How’s This For Clarity in Preaching?


CL16 -hbratton notxt

©Heidi Bratton Photography

At some point in the lives of far too many people, they no longer recognize or believe in the existence of sin. They look right at it, desire it, engage in it, but don’t see it for what it actually is — a grave offense and injustice to God, an act of immense ingratitude to He Who created them, and a conduit for eternal damnation.

When sin becomes that entrenched, love and zeal for the salvation of souls dictate that sinners be confronted with the Truth and offered an opportunity to see and repent of the sin in which they are mired.

Such was the case in the 16th century when Dominican missionaries in the Americas were unable to convince their fellow countrymen to cease their abuse and mistreatment of the native populations. In order to protect those natives and to save the souls of their abusers, they had to preach the Truth with clarity and with no concern about “hurting” the “feelings” of their listeners. This is how one Dominican preacher confronted that evil head-on: 

I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. In order to make your sins known to you I have mounted this pulpit, I who am the voice of Christ crying in the wilderness of this island; and therefore it behooves you to listen to me, not with indifference but with all your heart and senses; for this voice will be the strangest, the harshest and hardest, the most terrifying that you ever heard or expected to hear…. This voice declares that you are in mortal sin, and live and die therein by reason of the cruelty and tyranny that you practice on these innocent people. Tell me, by what right or justice do you hold these Indians in such cruel and horrible slavery? By what right do you wage such detestable wars on these people who lived mildly and peacefully in their own lands, where you have consumed infinite numbers of them with unheard of murders and desolations? Why do you so greatly oppress and fatigue them, not giving them enough to eat or caring for them when they fall ill from excessive labors, so that they die or rather are slain by you, so that you may extract and acquire gold every day? And what care do you take that they receive religious instruction and come to know their God and creator, or that they be baptized, hear mass, or observe holidays and Sundays? Are they not men? Do they not have rational souls? Are you not bound to love them as you love yourselves? How can you lie in such profound and lethargic slumber? Be sure that in your present state you can no more be saved than the Moors or Turks who do not have and do not want the faith of Jesus Christ (Homily of Fr. Antón de Montesino O.P. – 21st December 1511 from the January 2012 Issue of International Dominican Information).

 Certainly, the intrinsic evils so prevalent in our day — abortion, contraception, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia and the active homosexual lifestyle — deserve no less attention and clarity in current preaching than the issues addressed by Father Antón in the 16th century.

So where is that clarity? Where is the concern and zeal for the salvation of souls?

Mike Seagriff is a Lay Dominican, husband, father, grandfather, attorney and former Administrative Law Judge. Mike is the author of Forgotten Truths To Set Faith Afire! – Words to Challenge, Inspire and Instruct. Visit his blog at Harvesting the Fruits of Contemplation.