Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Preaching to the choir

Fr. V at Adam's Ale asked whether he should be preaching on pro-life issues or if it would be a case of "preaching to the choir". My comment is below:

Simply put, you have to preach to the choir - every choir needs a director no matter how well they know the music. A well-tuned ear teaching with a single voice can bring a greater cohesion and clarity than any ad hoc collection of even the most talented and well-intentioned players.

Do most (I hope most, anyway) of us know that the pro-life issues are of critical importance? Sure. Do we have the theological background with which to create a consistent platform from which to speak? Most of us do not and even those who do should appreciate the insights a different perspective brings.

Most of all, I think, if you don't talk about it people will think it's not important. Someone once tried to tell a RCIA class I was teaching that Humanae vitae was not important because you never heard about it from the pulpit. If a catechist gets that message, think about how many others do as well.

Yes, preach to the choir. Absolutely, and without reservation. I tell you simply, even if I've heard the tune before, the beauty of Truth will always be music in my ears, bring a smile to my face and renew both the love and the determination in my heart.

As a postfix ... speak, because the next pro-life homily I hear ... will be my first.

I can't begin to tell you how much it hurts to have to write that last point. It needs to be a constant reminder to priests and seminarians that the homily is for both education and edification. Just because we know it, doesn't mean we don't need to be reminded of and reinforced in it.

There is no such thing as a throw-away homily. I know that probably seems like an unfair statement, that I expect too much from our priests. You know what? You're probably right - I do. All I really want, though, is for them to always have before them that they act in persona Christi and present to those around them a unique imago Dei whether they feel like it or not. An impossible task? By yourself, sure. That's why it's so critical for priests to remember that they do not act purely of their own capacity and grace, but that of Christ himself. Several old standby sayings come to mind here: "Let go and let God"; "Pray more, preach less" are but two of them.

Before you go away thinking I ask the impossible and expect it all to be done with no fanfare or thanks ... Remember this as well: for every person who does come or write to thank you there are ten or twenty more who simply don't have the words. And on this topic, perhaps your most grateful audience can't even speak ... yet. To all the priests out there, I offer my thanks and prayers - through your hands thousands of thousands of graces have been set free, and through your words untold lives have been saved and souls saved. For it is not you who act, but Christ who acts in you. Deo gratias...