06 November 2010

The chicken and the feathers

A parish priest in Scotland posted the following humorous and poignant story on Facebook:

Many years ago, during the time of the Protestant Reformation, there was a great saint living in Italy called Philip Neri. He was a wonderful priest and he helped many people to be good Catholics, during that time, when so many Catholics were losing their faith.

One day a woman came to see St. Philip Neri. She was known for her wicked tongue and she used to gossip about other people, telling all the bad things they had done. This indeed was very wrong because when she talked to someone about the faults and sins of another person, that person would many times be looked upon as a bad person, by other people!

St. Philip gave the woman some money and asked her to go to the market and buy a chicken that had just been killed and to pluck all the feathers off, as she walked home with the chicken.

The woman was proud of the fact that St. Philip had asked her to do something for him. She went to the market, bought the chicken, and on her way home she picked off every single feather and made that chicken as clean as a whistle! Then with a smile she handed the chicken to St. Philip Neri.

He thanked the woman and then said, "Now go back once more, and gather up all the feathers of the chicken you just plucked!"

The poor woman didn't smile anymore. She said, "But that is impossible, Father! The wind has scattered the feathers in every direction!"

Then St. Philip scolded her, "Let this be a lesson to you, for it is exactly the same with your wicked words. Just as the chicken feathers have been scattered by the wind in every direction, so have your wicked words been scattered in every direction by other people, repeating your stories!"
I was going to try to incorporate this story into my homily this weekend, but doing so would make my homily rather lengthy.


  1. Anonymous1:06 PM

    Too true. I've heard a story that is similar to this.

    Interestingly enough, I visited a medieval torture museum in Germany, and there were metal masks that gossips would have to wear... in fact, I think they were sometimes in the shape of chicken heads. There were also masks for various other character faults as well.

  2. I think you should still incorporate it. It's not that long of a story.

  3. Yes. Rumors spread so quickly. The Internet is a prime way that rumors--unsubstantiated rumors--are passed around today as though they are true. All it takes, for instance, is one article from a single news agency in India, which cites an unnamed official in the Indian (not U.S.) government, and wild rumors spread about how extravagant the expenses are for this trip, and how 34 warships are supposedly being moved to accommodate the President's visit to India. The Pentagon specifically denies the latter claim, and the White House refutes the claim about the supposed $200 million a day expenses, but Rush Limbaugh and other people on the Internet insist on passing on the rumor (which originated with one unnamed source in a foreign government).

    It's ironic, and distressing, that good people can be used to spread false, unsubstantiated rumors. Thank you, Father, for denouncing the spreading of falsehoods in your homily this week. It is so important for priests to set a good example in that regard. (Sorry to beat what you probably regard as a dead horse, but you are the one who chose to create and then defend your post, and then proceeded to preach against spreading rumors. I have much respect for you, Father, but I'm disappointed in you this time.)

  4. I'll simply say this, Steve, and the remove the post you question:

    The White House has only said the figure is "not even close to true," but offers no real corrective; this is hardly a refutation.

    It should also not be forgotten that there are many worthy and authentic stories reported by "unnamed sources."

    You and I disagree about many things, but I hope this will not hinder our friendship, virtual though it is at this time.

    In the future I will try to more carefully vet the news items I post.

  5. Father, I'm sorry that my second paragraph in my previous comment was sarcastic. Please accept my apology. I should not have thrown a hard elbow at you; my tone was uncalled for. You're a good man and a good priest.

    As for agreeing to disagree yet respecting each other in friendship, same goes for me. Hope you have a good last few weeks of ordinary time before Advent rolls in. I know that's a very busy (though joyous) time for you.