Writing isn’t speaking

Illustration by Gary Cangemi

Academic writing is a way of recording complex abstract ideas in a minimum of words.

When we are reading these carefully chosen words, we can slow down our pace so that we can absorb them.

Here is one example taken randomly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 866.

The Church is one: she acknowledges one Lord, confesses one faith, is born of one Baptism, forms only one Body, is given life by the one Spirit, for the sake of one hope (cf. Eph 4:3-5), at whose fulfillment all divisions will be overcome.

The first independent clause is simple, just one subject (Church), one verb (is), and one predicate adjective (one).

However, the second independent clause which comes after the colon presents five compound predicates and concludes with two prepositional phrases and a subordinate clause.

But, as I wrote above, if we read at our own pace of comprehension, we can follow it.

However, when it comes to hearing those words spoken, very few of us can follow them. Piling on abstract statement after abstract statement is mentally taxing. The listener is easily lost.

That’s why I’d recommend that in a homily such statements be broken down into individual sentences with added explanations and examples.

For example, “she acknowledges one Lord,” in a homily could be restated and expanded. You might begin with, “First, the Church is one because she acknowledges one Lord.” Then you could explain what “acknowledges what one Lord” means and then provide some examples.

In this way, one simple Catechism point (and 866 is an “In Brief” point) is enough for an entire homily.

It should go without saying that one week’s outline in Doctrinal Homily Outlines contains enough content for many individual homilies.

In writing we can say a lot in few words.

But in speaking, for the sake of our hearers, we need to break each claim down, explain it, give examples, and even tie those examples back to the claim.

Writing isn’t speaking.






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