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Language is powerful and dynamic...

Oct 21

Written by:
10/21/2018 12:00 AM  RssIcon

It has become increasingly clear and important that the language we use is something vital. Language is something so powerful, too. I certainly think, too, of English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s line in his 1839 play, ‘Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy,’ which has been repeated frequently since: ‘The Pen is mightier than the sword.’ (Admittedly, I had to google that one, as I was sure it was Shakespeare!)

I think of the power of a kind and gentle word; how an unexpected compliment can lift the spirits and make one’s day, despite any other storm. The converse is also true, unfortunately. An offhand clip and critique sits with you all day and worms its way into the brain; leaving it as the only thing one can think about for the rest of the day, as it lives rent free in the brain, eating away at any good vibes that have been there.

Language is powerful and dynamic.

This all comes to bear, too, in the life of the Church and in the language we use to proclaim Christ to the world. In the New Evangelization, every Holy Father since Pope Paul VI has called us to re-propose the Christian faith to an increasingly secular and non-Christian world. With every generation, we must re-introduce Christ to them, always striving to use language that invites and draws inwardly towards the heart of the mystery that we celebrate: Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior.

And language is precisely the cost of the new evangelization. Because with language, we can invite and ponder and contemplate and even chew on the Divine. When we send forth the Catechumens and those inquiring into the Catholic Church, we send them forth to ‘break open’ the word, to ponder how Jesus speaks the language of the heart to them.

On the other hand, when language becomes harsh and condemnatory, when language is used to rend apart instead of build and repair; the Body of Christ suffers. This is where I personally struggle with some online personalities in the Church who set themselves as authorities over and above the Bishops, and use language that divides instead of unites. Their tone becomes so harsh that I cannot hear the good words that they might be saying because their words has been blurred away. And I think: this does no good to the Body of Christ.

Yet, I understand this need for a polemic, even if I strive to reject it. It does not take long to flip through the talk shows, the radio call ins, the news reports in which it seems the one who shouts the loudest is the one who wins. We have lost the ability to have civil debate, the ability to listen to the other with an open mind, the ability hear the language of the heart that speaks no matter the words used. When our culture is sick, the Church catches a cold.

As we continually strive to make Christ known in this increasingly divisive world, it would be good to constantly remember how we can use the pen to build and support, rather than to tear down and rend apart. Because the Words of the Gospel should constantly inspire us to strive for greatness in Jesus Christ and to draw others into that same greatness.

May we all be true agents of inspiration in the language we use!


God Bless,

Fr. Kyle Schnippel

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