Monday, August 25, 2014

Anthony Trollope on preaching

Excerpted from Fro Eduard Perrone, "A Pastor's Descant" [these change weekly] (Assumption Grotto News, August 24, 2014):
"There is perhaps no greater hardship at present inflicted on manking in civilized and free countries, than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling an audience to sit silent, and be tormented. No one but a preaching clergyman can revel in platitudes, truisms, and untruisms, and yet receive, as his undisputed privilege, the same respectful demeanor as though words of impassioned eloquence, or persuasive logic, fell from his lips. Let a professor of law or physic find his place in a lecture-room and there pour forth jejune words and useless empty phrases and he will puor them forth to empty benches. Let a barrister (an attorney) attempt to talk without talking well, and he will talk but seldom ... A member of parliament can be coughed down or counted out. Town-councillors can be tabooed. But no one can rid himself of the preaching clergyman. He is the bore of the age ... the nightmare that disturbs our Sunday's rest ...

"We are not forced into church! No: but we desire more than that. We desire not to be forced to stay away. We desire, nay, we are resolute, to enjoy the comfort of public worship; but we desire also that we may do so without an amount of tedium which ordinary human nature cannot endure with patience; that we may be able to leave the house of God, without that anxious longing to escape, which is the common consequence of common sermons.

[Now as if addressing the preacher] "You must excuse me ... if I yawn over your imperfect sentences, your repeated phrases, your false pathos, your drawlings and denouncings, your humming and hawing, your oh-ing and ah-ing...

"And here I must make a protest against the pretense, so often put forward byt he working clergy, that they are overburdened by the multitude of sermons to be preached ... A preacher is encouraged by the vanity of making his voice heard by the privilege of a compelled audience. His sermon is the pleasant morsel of his life, his delicious moment of self-exaltation."

[There's a little more to it, but this should be enough for a smile to break out upon your faces. You need not fear guilt for detraction against your preaching priests to have enjoyed this delightful writing ... We priests at the Grotto do try hard, given our modest capabilities, to say what we feel we must for your edification and God's glory. 'Nough said.]
Anthony Trollope, Barchester Towers, ch. 6: "War"

1 comment:

Fr Weldon said...

This is an awesome article. Every priest should read it.