They say a picture is worth a thousand words. They say that actions speak louder than words. Seeing is believing and what you see is what you get. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. Axioms of self evident truth. In today’s world that paradigm just may be shifting. We now have the ability to disseminate words at lightening speed, words that have the power to change the way we see the picture, to alter our perception of the action. In today’s world, in the words of Mark Twain, “a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Words can set up smoke screens to obscure and dull the edges of focus. Words can misdirect us away from the actions. Words can interpret the seeing and thus change the believing. Words become rhetoric and rhetoric is meant to influence and persuade. Sometimes that influence and persuasion, whether deliberately intended or not, can indeed hurt us.
rhet·o·ric [réttərik] n
1. persuasive speech or writing: speech or writing that communicates its point persuasively
2. pretentious words: complex or elaborate language that only succeeds in sounding pretentious
3. empty talk: fine-sounding but insincere or empty language
4. skill with language: the ability to use language effectively, especially to persuade or influence people
5. study of writing or speaking effectively: the study of methods employed to write or speak effectively and persuasively
In the words of the Bee Gee’s song “It’s only words but words are all I have to take your heart away.” (Oh you knew I was going to. There is no way I was going to call this piece “Words” without using some songs of the same name). Scripture tells us that faith comes from what is heard. For Christians the key to that comes in the second half of the verse…and what is heard comes through the word of Christ. (Rom 10:17) Often, for the world, and even for Christians we believe what we hear and our faith in anything stands or falls on words that may not be the words of Christ. Rhetoric informs and influences our intellect. Words have the power to take our hearts away.
Self-proclaimed seers like Maria Divine Mercy are a prime example. All they have are words, just words. No reputation that goes back 2000 years, no real miracles, no apostolic succession. Nothing but her words, her rhetoric yet she has been able to take the hearts of thousands of Catholics away from the Church. Anonymously. She was originally able to do that without having to reveal who she really is. Those Catholics believed an absolute stranger who convinced them that her word was more reliable than the Church that Christ himself had established. With words, nothing but words, good Catholics were convinced to hand over their souls, their salvation, to one with empty talk, fine sounding but insincere and empty language with absolutely nothing to back it up. Hypnotically persuasive words.
Strange. Strange voices in my ears…But all I can hear are those words that never were true. Spoken to help nobody but you. Words with lies inside but small enough to hide til your playin’ was through. (That would be the Monkees. That’s right. I said it. The Monkees)
The other day I wrote a blog about the story that Rorate Caeli broke concerning a Bishop in Texas and his decision to decline permission for the public celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass in a college chapel. As I searched through the articles and blogs on Google regarding this event I could see the words that were trying to take our hearts away. Words designed to shape our perception from the get. Words like ban, prohibit and suppress rather than suspend or decline permission. Words like heavy handed, ill advised and draconian referring to the Bishop. My favorite one? Holding Jesus hostage. Now thems some fighting words there. Words meant to shape, influence and light a fire of protest while at the same time proclaiming in a mild manner a wait and see demeanor. That was day one, from the get, right out of the gate. At the risk of repeating my self…“oh the games people play now. Every night and every day now. Never meaning what they say now. Never saying what they mean.” Never the less, many that I was in communication with were willing to wait and see and possibly cut the Bishop some slack. Then Rorate Caeli came out with their second article, the tide began to turn and hearts began to move away. Now some of the people I was communicating with began to parrot the rhetoric of Rorate Caeli. We were no longer discussing what actually was going on and why but instead I began to hear the phrase “grave precedent”. (Note: Rorate Caeli’s title line for that day. “ It’s not about specific persons, it’s about the principle - and grave precedent). It was no longer about the emerging details of the event itself but about one interpretation of that event. The fire was lit from the beginning but now the smoke was beginning to create a screen. A smoke screen that altered our view of the picture, misdirected us from the actions, interpreted the seeing thus changing the believing.
St. Paul says in 1 Cor 2, that we do not come with a sublimity of words or of wisdom. That our message and proclamation are not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power. So that our faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. Our power is not in our own grandiloquence but in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Do we think we still have the Traditional Latin Mass because Archbishop Lefebvre and the SSPX preserved it? The Traditional Latin Mass has been preserved by the Holy Spirit who spoke through our Popes. I wonder about some who prefer the TLM sometimes. I wonder why they do not believe that the TLM can stand on its on merits. I wonder why the only way to preserve it is to cast doubts and aspersions upon, to malign, a Council of the Church, certain Popes and the Novos Ordo. I wonder why they are not offended by those who continually try to besmirch the TLM by attaching it to their own disobedience, division and error. I wonder, if it truly is what they say it is, why they do not fight just as hard to protect it from things like that. I wonder if they really are willing to get in bed with certain enemies because they are afraid that the Holy Spirit will not protect it. I do not go to a TLM but I actually have more hope for it than some who do. For I do believe that the Holy Spirit has given us both the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novos Ordo as a gift. A gift that is meant to unfold and has something to reveal to us. It seems however that some are not gratefully receiving of this gift but want something else and have to get their kicks out of trying to steal it.
"This world has lost it's glory. Let's start a brand new story. Now my love right now. There'll be no other time and I can show you how my love. Talk in everlasting words and dedicate them all to me. And I will give you all my life. I'm here if you should call to me. You think that I don't even mean a single word I say. It's only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away."
The Church is certainly being tested at this time. It may be that it is not the test we perceive. It may not be a test to see if we can hang on to the traditions. The doctrines and teachings of the Church may not be what is being tested. It may not be a test to see if we can preserve the TLM. You see, these things have been promised the protection of the Holy Spirit. What may be being tested is the loyalty and obedience of the faithful. Will we hold fast to what we have been given and the promises concerning that. Or will we think that Jesus does not mean a single word he said and turn to the words of others. Will we listen to hypnotic, influential, persuasive words that are meant to take our hearts away from the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church? Will we rely on the adept eloquence of the words of men or on the demonstration of spirit and power?
Will we speak in everlasting words, words of eternal life and dedicate them to our Lord and what he has established. Or will we speak words with lies inside? Are we willing to humbly, patiently, obediently and gratefully accept what is willingly being given by grace? Or are we going to get our kicks out of trying to steal it? “God, Your voice is the only thing we need to hear. Words can build us up, words can break us down. Start a fire in our hearts or put it out. Let my words be life, let my words be truth, I don't wanna say a word unless it points the world back to You.” (Hawk Nelson)
In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. James 3:5-6
Words by the Bee Gees, written by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb
Words by the Monkees, written by Bobby Hart and Tommy Boyce
Words by Hawk Nelson
Games People Play by Joe South