Recently, I heard a homily that left me feeling discouraged and disheartened. The priest who gave it is normally an excellent homilist, but that day, for whatever reason, he missed the mark.
Afterward, I struggled with whether I should say something about it to him or not. If it were a minor issue, I would have easily let it go, but I was concerned that what he said could have been spiritually damaging to a sensitive soul. While I debated with myself about whether I should mention it to him, I thought about the pros and cons. On one hand, he is a priest who sincerely cares about his people, and I thought he would want to know if something he said was problematic. On the other hand, he’s under enough stress already without my adding to it, and I didn’t want to criticize the one homily in a thousand that was problematic, when all his others have been deeply edifying. We all have our off days.
As I prayed about it, I remembered something that Jesus once told Servant of God Don Dolindo Ruotolo.
When Don Dolindo had been falsely accused and the Holy Office had taken away his priestly faculties, one of the sanctions imposed upon him was that he was forbidden to preach publicly. This was a tremendously heavy cross, not only for Don Dolindo but for all his spiritual children who loved to hear him preach.
Don Dolindo accepted the will of the Church in complete humility, but that didn’t stop the agonizing pain it caused him to be prevented from preaching when he longed to say the words that would bring souls closer to God.
Then, in a locution in 1923, Jesus gave him an unusual solution: Instead of vocal homilies, Don Dolindo could preach silent homilies.
“The Good Jesus taught me a beautiful secret method to preach without publicly speaking,” Don Dolindo wrote in his autobiography. “He said to me:
‘Do you wish to give a homily to the impure? Then recollect yourself in Me, pray for them, and tell Me what you would say to them. Your secret words will reach them like water from a flowing stream, in flashes of inspiration, emotion, lights; with graces more beautiful than if you had preached aloud from the pulpit—because your preaching will spring from your pain, your hiddenness, your humility.’”
These words resounded in my mind as I prayed about whether I should address the issue with the priest whose homily had been so unsettling to me. As I thought about what Jesus told Don Dolindo, I realized that His words could apply to me, too. As with every spiritual locution and vision, the messages Don Dolindo received from Jesus were not only intended for him, but for others, too.
Although I wasn’t trying to preach a homily, I did want to use my words—if God willed it—to help bring the truth to light and, in charity, to try to help this well-intentioned and holy priest not to make the same mistake again. And at the same time, my hands were tied by the circumstances that made it difficult to approach him without sounding critical and causing him more stress when he clearly loves his people and is striving to do the best he can.
But here, in Jesus’ words to Don Dolindo, was a way—a secret way—that I could tell this priest what I wanted to say, without telling him at all! According to Jesus’ method, I could recollect myself in Him, pray for this priest, and then tell Jesus what I would say to him. I could offer, along with this prayer, all my own sufferings, miscommunications, feelings of being misunderstood, and all the times I’ve unintentionally said things that I wished I had never said, so that my words would spring from my own pain and humility. In this way, Jesus could bring my message to him in the best possible way, with the most fruitful outcome, with much greater graces than if I tried to tell him myself.
This felt to me like a gift in direct answer to my prayer—a gift that could be opened and used, not just once, but again and again. For in daily life, how many times do we encounter situations where, for one reason or another, our hands are tied and we are prevented from telling another person audibly what is on our hearts? In these circumstances where it seems impossible to speak aloud, Jesus has made it clear that we are not without recourse—for when our intentions are sincere, and our message is worthy, He Himself will deliver our words to a soul who needs to hear them.
What we tell Him in silence, He will whisper to a soul in the echoes of the heart.
Special thanks to Maria Palma Smith for the use of her English translation of the book Amore, Dolindo, Dolore (Casa Mariana Editrice “Apostolato Stampa”, 2001). Publication of the English translation is forthcoming from Academy of the Immaculate Publishing.