Plop! Plop! Fizz-fizz!

2. … [Today we] find [preachers of the Word] more numerous perhaps than they have ever been before. … [Yet if] We examine the state of public and private morals, the constitutions and laws of nations, We shall find that there is a general disregard and forgetfulness of the supernatural, a gradual falling away from the strict standard of Christian virtue, and that men are slipping back more and more into the shameful practices of paganism. … 

3. … Has the Word of God then ceased to be what it was described by the Apostle, living and effectual and more piercing than any two-edged sword? Has long-continued use blunted the edge of that sword? If that weapon does not everywhere produce its effect, the blame certainly must be laid on those ministers of the Gospel who do not handle it as they should. For no one can maintain that the Apostles were living in better times than ours, that they found minds more readily disposed towards the Gospel or that they met with less opposition to the law of God. …

6. … By the decree of the Council of Trent Bishops are permitted to select for this office those only who are “fit,” i.e. those who “can exercise the ministry of preaching with profit to souls.” 7. “With profit to souls,” well note that the word which expresses the rule does not mean eloquently or with popular applause, but with spiritual fruit.

10. … As it would, therefore, be wrong to call anyone a doctor who does not practice medicine, or to style anyone a professor of some art who does not teach that art, he who in his preaching neglects to lead men to a fuller knowledge of God and on the way of eternal salvation may be called an idle declaimer, but not a preacher of the Gospel. And would there were no such declaimers! What motive is it that sways them mostly. Some are moved by the desire of vain-glory and to satisfy it: “They ponder how they can express high rather than practical thoughts, causing weak minds to admire them, instead of working out the salvation of their hearers. They are ashamed of what is simple and plain, lest they be thought to know nothing else. They are ashamed to give milk to the little ones. [Gillebertus Abb. In Cant. Canticor. Serm xxvii, 2.] Whereas Jesus Christ proved by the lowliness of his hearers that He was the One whom men were awaiting: “The poor have the Gospel preached to them.” [Matt. xi:5] What efforts do such men make to acquire reputation by their sermons from the size and wealth of the cities and splendor of the great churches in which they preach? But since among the truths revealed by God there are some which frighten the weakness of our corrupt nature, and which therefore are not calculated to attract the multitude, they carefully avoid them, and treat themes, in which, the place accepted, there is nothing sacred. Not seldom it happens that in the very midst of a discourse upon the things of eternity, they turn to politics, particularly if any questions of this kind just then deeply engross the minds of their hearers. They seem to have only one aim, to please their hearers and curry favor with those whom St. Paul describes as “having itching ears.” [II Tim. vi:3] Hence that unrestrained and undignified gesture such as may be seen on the stage or on the hustings, that effeminate lowering of the voice or those tragic outbursts; that diction peculiar to journalism; those frequent allusions to profane and non-Catholic literature, but not to the Sacred Scriptures or the Holy Fathers; finally that volubility of utterance often affected by them, wherewith they strike the ears and gain their hearers’ admiration, but give them no lesson to carry home. How sadly are those preachers deceived! Granted that they receive the applause of the uneducated, which they seek with such great favor, and not without sacrilege, is it really worth while when we consider that they are condemned by every prudent man, and, what is worse, have reason to fear the stern judgment of Christ?

12. Now since nothing except harm and discredit can be expected for the Church from such as these, Venerable Brethren, you must exercise the greatest care, so that, if you detect any one for his own glory or for gain, abusing the office of preaching, you should at once remove him from that function. For the man who does not scruple to defile so holy an office by such an unworthy perversion of its end, surely will not hesitate to descend to any indignity, and will bring the stain of ignominy not merely upon himself, but upon the sacred office also which he so unworthily administers.

17. … For it is not by pouring forth a copious stream of words, not by using subtle arguments, not by delivering violent harangues, that the salvation of souls is effected. The preacher who is content with those means is nothing but “sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.” [I Cor. xiii:1] … [T]he grace of God is not gained by study and practice: it is won by prayer. … 

19. However, to return to St. Paul, if we ask on what subjects he was wont to discourse when he preached, he condenses them all in these words: “For I judged not myself to know anything among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” [I Cor. ii:2] … This was the object of every throb of his apostolic heart. Therefore all Christ’s doctrines and commands, even the sterner ones, were so proclaimed by St. Paul that he did not restrict, gloss over or tone down what Christ taught regarding humility, self-denial, chastity, contempt of the world, obedience, forgiveness of enemies, and the like, nor was he afraid to tell his hearers that they had to make a choice between the service of God and the service of Belial, for they could not serve both, that when they leave this world, a dread judgment awaits them; that they cannot bargain with God; they may hope for life everlasting if they keep His entire law, but if they neglect their duty and indulge their passions, they will have nothing to expect but eternal fire. For our “Preacher of truth” never imagined that he should avoid such subjects, because, owing to the corruption of the age, they appeared too stern to his hearers. Therefore it is clear how unworthy of commendation are those preachers who are afraid to touch upon certain points of Christian doctrine lest they should give their hearers offense.  

— Pope Benedict XV, Humani Generis Redemptionem, 15 June 1917

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About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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2 Responses to Plop! Plop! Fizz-fizz!

  1. Tony Jokin says:

    Nice!

    Honestly though, I don’t think one needs a declaration from the faith to understand some of this which should be common sense to every man.

    If you don’t proclaim the truth, or proclaim parts of it, the truth will be misunderstood and cause confusion. This is something anyone who is engaged in any form of instruction knows by experience (Parents, Teachers, Lecturers, Professors etc.).

    Equally intuitive or known from common sense is the fact that if one does not constantly oppose evil and point out it’s consequence (temporal and eternal), then it is less likely that the individual(s) causing evil will give up the evil acts. This is evident from the history of humanity.

    So the priests and Catholics today who hide the truth or part of it from others for “pastoral” reasons are actually people with no common sense. Simple common sense tells us that their plans will fail with certainty. There methods may bring about the conversion of one or two individuals but they forget the multitudes that were lost and could have been saved had they proclaimed the full truth.

    I pray these days that people at the top will pay attention to common sense and not use the Holy Spirit as an excuse to forget it by saying it is where the Holy Spirit has called us to do. I do not think that God asks us through his Holy Spirit to do or refrain from things that clearly seem like the right and proven ways to bring people to him.

  2. tamsin325 says:

    Hence that unrestrained and undignified gesture such as may be seen on the stage or on the hustings, that effeminate lowering of the voice or those tragic outbursts; that diction peculiar to journalism; those frequent allusions to profane and non-Catholic literature, but not to the Sacred Scriptures or the Holy Fathers; finally that volubility of utterance often affected by them, wherewith they strike the ears and gain their hearers’ admiration, but give them no lesson to carry home.

    Agreed. On the one hand, I appreciate it when the priest has practiced delivering what he has to say in order to avoid ums and ahs. On the other hand, I notice when he seems to have practiced in front of a mirror.

    The words must work by virtue of their content, not their delivery. (the Word works by virtue of His content…)

    No use putting people to sleep; but that suggests brevity.

    Let the visuals, the music, the motions all “have their say” and do the work that is theirs to do!

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