This piece of advice never loses its power and is something we should always strive to follow.
St. Benedict was a holy monk of the 6th century who wrote one of the first “rules” that governed religious orders. While his writings primarily address the inner workings of a monastery, his wisdom can also apply to our own lives.
For example, when writing about the qualities of an Abbot, St. Benedict writes about the need to not only preach the Gospel, but primarily to live it out.
[The Abbot] should show forth all that is good and holy by his deeds rather than by his words, so that he may declare the commands of the Lord to his docile subjects by words; but to the hard of heart, however, and to the less intelligent, let him demonstrate the divine precepts by his deeds. And let him show by his own actions that those things ought not to be done which he has taught his disciples to be against the law of God.
This is a simple rule of life that many are familiar with under the popular phrase “practice what you preach.” It may not seem like earth-shattering advice, but it is something we continually need to hear.
Ask yourself, am I a Christian primarily through my works? Do I follow the words of the Gospel first in deeds, then in words?
Pope Paul VI echoes the words of St. Benedict in Evangelii Nuntiandi and reinforces this teaching even more. Let us take these words to heart and examine our lives, realizing that if we truly want to influence others, we need to do so first by our actions.
“Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” St. Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the word. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus- the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity.