Stand Up and Be Heard

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"Stand up and be heard" by Celeste Behe (CatholicMom.com)

Fra Angelico [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

St. Anthony of Padua’s eloquent preaching earned him the appellation “Hammer of the Heretics.” St. Vincent Ferrer, the “Preacher of the Judgment” who had the gift of tongues, converted thousands of Muslims from his pulpit. St. Ambrose is known as the “Honey-Tongued Doctor” because of his powerful, yet sweet and pleasing, oratory.

Each of these saints was skilled in the art of persuasive speaking, also known as rhetoric. Rhetoric was promoted by St. Ambrose’s own student St. Augustine as a powerful means of service to God and the Church. St. Augustine believed that the obligation to spread Christ’s message belonged to every Christian in every age.

The Holy Mackerels Catholic Communicators have taken this obligation to heart. A group of Texas Catholics within the Diocese of Austin, the Holy Mackerel Catholic Communicators comprise a club belonging to Toastmasters International, an organization that teaches public speaking skills. The club’s stated mission is to “provide Catholic faithful with training and support in communications skill development, and to enable articulate proclamation and defense of the Faith.”

Larry Odom, immediate past president of the Holy Mackerels Catholic Communicators, says that “many Catholics with a strong faith would love to be able to discuss their faith and share it more, but they don’t have the confidence in their speaking abilities to do so.”

The first step towards acquiring that confidence, says Odom, is to realize that, for a Catholic, facility as a speaker is of secondary importance.

“Faith, or the desire for Faith, is what drives the other factors,” notes Joe Condit, founder & CEO of the premier Catholic speakers’ bureau CMG Booking. “One must have the desire and passion to learn and love his Faith first, and then everything else will fall into place as God intends.”

Assistant Professor Fr. John Baptist Ku, O.P. of the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception agrees that prayer is indispensable to the Catholic speaker: “A man becomes an orator in the world by learning how to orate; a man becomes an orator of Christ by learning how to orare (pray).”

How to pray is one of the first things that a new member will learn at a Holy Mackerels Catholic Toastmasters meeting.

“Ask Catholics to ‘lead us in prayer’ and they’ll probably get tongue-tied,” says Odom. “So club members take turns as ‘Invocator,’ the person who starts each meeting with a prayer. This allows members to break that invisible barrier. “

The renowned Catholic communicator Venerable Bishop Fulton Sheen was a master at breaking barriers. Through his television and radio shows, Sheen overcame barriers to people’s acceptance of the Faith by helping to dispel widespread misconceptions about the Catholic Church. One of the ways he did this was by telling stories.

“We all have a story to tell,” observes Odom, adding that, “We’ll never know whom we might have touched with our stories if we allow fear to hold us back.”

Those stories don’t have to be faith-based. Odom notes that, even among the Holy Mackerel Catholic Communicators, “it’s not required that all speeches pertain to faith and morals.”

Catholics who are good communicators are empowered to carry out the mission of evangelization that belongs to every one of us. As the Holy Mackerels’ mission statement states, “Let others stand up and be counted. We [Catholics] will stand up and be heard.”

Copyright 2017 Celeste Behe

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