Worshippers venerate the the relics of St. Anthony at St. John Bosco Parish in Chicago on June 16. Two relics (a rib and piece of facial skin) of St. Anthony of Padua were on a a nine-day tour of Illinois and Wisconsin, including eight different locations in Chicago. The patron saint of the lost, including lost things, St. Anthony lived from 1195-1231. The tour marks the 750th anniversary of the discovery of the Saint’s relics by St. Bonaventure. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

The Psalmist says;  ‘I said, “I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will keep a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence’ (Ps 39:1).

It is important  to   keep a muzzle  on our mouths so as to keep our tongues away from sin. James reminds us of its  importance.  ‘Anyone who makes no mistake in speaking is  perfect,  able to keep the whole body in check with a bridle. If we put bits in the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we guide their whole bodies’ (Jam 3:2).

To  put it briefly, controlling the  tongue is  the first, and  most certainly the foremost, step towards controlling the whole body. Tongue is something  that should be  used only when  need arises. And once the mission is over it should return to silence. Our Lord has warned us of  the dangers of speaking too much. ‘Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything  more than this  comes from the evil one’ (Mt 5:37).

Often we are tempted to say something  more, and  that ‘something’ would be the cause of regret later. We need wisdom to know when to  speak  and  when to stop  speaking. Jesus warns; ‘If you say, ‘You fool’ (to a brother or sister), you will be  liable to the hell of fire’ (Mt 5:22). The warning is clear; keep our tongues under lock and  key; use it only when absolutely needed.

God has promised high rewards for those who  keep their tongues under control.  ‘If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless, you shall serve as my mouth’ (Jer.15:19). St Anthony of Padua used his tongue to utter precious things only; to preach the  gospel! And as  reward, God willed   his tongue  to  remain incorrupt and intact even centuries after  death. We celebrate the feast of this saint on 13 June.

It is futile to praise the Lord with the same tongue that has till then been   cursing  others. James writes; ‘With it (the tongue) we bless the  Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing  and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so’ (Jam 3:9-10). Surely what  comes out of our  mouth is what defiles us (Mt 15:11) and if we allow ourselves to be defiled with our  tongue, then we forfeit the right to  praise the Lord with the  same tongue.

Let us ask the grace to  control  our  tongue and  pray with the Psalmist; ‘Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips’ (Ps 141:3)