Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I was on a walk around St. Sebastian the other night with a person who often guest blogs here (and will again be doing so soon) and we were talking about faith and the Church. She posed the question as to why certain topics are not preached about in general very often. We came up with the list of possible reasons why. They were all reasonable and defendable. One of the reasons was that it is assumed that people who show up at Mass know about many of the topics already. “No we don’t!” she protested and promised to guest blog on that topic some day soon.

But after we were done laying out the topics she said something that shook me up quite a bit. We were discussing about how some topics need to be brought up with tact and understanding lest you alienate the very people you wish to bring to truth when she asked, “Do you think that everybody who comes to Mass and receives Holy Communion is in a state of grace?” I had to admit that I had a sneaky suspicion that the state of grace was not a universal state. “If you could see the state of the souls of the people to whom you were given the responsibility preach, do you think you would preach with greater conviction than you do?”

I stopped dead in my tracks. I could not move from that spot in the conversation or down the side walk. If, like a doctor, what was ailing the Body of Christ could be physically seen, how differently might the message be? For that matter, if you could see that about anybody you ran into, if you could see their hurts and the sins that are clung to in the misguided effort to make the hurt go away, how much more eagerly might any of us speak out, proclaim healing to the nations? Or to your Mom? Or to your son? Or to your best friend or coworker? That we are mostly blind to the state of another’s soul does not mean that problems are not there but that we can choose to believe that they are not there.

In a way we can see it. How many people do you know who are simply not happy? They engage in repeated activities that promise great relief and rewards and in the end are left sad and dry? I have a lot of respect for the person mentioned above for she risks in order to bring others into a state of meaning, of hope, and of grace. From listening to her there are generally two steps that work in what is essentially evangelization. The first is that you listen and let the other know that you care about them. The second is when the opportunity seems right you say, “Well here’s is what works for me.” Though this method she has adopted many spiritual children and expanded the message of the Cross and Resurrection.

What does not work is this: I remember once being on the bus as a kid with my Mother and a man was steadily moving down the aisle seat by seat and proselytizing by saying, “Are you saved? Do you know you are going to hell?” Needless to say nobody wanted to listen to him and he made no converts.

Priests cannot evangelize well. There is a lot that comes with the collar and it can be a overpowering to one who is nervous about the faith already. Further priests are not in your home, your work place, your school, or gathering place. He can’t be. But you are there. You can bring the message. If you saw a bleeding arm you would have the compassion to assist the person in distress. The soul is more important than the arm. If you could see the state you would probably rush to help them also. But you can come to see the effects of not striving for grace by coming to know and love those around you. Then when there seems to be an opening in the wall, there is the chance to say, “Do you know what works for me?”


sattvicwarrior said...

Great post,very human ,I ALWAYS sensed you were a class act.

Anonymous said...

Fr. V. ~ One of your BEST. POSTS. EVER.

And I have a sneaking suspicion I know the person you mentioned...am proud to know her. :-)

Anonymous said...

Father, I agree that all of us come to Mass with hurts in our hearts and we need to hear the Word of God to heal us.

Anonymous said...

SVW, the harvest is plenty; labourers, few. Ever feel the call? I could be way off, but there seems something fiercely Sauline in you.

I also love the Flannery quote.

Anonymous said...

So glad you mentioned the connection of sin and unhappiness. In the past I consoled myself with, “Well, if people are ignorant of their sin, at least they are not culpable.” But God’s laws are reality. Even if we are ignorant of sin, sin does its damage, and no one is happy when they are damaged.

I used to think some of God’s laws were arbitrary and that other people could ignore them with impunity (maybe even fun). It is only as an adult that the scales have fallen from my eyes and I have seen the hidden misery around me.

Fr. V said...

Wow - Thanks Satvic, I take that as a true compliment.

Thanks you all as I wrote this late at night and was worried that it didn't make sense.

That's the god ole' HS for you.

Anonymous said...

Good exchange, good food for thought. Totally DISAGREE that "Priests cannot evangelize well". Totally, totally, TOTALLY WRONG thinking!!! Thank God the Apostles didn't have that thinking! St. Francis of Assisi once offered this advice: "Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary."

Your friend who was evangelizing was working within her baptismal role, marvelous -- we're all called to do so! However, don't sell yourself short and allow cultural influence to convince you otherwise. The Presbyteral Priesthood is BEST -- ABSOLUTELY BEST -- at evangelizing, for you are most closely linked to Christ in His Power and His Mission. So go at it, Fr. V, and use words if necessary!

Love this quote . . .

We priests must be perceptibly a living word of faith, hope, and charity. And this requires a full personal availability to translate into effective witness, that which, already from the beginning, is a sacramental reality. Without such personal availability the life of a priest will never evangelize. Quite the contrary, the priest would turn out to be only an efficacious but inert instrument of grace for those who are already in Christ. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_cclergy_doc_23101995_imp_en.html

Anonymous said...

I hope I didn’t confirm your impression that there is a prevailing fear of the collar just because I’m always carrying on about how it intimidates me.

I saw Fr. K. in his clericals recently – no jacket, no pullover, just his clericals – and all I could think to myself is, my gosh, he looks 20 years younger. He looks so frail in his plain clothes.

I saw Fr. Pavone on YouTube take off his collar to prove the point that his message is the same whether it comes from a priest or not and it was almost a little upsetting. I thought, wow, I never noticed how weak and common he looks without it.

The collar really is an outward sign of an inward grace. The collar says strong, young, and dignified. It’s kind of like how people say all brides are beautiful – priests go around dressed like grooms all day – it’s “overpowering” but still attractive.


Anonymous said...

I'm sure Fr V would give give a far better teaching on clerical dress and the Roman collar and its history. In the interim, the Roman collar more likely says "Priest" or "Priestly Consecration". Strong, young and dignified are all sensual, cultural, look-at-me labels.

Anonymous said...

If a person talks about Our Lord Jesus Christ, and speaks the Truth with Love, then it should not matter what that person is wearing. As Our Lord said....My sheep will hear my voice.

Our Lord did not say....My sheep will hear my voice and recognize it by what the person that is speaking is wearing.

I grow weary of reading comments from people about what other people are wearing and how it relates to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

There was an article on the internet about clerical garb written by a priest. All I could think about is why isn't he writing about Our Lord instead of what clothes he likes to wear and when he wears them.