St Pambo

(entered heaven in 390)

Dear Pam,

Did you ever notice how cheap words are these days?  So many words. An endless flow of words. Words, words, words… Millions of books, billboards, radio programs, television shows (hundreds of channels!), magazines by the thousand, newspapers with more text in one daily edition than many ancient peoples would have seen in a lifetime, libraries around every corner, talk shows, portable phones… We are inundated with words.  One unfortunate consequence is that we more easily tend to be careless, inelegant, and even irreverent in our speech; a culture of cheap verbosity has affected us all. You have the good fortune of exemplary parents in this regard. Just try to find someone who has heard your mother speak badly of anyone, and though your father tends to be reserved, when he talks, people listen.  In that sense, he follows the example of today’s saint – an example worth pondering.

Pambo was one of those hermits who trekked into the Egyptian deserts in order to dedicate himself fully to prayer, work, and penance.  He learned the spiritual life under the expert tutelage of such saints as Anthony and Macarius and then, in turn, became the teacher of other saints.  He fast became noteworthy for being a man of few words, but aspiring monks and lay people alike who came to him for counsel were never disappointed; his laconic responses were full of the sweet honey of wisdom.  He did not attain his remarkable prudence in a speech by accident. His very first reading lesson was taken from Psalm 38: “I said, I will take heed to my ways that I sin not with my tongue.” As soon as he had learned to read it he told his teacher, “That’s enough for today.”  Then he went off to think about it. Six months later he returned to for his second reading lesson.

Of course, I do not advocate that we take a vow of silence (although spending some time each day or week in silent prayer and reflection, or even opting not to blare the radio on every car trip or wear the walkman during every chore will – I guarantee it – do wonders for your interior peace and recollection), but would it be too much to recommend that we learn the art of elegance and modesty in speech?  Should we not glorify God with every word we speak? As common and cheap as they are nowadays, words still have power; by wasting them we may be wasting a lot more than we think.

Anyway, sorry to bore you with my musings.  Just wanted to wish you a happy saint’s day.  God bless.

Sincerely, Uncle Eddy

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