Detraction like feathers
A lady once went to confession to St. Philip Neri and accused herself of frequent sins of detraction. As a penance St. Philip told her to go out and buy an unplucked fowl in the market place, and during her walk back she was to pull the feathers out one by one and scatter them along the way. Then she was to return to him and he would tell her what she was to do next.
It seemed a strange penance, but she went off to the market and did exactly what she was told, no doubt feeling a little foolish. On her return St. Philip praised her obedience.
The anecdote Continues…
“Now to complete your penance,’ he said, you must go back and pick up all the feathers and bring them here to me. But Father, the lady exclaimed, ‘you know that is impossible. The wind blew them away, and I could never hope to recapture them now.’
‘Quite true,’ the saint replied. ‘Neither can you recall the damaging words about your neighbours who by this time have passed from mouth to mouth far beyond your reach. Be careful in future to watch every word you utter.