17 September 2012

Preach the Gospel at All Times; When Necessary, Use Sarcasm

OK, St. Francis of Assisi didn't say that.  But, in fairness, he did not say the oft-quoted "Preach the Gospel at all times; when necessary, use words", either.  Good advice, but apocryphal.

No, the reason for the title of my post is my constant frustration at my inability to preach the Gospel without my own personality flaws (read: sinfulness) getting in the way.  You see, I am arrogant, and sarcasm is what an arrogant person mistakes for humor.

And I am guilty of sarcasm quite often.  It pervades my parenting, as my wife can tell you.  The patron saint (to-be-named-later) of housewives, Sharon could relate to you her continual mission to remind me that sarcasm is not an effective parenting tool. 

For example, when my oldest son was about three-years-old, the following incident took place.  After he was put to bed, and yet had called me up to see to some whim of his a few times already, he called me to ask for a glass of water.  I replied with considerable fake deference, "Oh, no problem.  Hey, I know what!  How about if I stay up here in your room, all night, while you sleep, just in case you wake up and need anything.  That way I can get it for you right away!  How about that?"

In the very last moment of my son's innocent confidence in the love of his father, he replied, "Wow, thanks Dad!  That's really nice!" 

Well, you can see my problem, yes?  In my own defense, it apparently works on dogs.

Back to the present day.  I started a Facebook account a few years ago to keep up with the doings of certain local notorious heretics who tried to cause trouble for the Archbishop, in order to find out about when protests were to be held, etc.  After the worst of it died down, the account basically went dormant.  Lately, I have had occasion to use it again.

Facebook is the most amazing collection of varia, especially for Catholics trying to take their faith seriously.  But you know this already.  I have Facebook "friends" and "friends of friends" that use it for evangelization efforts.  And God bless them for those efforts, which I in no way deride.

However, I just can't keep my big keyboard shut sometimes.  After (oh-so-nobly, I like to pretend) resisting the urge to comment on a number of different religious-themed takes, I had a sarcasm lapse today.  

In a perfectly helpful Facebook post, a person had linked to site where you could merge the novus ordo calendar into one's Google calendar.  Very helpful, no doubt.  But what got me going was the phrasing-- that there was an application to download "the" "Catholic Liturgical Calendar".  Oh.  The Catholic Liturgical Calendar.  The Catholic Liturgical Calendar.

So, in a moment I regret, I posted the following:

"I can't get it to work.  I try to download the Roman Calendar, but all I get is a greatly abridged version.  It leaves out tons of feast days, there are hardly any octaves, and it uses weird, stultifying terminology like "ordinary time."  What is that?"

I thought that was hilarious for about two seconds.  Then the inevitable reality set in.  Just how many people would that comment convince to give the glories of the ancient liturgy a try, who were not already convinced?  That's an easy question to answer: zero.  And it would more likely put up barriers for some who might have been convinced by a more helpful effort.

So, if you are disgusted with this blog, occasionally or constantly, you have no idea what effect it has on its own author.  It gets hard sometimes to stay constructive and hopeful-- especially recently with all of the bad news and trends for the Church universally, nationally and locally.  And yet, I am recently reminded of the right approach to these things, ironically enough, by the Facebook postings of Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.  You see, they constantly quote from the great Doctor of Charity, St. Francis de Sales.  He faced worse times, and overcame worse things.  He preached the truth, but always, always in and with charity.  

If I can't learn to do this then I should sign off.

And so, to end this confessional, I post the following prayer of C.S. Lewis, which I copied and placed by my computer long ago, but too seldom read:

The Apologist's Evening Prayer

From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins.  Let me not trust, instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle's eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.


X said...

This article really surprises me. Most people who look like you are not arrogant, usually they are quite humble. Hmmm, well now I don't know what to think.

Elizabeth R said...

The latest Facebook entry from the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest seems highly appropriate: "If we have good ideas or good desires but lack strength to put them into practice, we must present them to God with a firm hope that He will help us. If we place all our confidence in Divine Goodness, the Lord will not fail to grant whatever is necessary to persevere in His service. - St. Francis de Sales"

Anonymous said...

My compliments on an ode to humility that all of us (myself especially) could stand to remember more often.

This post actually nicely accents the posting on "St Louis Crusade". In that article, the suspended Fr. Palacios urges his fellow travelers to advance his very non-traditional vision of family by swaying the Catholic "movable middle". He is on to something very important, and charitable, thorough arguments for orthodoxy are probably the best way to reach these same folks.
In the spirit of the discussion, of course, I must note the above is only my humble opinion...

Bryan Kirchoff
St. Louis

C.MBurns said...


Still waiting...

Anonymous said...

I like your headline, because that apocryphal quote really irks me. It's often used as an excuse by people who are too cowed by human respect to say words that need to be said.


MP said...

As the wife of a husband raised with sarcastic humor, I do not think it is always because of arrogance. Sometimes it is just a bad habit and a true wish to be funny. My children and I have called my husband on it on many occasions. Once my son said, "Daddy, if the person you are teasing isn't laughing, it isn't funny." Oh, how true, but how hard to live by at times.

Of course, sometimes the person truly is funny, especially if they are making fun of themselves in a lighthearted manner.

Forward Slash S said...

Most of us can own this post, or can at least identify with it when reflected upon in the light of humility.

Please continue Timman ... the value of this blog is without compare, at least in the midwest.