Talks from trials of life’s cauldron
28th May 2013 · 0 Comments
By Fr. Jerome LeDoux
We SVD brothers and priests were meeting at the St. Augustine Residence in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi a couple of years ago when Bishop Fulton J. Sheen got into the conversation. Among other things, the legendary speaker, TV and radio personality was known for his meticulous, multi-hour preparations for his sundry talks and sermons.
“Jerome, do you do it like that?” Bishop Curtis Guillory asked with a smirk on his face and an impish twinkle in his eye.
“I do more,” I returned, “albeit with a different twist. At the beginning of the week, I scan the Scripture readings for the upcoming weekend to get a fix on them and a likely theme for the Sunday. Throughout the week, I walk around with those Scriptures tumbling in my head, wrapping them around whatever I read, hear, see or experience.”
Far be it from me to claim that my methodology is better than Bishop Sheen’s. The truth is that one size does not fit all. Each speaker does what works best for him or her. The common elements are some research, some meditative thought, some prayer, a sharp awareness of what one hears, sees, reads and experiences, and a live imagination.
Thus, the vibrant cauldron of our everyday life becomes the chief catalyst in our quest for the divine, incarnating the Word of God into the warp and woof of our being, every thought, word and action. Our joys, sorrows, trials and triumphs are fired in this cauldron. After these have percolated, I stand live, mentally naked before my audiences.
Granted, there are occasions when one might opt for reading a prepared script, such as the “I Have a Dream” speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Most speakers feel more secure and more confident with a written script before them. However, even at times like those, I lean toward the thorough preparation and the mentally-naked delivery.
One can feel very alone out there without a written script. Nonetheless, such a mentally-naked situation forces one to be fresh, creative, imaginative, more engaging and much more reliant on nudgings of the Holy Spirit who is eager to fill all human vacuums.
From time to time, I test the recall of church members to hear how much they remember of the things I have said. To my dismay, at times their recall of certain things is at or near zero. It is to my great advantage in piecing a sermon together that I have a healthy recall of what I have said on given topics recently or over the span of many years.
Again, I have been blessed with a healthy recall of Holy Scripture that I quote freely and frequently by chapter and verse, challenging the congregation to check those citations in one of the Bibles that we keep handy in the pews. It is always worth a smile to see some members whip out their cell phone and go online for the Bible quotes.
Yet, one cannot afford to be lazy in reaping the fruits of such personal recall of talks and thoughts past. Rather, every good turn of phrase, each inspired expression past or present must be scrutinized, critiqued, tweaked and improved in every way possible until the incarnation of God’s word is accomplished in our entire being and life.
Our quest must be “Non nova, sed noviter,” “Not new things, but things presented in a fresh way,” as the old Latin saying goes and as Ecclesiastes 1:9 reads, “What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun.”
Vain is the life of anyone who restlessly and doggedly seeks what is new while spurning and rejecting the tried and true, whether in the material or spiritual world. New is always a variation, an elaboration of what already is, so that very few are the pioneers and inventors before whom stand no people whose backs and shoulders they can climb.
Most importantly, after all our human preparations, we must leave room for the fiery work of the Holy Spirit. Paul expresses it well in 1 Corinthians 2:3-5, “I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
Paul says more in 1 Corinthians 2:12-13, “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God. And we speak about them not with words taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms.”
We must be constantly aware that, after the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the most powerful item we bring with us into a talk is our personal example and witness of God in whatever we think, say or do in every phase and arena of life, for “Words move; examples draw,” an ancient Latin dictum says. St. Francis of Assisi ups the ante, “Always remember to preach the Gospel, and, if necessary, use words.”
This article originally published in the May 27, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.