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Communication for our times

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... Pope Francis is saying that if our broken world is ever to be healed, truthful, wholesome communication must be at its center.

Father Eugene
Hemrick

If truly embraced, Pope Francis' message for the 50th World Communications Day, combined with the wisdom of Roman philosopher Cicero, can help the political world, the marketplace and the pulpit.

In his monumental work "On Duty," Cicero encourages his son Marcus to speak with "propriety, clearness and elegance." In other words, be respectful, direct and appealing.

Pope Francis spells out Cicero's advice in telling us, "Our words and actions should be such as to help us all escape the vicious circles of condemnation and vengeance that continue to ensnare individuals and nations, encouraging expressions of hatred. The words of Christians ought to be a constant encouragement to communion and, even in those cases where they must firmly condemn evil; they should never try to rupture relationships and communication."

Pope Francis then singles out a vital power of communication: "closeness."

He explains: "The encounter between communication and mercy will be fruitful to the degree that it generates a closeness that cares, comforts, heals, accompanies and celebrates. In a broken, fragmented and polarized world, to communicate with mercy means to help create a healthy, free and fraternal closeness between the children of God and all our brothers and sisters in the one human family."

In stating this, Pope Francis is saying that if our broken world is ever to be healed, truthful, wholesome communication must be at its center.

At the moment, warring factions throughout the world are their own worst enemies. What makes them failures are their distrust and the lack of closeness, warmth and care that Pope Francis espouses. Sadly, the hateful spirit of condemnation and vengeance far outweigh a sincere desire for communion of hearts.

The same holds true in the marketplace. It can either create a hope-filled, prosperous future or turn it into turmoil and the bane of those trusting it. All depends on the ultimate mission: to either communicate true care, comfort, healing and the common good, or to communicate selfish interests and corruption.

The pulpit, too, can be a powerful tool of communication, depending on whether the message is carefully thought about and clear. A carefully crafted and prepared homily can inspire reflection on faith, hope and love among the congregation. But subpar homilies often drive people out of the church.

The wisdom of Pope Francis and history repeatedly warn: As goes the spoken word, so goes the world.

FATHER HEMRICK IS A COLUMNIST WITH THE CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE.

FatherEugene Hemrick is a columnist for Catholic News Service

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