I had a funeral today and for various reasons the P.A. System was not working during the time for the homily. I have a large cavernous Church, built of stone and plaster and both music and voice resonate well. With a fairly full church I had to preach the Old Fashioned way, I belted it out.
I was reminded again how powerfully the modern use of microphones has affected preaching and to some extent singing. To preach without a microphone means to preach with elevated volume and it requires one to strongly project the voice. In effect one has to preach authoritatively and passionately. I had to speak boldly. And as I preached in this manner the physical requirement began to affect the message. As adrenaline began to build, enthusiasm and a kind of confident joy overtook me.
Now I am not generally known for a quiet style of preaching anyway 🙂 but preaching in this manner strengthened my message even more. Body and soul were fully engaged in proclaiming the message. Ah what power the preachers of old had to have! Imagine Jesus preaching out in the open to thousands. He surely did not speak gently, he needed power to project.
It is not the first time I have preached without a microphone. Yet today it occurred to me that I have to do more of this. I have learned in the past to stand far back from the mike but perhaps, in the right conditions no P.A. at all is best.
I have discussed with brother priests before the concern I have at how too much microphone harms our preaching. Too much microphone causes the priest to adopt a gentle, lyrical style of preaching. His style too easily becomes suggestive rather than bold proclamation. The suggestive and conversational tone of many a modern preacher can, if not balanced by other things, amount to an “uncertain trumpet.” St. Paul warns, “For if the trumpet produces an uncertain sound, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Cor 14:8) It is a sure fact that many of the Catholic faithful have no readiness or appetite for battle and this can surely be laid at the feet of uncertain and uninspired preaching and teaching.
So perhaps a suggestion….No! a strong prescription! Use less microphone for the preaching moment and for the proclamation of the Word. It is a very different type of preaching that emerges from such a context, and I think, a far better, bolder and braver preaching. The lectors too will benefit from a louder and bolder style.
It is a true fact, not all churches, (especially the ones built after 1970 and until recently), are well suited for this option. But many are and we surely need bolder preaching today and trumpet that is more certain. Some of preaching simply comes down to the physicality of the moment. If a priest needs to project his voice he is affected by that very fact and his message inevitably turns bolder and braver. He will feel the very voice of the Prophets echo though him.
Lectors too will find a whole new experience for they will not merely read the Word of God, they will proclaim it. And those in the pew will be less sleepy and the authority of the Word of God will reach them in a whole new way.
And finally, music will also benefit. Too much modern Church music, if you ask me (and I know you didn’t but I’m saying it anyway), is rather sing-songy and lyrical. Meditative music is nice and has its place but we also need a return of some of the bold and brave singing enshrined in the hymns of the past; before heavy use of P.A. systems influenced us to sing more softly and in a more folksy manner. Different musical styles all have their place but good gutsy singing has taken something of a hit and I blame the loud microphones for some of it.
Less mike and more manpower may well re-energize the proclamation of the Word, the preaching of it and the singing of praise to God. A certain trumpet can awaken even the dead! (cf 1 Cor 15:52).
This video shows Jesus preaching to an unruly crowd in the synagogue. No Microphone in those days!