The power of the spoken word

Palmerston North Fr Kevin Neal2 February 2013 Reading is something I’ve always done, especially in areas that I’m interested in which is most things so I have a huge library….

Palmerston North

Fr Kevin Neal
2 February 2013

The power of the spoken word Archdiocese of WellingtonReading is something I’ve always done, especially in areas that I’m interested in which is most things so I have a huge library.

Or, at least, I used to. I don’t have as much to come and go on nowadays so I’ve joined the public library.

I always keep a novel on the go and I like to juggle several other ideas, too.

My reading isn’t what it used to be. I can read for about 20 minutes at a time these days so I spend a fair bit of time listening to my collection of tapes and CDs.

My first tape was by Gil Bailie in 1997. The readings for the years were mostly from Luke’s Gospel and Gil Bailie had released a set of tapes on Luke which I tracked down through the National Catholic Reporter in the USA. I’ve subscribed to this weekly newspaper ever since.

After I’ve read each issue and spent a bit of time dreaming about the books advertised inside, I pass it on. I now have dozens of Gil Bailie’s tapes and CDs.

Then there’s Richard Rohr whose tapes and CDs I keep and I think that I have all his books as well. His latest, The Naked Now, is for anyone who has been through events similar to the stroke which changed my life eight years ago. It’s invaluable. He’s just so close to the mark.

I recently listened again to Elizabeth Johnson on christology, and I keep an ear out for Raymond Brown on John’s Gospel. Raymond Brown died in 1998 but he is still powerful!

Then there’s John Shea who is a producer of tapes, CDs and books, fiction and non-fiction.

Another who writes in The Tablet reasonably often and is a regular in Tui Motu is Daniel O’Leary. He’s semi-retired now but his use of the language is masterful and his book Begin with Heart is uncannily good.

But all that I’ve said in praise of books and the recorded word fades into nothingness when compared to the spoken word, often uttered by people who would be embarrassed to think they were especially important.

Let me give you an example. It was Christmas night and I was at BoysTown in Queensland.

The parish church was packed and the weather unbelievably hot. But it was Queensland so the Mass went on in spite of the heat.

In the corner of the church there was a life-sized crib to remind us of Christmas.

After Mass I watched a mother take her three little children up to look at the crib. She didn’t speak for a while and then she said a simple line: ‘The baby is God, the baby is God’.

They spent a few minutes more, just watching and then disappeared into the night.

Those few lines have stayed with me longer than any book or recorded message.

As our schools and colleges get down to business again for the new year they will be taking the Bible in their hands and they will be saying, ‘the baby is God, the baby is God’.