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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

January 6, 2014

Resolve to Avoid Gossip

During his papacy, Pope Francis has spoke many times on the topic of gossip. Pointedly, Pope Francis said, "Gossip always has a criminal side to it. There is no such thing as innocent gossip."

Address the topic with your students as a new year begins. Define gossip as "revealing private or sensational facts about others." But also add that gossiping also entails listening as well as only telling. Challenge them to resolve that 2014 will be a year that they avoid gossiping in all forms. To encourage this commitment, remind the students of a classic story.

The Tongue and How to Use It

A young lady once went to the good man, St. Philip Neri, to confess her sins. He knew one of her faults only too well. She was not a bad-hearted girl, but she often talked of her neighbors and spoke idle tales about them. These tales were told again by others, and much harm was done, and no good.

St. Philip said: "My daughter, you do wrong to speak ill of others, and I order you to perform penance. You must b uy a fowl at the market. Then walk out of the town, and as you go along the road pull the feathers from the bird and scatter them. Do not stop until you have plucked every feather. When you have done this, come back and tell me."

She said to herself that this was a very singular punishment to suffer. But she made no objection. She bought the fowl, walked out, and plucked the feathers as she had been told. Then she went to St. Philip and reported what she had done.

"My daughter," said the saint, "you have carried out the first part of the penance. Now there is a second part. You must now go back the way you came and pick up all the feathers."

"But, Father, this cannot be done. By this time the wind has blow them all ways. I might pick up some, but I could not possibly gather up all."

"Quite true, my daughter. And it is not so with the unwise words that you let fall. Have you not often dropped idle tales from your lips, and have they not gone this way and that, carried from mouth to mouth until they are quite beyond you? Could you possibly follow them and recall them if you wanted to do so?"


  1. What is the main lesson of this story?

Private Journal

  1. When have you been hurt or hurt another person by gossip. Explain.

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