The excuses we make

I’m starting to fall significantly behind with my blog. I have a large number of posts in draft, but very few have recently been published.

Anything Worth Doing…

G. K. Chesterton said “Anything worth doing, is worth doing badly”. I think the point he was trying to make is that if something is important, it’s worth giving it a go, rather than endlessly procrastinating. There is a temptation to leave a task until some undefined, almost mythical, point in the future when you finally feel qualified to attempt it.  “Perfect is the enemy of good” might be another way of expressing the same sort of idea. Given my personality, there’s a real danger that all the entries currently sitting in my “drafts” folder will remain there, forever to be tweaked and tinkered but forever found unsatisfactory and remaining unpublished.

I’ve therefore resolved to be a bit braver and to publish more of my thoughts on this blog, even if they’re not formed to my level of satisfaction.

Everyone’s Favourite Saint

With this, I would like to offer a brief thought on an often-repeated saying which is usually attributed to St. Francis:

“Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.”

Now, there’s no evidence that St. Francis himself said this. It’s not in any of his writings although it does bear some resemblance to a line in his 1221 Rule  (“Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds” – Chapter XVII). Even if St. Francis didn’t exactly speak the above saying, it certainly is Franciscan in style and a wonderful sentiment. Actions often do speak louder than words. Quite often, the only Gospel any non-Christian is going to “read” is the life of a Christian they encounter on their way through life. A life lived in stark contrast to the standards of the world speaks much more loudly than any moralizing sermon.

st. francis

Uneasy Feelings

However….however… I can’t help but wonder how often we use this pithy saying as an excuse for our lack of efforts in evangelism. It’s all very well saying that we prefer to preach the Gospel with our actions, but what exactly are these actions of ours which are preaching the Gospel?! Do we regularly make a conscious effort in our actions to preach the Gospel?

I remember one time when I heard someone give this pithy one-liner and I tried to assess what actions of mine, during the course of that past week, had preached the Gospel. I couldn’t think of a single one. As another saying goes “If Christianity became illegal tomorrow, would there be enough evidence found to convict you?”

Ready for the reason

Another thought that comes to mind is also that words will eventually be needed. One of my former parishes had a thriving ministry to the homeless and socially deprived of the town. I was once asked about it by a non-Christian friend and why it was that we did what we did. Now here was a perfect opportunity to speak about the Risen Christ! My parish’s actions had spoken loudly enough to prompt this friend to start asking questions! Time to verbally proclaim the Good News! I can’t remember exactly what I said. I think I said something about going to church on Sundays and Jesus asking us all to be nice to each other… :-/

I really hadn’t followed St. Peter’s exhortation on readiness…

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you for the give the reason for the hope that you have within you” – 1 Peter 3:15

If I could have given St. Francis the benefit of my experience… 😉

So where does this leave us? I think that if I were to modify the saying, given all that we’ve said, I think I might change it to something like this:

Consciously preach the Gospel at all times. Be ready to use words when they’re necessary”

So there you go. Here’s my half-formed thought on a Friday 🙂

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