On January 24, 2014, Michael Voris posted a video reflecting on some things he observed at the pro-life march in Washington, D.C. http://www.churchmilitant.tv/daily/?today=2014-01-24
He commented about the impressive aspect of seeing so many young people braving the bitter cold to participate in the march, but he conducted some unscientific interviews with many of them while he was there and walked away with some disturbing statistics. He found that 30% of the young people gathered for the march were okay with the use of contraception. He also found that 19% of the young people were accepting of homosexual physically active relationships. In his observation, Michael Voris points out that the culture of death has already slipped into the hearts and minds of the young Church. Remember, these observations were made in regard to those young “pro-life” people present at the March for Life in Washington, D.C. What do you think these interviews would unmask if they were conducted in a completely different venue?
Michael Voris is very direct in addressing Church leadership about their shortcomings and failures in regard to preaching and teaching the fullness of the faith, and he readily acknowledges that being the messenger of such news does not make him popular in certain circles. I will admit that his criticisms are difficult to hear since I fall into one of the categories on the receiving end of the message. However, it is essential for all of us, clergy and laity, who have teaching responsibilities within the Church to take our roles seriously. Subsequently, I believe Mr. Voris gives us an opportunity for some solid evaluation and reflection of our ministerial outreach.
How do we a draw a balance in our preaching and teaching? Is there a way to not focus on “fire and brimstone” constantly, and yet truly teach the more difficult components of the faith? Quite simply, how do we teach the truth in love? What can we learn from the past, and how can we apply it to the present?
Cicero (106 B.C. – 43 B.C.) listed three aims of rhetoric: (1) to teach; (2) to delight; and (3) to persuade. St. Augustine picked up on this from Cicero and reinforced the importance of clarity in our communication. He applied this to both teaching and preaching. His admonishment was straight to the point when he said, “The speaker should not primarily consider the quality of his teaching, but the clarity of it.” (On Christian Doctrine 4, 12, 27)
Obviously, we are pursuing goals much more prolific than the simple development of oratorical skills. However, it makes sense to utilize the concepts of effective rhetoric in our teaching and preaching. In what ways do we strive to “delight the heart?” If our approach to teaching is vibrant and engaging we have the potential to create an atmosphere more conducive to learning. It is no secret that if we delight the heart, the mind becomes more receptive to our teaching. Ultimately, this receptivity, or lack thereof, impacts our ability to persuade the hearer as we invite him/her to conversion. God chooses to use us as instruments of His love; it is important that we cooperate with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit as we minster.
Continuing our celebration of Catholic Schools Week encourages all of us with teaching responsibilities in our schools (and other settings as well) to engage in some serious reflection. How do I engage in prayer and study in my own life? Am I on fire with the love of God? Why did I enter this ministry? Am I pursuing my passion or my pension? Finally, am I effectively contributing to the building up of the Kingdom of God?
“Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service”