Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

enthusiastic extremism of youth; but we then felt that, given the education in theology, philosophy, Scripture, given the mental equipment, given the spiritual training and the consequent touch with the supernatural world, given especially and above all the zeal for souls which should possess every priestly heart-nothing else mattered. We felt that with all these it would be as natural for us to express ourselves as it is for the waters to flow to the sea. Nay, I am sure that some of us even felt that it was unworthy and unbecoming to regulate the expression of the heavenly word by the ordinary laws and rules according to which the actor on the stage or the orator of the world was trained.

No doubt the experience of life has caused many and will cause many to change, or at least to modify their opinions upon this point. Still, in that youthful and enthusiastic attitude was proclaimed and defended the very soul of true eloquence.

In his "Life of St. Ignatius," Francis Thompson thus describes the preaching of the great soldier priest: "His power was a thing apart from words, like that of so many, perhaps most, great leaders. They have the magnetism of the 'well graced' actor, which hushes the audience at his mere entry on the stage. Who more unlike the chivalrous Spaniard than Wesley? But Wesley's 'converted' disciple records that the Methodist leader, before one word was spoken, impressed him with awe, and doubtless upon others among the waiting listeners, a like sensation fell. So Ribadeneria describes Ignatius: 'Even when he was silent his countenance moved his hearers.'. When he spoke, it was not what he said, it was the suppressed heat of personal feeling, personal conviction which enkindled men. This has ever been the secret of great teachers, were they only schoolmasters; it is the communication of themselves which avails. Virtue goes forth from them. It drew more to children's instructions and made the catechising of Ignatius more potent than that 'pulpit eloquence' which our own Manning held in holy horror. He knew, as all discerners know, that it is by the spirit of the preacher that men are moved-not by mere parrot words."

It cannot be too deeply impressed upon those who are to go forth as preachers, that they never can give what they themselves do not possess. Of old the orator was defined as a good man

skilful in speech. The preacher must above all be a good man. If he expects to preach efficaciously he must form himself in the school of prayer. Without this formation, he may please for the moment, he may write a good essay and deliver it, he may tickle. the imagination; if he can act well, he may arouse momentarily strong emotions, but if he accomplishes no more, his work is almost useless. Unless his word reaches into the very hearts of his listeners and moves them; unless his hearers are induced to say: "This is true and I must accept it. This is good and I must do it," his sermon has fallen short of its object. In every sacred orator, then, there must exist that element which we have called the "Spirit." With that, even the uncouth and crude possess power; without it, even the most cultured and well trained in elocutionary methods fail.

At the same time the speaker of the Word should seek to be not only a "good man," but also "skilful in speech." Over against the danger which is to be avoided by the cultivation of the true spirit-namely, stilted artificiality, there is the other danger to be avoided, lack of effectiveness because of lack of training. Brownson has some words to the point: "The man is always greatest, sees the furthest, and produces the most effect on others, when he himself is most self-collected, self-possessed. The most eloquent passages of your most eloquent orators are produced when the orator is intensely active; indeed, but when he has the fullest command of himself, and is the most perfectly conscious and master of his thoughts and words. The orator who would command his audience must first command himself. *** When one loses his self-possession-loses, as it were, his personality, and suffers himself to be carried away by his thoughts, his passion, or his imagination—you feel that he is internally weak, that he is but a child, with whom indeed you may amuse yourself for a moment, if in playful mood, but to whom you can surrender neither your heart nor your judgment."

This self-control or self-possession, I take it, is the object of all training in the technique of oratory. The cultivated manner. the chosen word, the becoming gesture, the restrained power, all add their portion to the effectiveness of the spoken word. To the student who has an innate disdain for the elocutionary side

of preaching, an appeal, I think, that can be made is to insist that his objection is against the misuse rather than the use of these methods, an objection which is oftentimes actually well founded because of the lack of education, and therefore of sympathy in those chosen as the teachers of elocution. Men who do not appreciate what has to be imparted to others can scarcely be considered capable of telling how the message is to be delivered. To choose a man who is merely a professional elocutionist or an actor, and who at the same time is lacking in general education, as the teacher of seminarians in even this lower branch of homiletics-which by the way has been frequently done-is to commit a pedagogical crime. It is such a thing as this that creates opposition in the mind of the student, and often leaves him antagonistic to elocutionary training in itself. Another appeal can be made from the actual state of preaching to-day.

We have indeed seen and heard preachers who because of their over-attention to gesture and voice modulation, and because of their only too apparent use of what may be called the "tricks" of oratory, have appeared artificial and therefore unnatural; but more often have we seen and heard men filled with earnestness and enthusiasm, whose message lost much of its meaning because of the lack of self-possession, or of proper and distinct utterance, or because of crudity and uncouthness of manner. We consider, where it is possible, that no tribute of religious art is misplaced when it adorns the sanctuary of the temple of the Holy of Holies; and we should likewise consider that no help in the art of the presentation of thought is out of place when it clothes in beauty the Word of God.

Still another thought which will perhaps reconcile such a student with the teaching of elocution, is that while this may appear at first a shackle or a burden, it will later lose this characteristic. The seminarian should be brought to see that in this as in all his studies, he is in a period of training and development. The pianist may spend hours of days and years in mastering his instrument, in the practice of his art, but after a time, becoming expert, his music ceases entirely to be mechanical and his mind. pays no attention to the position of the keys nor to those principles of instruction with which he began, and yet without which

he could never have been an artist. So the student in homiletics would do well to bear in mind that principles of elocution and their practice which may be to him, for the time, distasteful and burdensome, will as such disappear later and require no thought in the delivery of his sermon.

Another attitude of mind to be taken into account by the teacher of homiletics, is that in regard to the value the student places upon his studies. There is one class of students who pursue learning seriously and deeply but for its own sake and with no thought to its expression from the pulpit. Thus it is not a very uncommon thing to find the learned priest who is at a loss when the duty of preaching presents itself. He is like the man who knew sixteen languages and was silent in all of them.

On the other hand there is a group who are constantly seeking, as it were, the worth of their money, who, looking forward to their future work of sermonizing, ever ask in regard to proffered knowledge: "Of what use will this be?" As a consequence, they are apt to confine themselves to the attainment of only what bears, in their own judgment, most directly upon preaching; while they neglect much of what would prove to be a treasure-mine from which to draw example, adornment, freshness and inspiration.

Strange as it may appear, it seems to me that for both of these classes, the remedy to be offered by the professor is one and the same. It will cause the first to see that their learning will amount to little as far as their priestly work is concerned, unless they realize its practical bearings; while it will cause the others to awaken to the fact that the wider their mental horizon the better equipped they will be to stand in the pulpit.

That remedy lies in the insistence upon the intimate connection between preaching and life; between the ministry of the word and the ministering unto the people. The priest, more than anyone else will be called upon to meet and discuss vital questions. His audiences will be composed of men and women who, in regard to the deepest problems of the soul and in regard to those experiences that tear the heart-strings, will look to him. for help and guidance. It is only natural then that while preparing for his after-work, the seminarian should be taught to see

the bearing of the knowledge he acquires upon this life and this world. With the poet Browning he must see:

"This world's no blot for us,

Nor blank it means intensely and means good.
To find its meaning is my meat and drink."

The mental effort expended in the study or classroom or lecture hall will some day steady the wavering mind or carry comfort to the troubled heart. The recognition of this cannot but give new interest and zest to the student in his work and cannot but incite him to better results in the expression of his thought. Here the professor's task is apparent. For the preacher, indeed, there is no instructor equal to actual contact with souls; there is no educator equal to the hours spent in the confessional; but at the same time much can be given even of the meaning of the practical life by him who has already, in a measure, experienced it.

Thus the student may be brought to see that in the pursuit and coordination of his studies he must keep before him the relations which religion bears to human life in its various phases, individual, social and political. He will see, for example, that the message which he has to give to the world, has its bearing upon individual life. There is a world of literature to-day, principally in the form of fiction, which has as its thesis that the Christian religion is to be rejected because it does not fit human nature. From the teachings of Christ in regard to sacrifice of self, from His very plain and insistent words, "Deny yourself," the writers of this kind of work maintain that the principal idea of Christianity is resistance to nature. The world has so turned topsy-turvy that those very things which for centuries have been considered heroic, such as the practice of celibacy for the honor of God, the devotion of one's life to the spiritual welfare of others, the resignation of worldly goods and ambitions, the conquest of the flesh by the spirit, in a word all forms of self-denial are now condemned in a wholesale way because they mean resistance to nature. Who, if not the Catholic preacher, is to show that the Christian religion really fits human nature, conserves its dignity, answers its needs, and meets its essential demands?

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »