Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron, of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, is the most well-known ordained evangelist in the United States. Known for his skill in communication and ability to relate the Gospel message to the culture, Barron expresses a joyful confidence as he opines each week through various forms of media.
For a brief moment on the night of Jan. 2 on stage in Chicago as a keynote speaker for the SLS Conference hosted by the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, Barron’s enjoyable demeanor morphed into disgust. And to the surprise of my brother seminarians, 8,000-plus attendees and myself, his self-described “cordial dislike” was centered on a quote often attributed to a saint of the Catholic Church.
“Preach always, and when necessary, use words.”
This phrase, often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, simply cannot be traced back to the founder of the Franciscans, who coincidentally was known as a gifted preacher. Barron’s point here was not only the historical inaccuracy of the attribution, but the fact that many people hide behind this quote as a way to explain away a fear of effectively communicating the Gospel.
“The danger is that statement can be used as a justification for a kind of anti-intellectualism. It can be used as a justification for a kind of pastoral reductionism.” Bishop Barron said.
The bishop pointed to many examples from the Acts of the Apostles throughout his keynote speech and urged those in attendance to be inspired to enter into “bold, fiery, confident, coherent, and intelligent speech” to proclaim by both our words and actions that indeed “Jesus Christ is King.”
It did not take long for someone to answer his challenge.
The 8,000-plus attendees received a prime example of the power that words can have just 23 hours later when actor Jim Caviezel emerged on the main stage. Known to many Catholics as the man who portrayed Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ,” Caviezel surprised the crowd and delivered a zealous exhortation that shook up the entire mood of the conference and set the Catholic blogosphere ablaze.
I have never heard a more captivating speech in my life. A locomotive train could have traveled down the center aisle of the conference center and I do not think I would have blinked. Caviezel shared his calling as an actor, detailed his immense physical suffering in “The Passion of the Christ,” and rebuked a “fake … happy” Christianity and the culture of death.
If this article inspires you to do anything, please take 15 minutes of your time to view the talk. (Link: tinyurl.com/ydgbqtrt)
Proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ and His Church in our world today can seem to be a daunting task, but we so often forget the incredible wealth of tools we have at our disposal. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, the Sacred Scriptures, the lives of the Saints, and the testimonies of miracles are just a few. Perhaps the most under-utilized verbal weapon in our arsenal is our very own testimony of our encounter and relationship with Christ. The development of and ability to share one’s testimony was a consistent theme of the conference and one that I know many of the attendees left with a renewed conviction to implement in their life of ministry.
St. Peter writes in his first letter that “in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15)
Jim Caviezel gave an account for the hope that is in him and in 15 minutes may have changed many lives by his proclaiming of Jesus as Lord. What will you say when your opportunity arises to share – with words – the hope that is in you?