EG 171: Listening

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdalenePope Francis reminds his readers of the vital distinction between hearing and listening. Most spouses–and all of the successful ones–perceive the difference. And they live it. Listening is essential to ministry. I would go so far to say that the person incapable of listening is incapable of ministry, and the person who does not listen, does not minister.

171. Today more than ever we need men and women who, on the basis of their experience of accompanying others, are familiar with processes which call for prudence, understanding, patience and docility to the Spirit, so that they can protect the sheep from wolves who would scatter the flock. We need to practice the art of listening, which is more than simply hearing. Listening, in communication, is an openness of heart which makes possible that closeness without which genuine spiritual encounter cannot occur. Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders. Only through such respectful and compassionate listening can we enter on the paths of true growth and awaken a yearning for the Christian ideal: the desire to respond fully to God’s love and to bring to fruition what he has sown in our lives.

The whole CDF/LCWR dust-up is laced through with this lack of listening.

And in ministry, for those of us with the perception of what listening is, we are duty-bound to assess is we are just being heard, and if so, how we can patiently and lovingly communicate in a different way so as to inspire listening. Of course, we have to model it. All the time.

Three saints offer some guidance in this respect:

But this always demands the patience of one who knows full well what Saint Thomas Aquinas tells us: that anyone can have grace and charity, and yet falter in the exercise of the virtues because of persistent “contrary inclinations”.[S. Th., I-II, q. 65, a. 3, ad 2: “propter aliquas dispositiones contrarias”.] In other words, the organic unity of the virtues always and necessarily exists in habitu, even though forms of conditioning can hinder the operations of those virtuous habits. Hence the need for “a pedagogy which will introduce people step by step to the full appropriation of the mystery”.[JOHN PAUL II, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia (6 November 1999), 20] Reaching a level of maturity where individuals can make truly free and responsible decisions calls for much time and patience. As Blessed Peter Faber used to say: “Time is God’s messenger”.

This is another key passage in Evangelii Gaudium. I see clear application for marriage and parenting. And friendships. And work relationships. Sales. Politics. Ah well, like anybody in that last category is listening …

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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