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Imitation of Christ Wk 1 of 10

December 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

The Imitation of Christ Week 1
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“Friendly” Conversation

Why are we so fond of speaking and conversing with one another, though we rarely return to our silence without some injury to our consciences? The reason why we enjoy talking is because we seek solace in chatting with one another, and desire to lighten our distracted hearts. Furthermore, we enjoy talking and thinking about the things we most want and desire, or those which we especially dislike.

But alas! It is often vain and to no purpose, for the consolation gained by talking greatly diminishes the internal consolation granted us by God. Therefore, we must watch and pray lest we spend our time in fruitless idleness.

If it is permitted and advisable to speak, then speak of those things that nourish the spiritual life. Negligence about our spiritual progress and yielding to bad habits are the reasons for our keeping so little control over our tongues. Godly conversation about spiritual matters very much helps spiritual advancement, especially when persons of like mind and heart are united in God. – The Imitation of Christ, p. 13


Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more
Pick a little, talk a little, pick a little, talk a little,
Cheep cheep cheep, talk a lot, pick a little more!


Perhaps some of you are familiar with the song, Pick a Little,  from The Music Man, poking fun at the nastiness of gossiping women (If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth seeing the comparison between the women and pecking hens). While the song is very funny, sadly the reality of chatting women isn’t too far off. Just this past Sunday, my husband noted that he has a hard time talking with other dads after church because (like him) they’re all watching the kids, while their wives socialize. Notice I said “socialize,” not gossip, but we do have doughnuts after church for a reason. And there is a lot of enjoyable “chit-chat” going on.

Although I love the opportunity to chat with other moms, too often something slips out of my mouth that I regret. Oh, I wish I hadn't said that. Am I so worried about being interesting or funny or exciting (or “accepted”) that I say things I shouldn’t say, whether about my personal life, the situation we’re in or, heaven forbid, about someone else? Now I REALLY wish I hadn’t said that.

Proverbs 10:19 says “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but the prudent are restrained in speech.” Isn’t that the truth?! Well, I am certainly not lacking in transgression, I can tell you that! While I can edit my writing (the above sentences notwithstanding), I cannot edit my speech. Once it’s out there, it’s out there, and I can’t take it back. Whether the words are short, gossipy, thoughtless, critical, silly or just too personal, they are gone, out of my mouth and into someone else’s ears…sometimes a painful prospect.

Mind you, I am not declaring to the world that I have no self-control.  It just seems that many things in casual conversation are better left unsaid.  When I was young, I always admired the life of the party.  But as I grow older, I find myself drawn to those quiet souls, who seem so wise.  Of course, it’s possible that their wisdom is found solely in their silence. After all, Abraham Lincoln once said, “Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” But at the very least, keeping their mouths shut helps them avoid regrets.

So why do I sometimes feel like I’ve decorated my mouth with the broad side of my size nine foot? Thomas à Kempis (forevermore TK) is amazingly insightful when he says “…we enjoy talking and thinking about the things we most want and desire, or those which we especially dislike.” I’d never before thought about exactly what acquaintances discuss, but he nailed it.  Unfortunately, these topics lead nowhere positive. The former is self-centered and the latter is merely a means of complaining. No wonder I rarely leave one of those situations feeling better than I did when I walked in.

And yet, there are those conversations that truly nourish my spiritual life. These tend to take place with real friends, not mere acquaintances from church or other social networks. Friendships based on spiritual bonds can and do sanctify us. Whether by example or by steering conversations toward holy things, real friends are truly a gift from God.

Last week I had a rare opportunity to spend a few days with one of my dearest friends – one who has been a light in my life for over 13 years. She now lives 500 miles away, and our lives are much busier than they used to be. Conversation is not nearly as frequent as it was when we enjoyed nearly daily lunches and play-dates when our kids were little. However, our visit was a reminder to me that her light has not faded with time or distance. Regardless of their infrequency, our conversations never fail to draw me closer to our Lord. Isn’t that the test of true friendship?

Its so difficult to put into words the value of a true friend. But when I read Introduction to the Devout Life, I found that St. Francis de Sales had read my heart. On real friendship, he says, “Do you, my child, love every one with the pure love of charity, but have no friendship save with those whose intercourse is good and true, and the purer the bond which unites you so much higher will your friendship be. If your intercourse is based on science it is praiseworthy, still more if it arises from a participation in goodness, prudence, justice and the like; but if the bond of your mutual liking be charity, devotion and Christian perfection, God knows how very precious a friendship it is! Precious because it comes from God, because it tends to God, because God is the link that binds you, because it will last for ever in Him.”

Most of us have at least one real friend. May we all save our real conversation for this precious oasis that is true friendship – and may our conversations be such that they facilitate our spiritual advancement, lifting us ever closer to our eternal friend, who is Jesus Christ.


Discussion Questions:

1. What strategies do you use to ensure that you are charitable toward all, while being prudent in your speech?

2.  Open discussion: Feel free to comment on any topic from this past week's reading.


Reading Assignment:

Week 2: Book 1 Ch. 14-25


Read more: Previous Book Club Posts

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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. She is author of the new book How to Read Your Way to Heaven - A Spiritual Reading Program for the Worst of Sinners, the Greatest of Saints, and Everyone in Between. You can also find her at

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