As I read through many posts, especially in those areas that deal with liturgy, traditional Catholicism, apologetics and the news, which are the ones that I read often, I find that there is frequently a bite to many posts. I am often very saddened by this. I have often asked myself, “Do we have to put a bite into everything that we say? Must we present and defend the truth in a manner that is often hostile?”
I’m reminded of our Holy Father Francis who never failed to teach the truth. He never shied away from the topic of sin, hell and damnation. Yet, his manner of speech and his writing is always so filled with love. When he spoke or wrote he always began with the same affect. He wrote for his brothers and sisters. He treated his audience as brethren, not as antagonists in a tragedy. He often referred to himself as the greatest of sinners. He knew that he was not the greatest of sinners. But he was also aware that we are all sinners and that we are all worthy and deserving of God’s love through the merits of Jesus Christ.
Often, I follow my Franciscan brothers on EWTN, the Franciscan Missionaries of the Eternal Word, Fr. Benedict G, the other Franciscans of the Renewal, the Friars Minor and I notice that I do not see or hear in their voices or in their writings a harsh tone. Their manner of drawing people to Jesus is always gentle and kind.
Then there are those courageous souls like Bl. Mother Teresa, Bl. John XXIII, Archbishop Sheen, Ven. John Paul II, and even our current pope, Benedict XVI. They too have always inspired me to speak to men as if they were the most deserving of my respect and kindness.
These and other great men and women evangelists have always been honest, straightforward, yet respectful. Then I read so many posts on these threads and I wonder, if the truth has to be taught with harshness. Is truth that is delivered with harshness, with challenges to prove this or cite that, is that kind of delivery filled with grace or with personal pride? Is the person really filled with the Holy Spirit or with love for his or her point of view?
I guess the question that I’m asking is, do we have to be unkind? Do we have to set up these little traps for others when we post? Do we have to ambush people to bring them to the faith? Must we sound as if we are authorities over others? St. Dominic once told his friar preachers to make sure that they practice charity and humility when preaching. St. Francis told his brothers to preach with their lives. He had an interesting style of preaching. He would usually preach through poetry, music, symbols, gestures, personal anecdotes and scripture. He rarely used doctrine and dogma. His goal was to bring people into the love of God. His idea was that once they came to know the love of God, though the love of his brothers, they would gradually learn the doctrines of the faith. But we often seem to forget to present the love of God.
Do we have to be rude to preach the Gospel?
Have a blessed Christmas season,
Br. JR, OSF