Truly beautiful contribution (on the Archdiocese of Washington’s internet site) of Msgr. Charles Pope. The contribution comes in two forms: the excerpt from the funeral sermon held by himself and the very insightful, crystal-clear reflections posted on the Internet site of the Archdiocese.
I allow myself to suggest that you listen to the sermon first. It is nothing shocking for those accustomed to this blog but certainly unusually clear for those who are not. For people not even accustomed to darken the doors of a church on Sundays – and told all the time that “their heart is in the right place” and therefore everything is fine – it must be outright shocking.
Msgr. Pope delivers truth in copious quantity and without any meaningful dilution. I will mention here only some of the many brilliant statements he makes:
[..] the usual approach at funerals has been to be “nice” and if sin, or purgatory, or judgment (or, God forbid, Hell), are mentioned at all it should be subtle, so subtle as to barely be noticed. Vague attestations of ”we at the parish will surely pray for Joe’s happy repose and for you the family.” Somewhere the doctrine of purgatory is lurking in the saying but only a trained theologian could really see it.
I had tried the more subtle approach for years. It didn’t really work and no one really took it seriously, if they even understood what I was “getting at.”
I think prophecy needs to be clear, strong and unambiguous. I get a much better result that way. I can surely attest to the fact that more have returned to Mass on a regular basis as a result of strong words than ever happened in the years when the usual reaction to my ministration was, “Oh Father, you’re such a dear. What a heart-warming and consoling message!
I have over 50 funerals a year. And for most of them the Church is packed with people I will only see once, or perhaps not until the next family funeral. I cannot wait for a “less delicate” time
Preaching is about saving before it is about consoling
A lot of times powerful preaching takes people through a cycle of: mad, to sad, to glad.
I think we have long enough tried the “nice guy” preaching that is extolled by many, as the model. But all through these past 40 years with that model largely operative, Mass attendance has steadily dropped.
Fr. Bill Casey defines superficial preaching as: “watered-down, filled with generalities and abstractions, devoid of doctrinal content and moral teaching, more akin to pop-psychology than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not scriptural, it does not move, it does not inspire, it generates no enthusiasm for Jesus Christ, his Church or the Gospel and it has got to change”.
The fact is, I think there is a general hunger for a return to vivid and strong preaching. I think this is more common among younger people, many of whom have had enough of polite but abstract sermons that preach ideas more than unvarnished Catholic and Biblical truth.
Mgr. Pope hits the bull’s head so many times that there’s no space for the darts left. Not only does he get the nature of the problem (as, I am sure, many others do), but he has the nerve to speak it out, and to do so when the majority of lukewarm priests with oversized political antennae would not dare to do it. He reports (and chastises) the thinking of colleagues of him who say that they wouldn’t be able to get away with talking as he does.
Get…. what?! Since when has a priest been ordained to reflect about what he can “get away with”? Since when has a priest seen it as his job to avoid saying what his parishioners don’t want to hear? What kind of priesthood is this? These questions seem to escape Mgr. Pope’s colleagues: you picture them smiling and saying “aahhh, I could not do that…”
If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle? In the modern age what we see is that many shepherds (often Bishops or Archbishops) are very well aware that their trumpet is barely audible. But you know what? They just don’t care! They’d never allow the Truth to come in the way of their popularity among the crowds, making them acceptable to vast cohorts of, often, non-Catholics or even non-Christians.
What a difference between Mgr. Pope and many of our shepherds.
I wish he were Archbishop of Westminster.