So, I was reading the office of readings for today (Friday of the 24th week of ordinary time). It is a reading from a sermon by St. Augustine on pastors. The reading is divided over this past week, and has been rather critical of pastors. Today it focused on a (4th century) version of the prosperity gospel (nothing is new under the sun). But St. Augustine tackled it from two sides. On the one hand, preachers should not preach that living a Christian life will lead to worldly success. So far so good, I don’t think I have heard a homely by a Catholic priest about this. But on the other hand, he talks about strengthening the flock by preparing the sheep for adversity and suffering, which will come in a Christian life. I interpreted that as a sort of soft prosperity gospel, where you omit preaching about the difficulties. I would personally say most homilies I have heard would fall under this category. Fluffy duffy homilies. What do you think? Is there such a thing as soft prosperity gospel?
I am of firm belief that neither the US school system nor the seminary prepares men for speaking. We have very few well-polished speakers today even in the secular world.
That leads to priests who may want to convey spiritual truths but are severely limited in their ability because they were never taught how to be oraters, even if they learned theology from an excellent one.
Without the tools to express a deep theological thought, a priest is at a loss to do so. Remember also, that many Priests feel that they must appeal to the “lowest common denominator” and make a homily that can be understood by teenagers to old grannies. For this reason, they often “dumb things down”.
With that said, I have found that there are a good number of priests, both diocesan and religious, who God has granted with an obvious charism. It is clear that God speaks through them, and it is not the Priest’s word alone that the parish is hearing.
In any classroom, there has to be a median depth of instruction—and there will always be poor students who lag behind, and advanced students who are held back by too basic a level of formation.
So it is in parishes. And I think the average parish priest is interested in finding the best balance he can between giving milk to the babes in the faith while also giving meat to the adults. Doing so is very Pauline.
There are those who require a depth that gives them mystical aids in being able to deal with the practical aspects of redemptive suffering. There are far more who simply need encouragement to care about God for more than an hour or two a week. No matter how much it might pain a person to say so, fluffy duffy is the most certain people could possibly hear about the faith at their particular stage of development.
In my own parish, which is staffed by the Order of Preachers, I can say we get plenty of meat. I’ve been to other parishes which are clearly more oriented towards giving milk. At least there are options.
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