to varying levels of gossip, some harsher than others. But does this stop us? Typically, no.
At Franciscan University, it’s easier to camouflage gossip with other things, such as “Hey, say a prayer for so-and-so…” followed by an overly-detailed summary of a third party’s troubles. It is one thing to ask a friend to pray for another person in need. But it is not our place to offer detail after detail about someone’s woes.
Handing out stories about a troubled individual does have a chance at being a reminder to pray for them, but generally speaking, it’s more likely that their story will be re-shared to yet another group of curious ears.
Another common camouflaged gossip source on campus? The holiness gauge.
This isn’t a Franciscan invention. This issue has plagued Catholics ever since the beginning, when St. James and St. John, the scriptural “sons of thunder,” asked Jesus who was greater.
Apparently, though, we have yet to learn our lesson as we discuss which Mass so-and-so usually attends, and upon learning that they either go to the 4 p.m. or even a Saturday night vigil Mass, (i.e., the Masses for the not quite so devout), give a sigh in an “of course” manner.
Obviously, the traditional form of gossip, pertaining to conversations about that person who gets on everyone else’s nerves, or that incident that that certain group of people was involved in, is just as rampant as it’s ever been where there are human beings.
Conclusion? Gossip is powerful enough that it has earned school programs and catchy “Gossip Hurts!” slogans dedicated to wiping it out of existence. But it takes more than that to cut down on this problem.
It takes a discerning heart and a careful tongue. Things that, on this side of heaven, will never be perfectly achieved by anyone of us. But we can try harder.
St. John Vianney once heard a confession of a woman who confessed having gossiped. Vianney told the woman to take a basketful of feathers, and, on a windy day, throw the feathers out into the wind. She did so, and reported this to him. Then, he instructed her to find and collect every single feather she had dispensed. Protesting, the woman said she would never be able to achieve this. Vianney replied that this was just the case with her words of gossip: once let fly into the world, the damage could never be fully repaired.