02 March 2009

Fatherly Wisdom-Preacher: Preach with deeds before words

St. Gregory the Great concludes Book III of his Book of Pastoral Rule with this exhortation to preachers:

"But in the midst of these considerations, we are brought back in the zeal of charity to what we have already said, which is that every preacher should be 'heard' more by his deeds than by his words. Moreover, the footprint fo his good living should be that path that others follow rather than the sound of his voice showing them where to go. For that cock, which the Lord used in his manner of speaking to symbolize a good preacher, when it prepares to crow, first shakes his wings and by striking himself with them makes himself more alert. For it is certainly necessary that those who offer the words of holy preaching must first be vigilant in the zeal of good works. Otherwise, if they are sluggish in performing them, they will have only words to entice others. Let them first perform lofty deeds and then convince others to live well. Let them carefully examine whether there is anything about themselves that is sluggish and, if so, correct it with strict observance. Only then should they tell others how to live their lives. Let them first correct their own sins through tears and then denounce what is punishable in others. But before they offer any words of exhortation, they should proclaim by their actions everything that they wish to say." (The Book of Pastoral Rule, III:40)

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