Priests trying to raise the level of conversation by injecting element of contemplation.
In the digital world where a great majority of people spend much of their waking life, it sometimes seems that everyone is shouting past one another with their tweets and posts. Issues of the day (or of the minute) seem to demand an immediate response. Those who participate in social media take a stand often as a knee-jerk reaction, without much quiet contemplation of the “backstory.”
Silence is practically unknown. In fact, for many people, silence is so unknown that it’s scary.
Fr. Gregory Pine, a Dominican priest, wants to assure people that silence is not such a dark, scary room. He and four other Dominican Friars have launched a podcast that not only adds to the conversation in the digital world but also seeks to encourage the quiet contemplation of ideas that will help elevate that conversation.
“I think a lot of people now are looking for podcasts to listen to, especially during their commute and while they exercise, and I think sometimes those podcasts can be used as a way to kind of mask silence, which can be difficult and potentially sad,” Fr. Pine said, explaining the reason for the new Godsplaining podcast. “What we want to do is offer something that is not an alternative to silence but the kind of thing that helps you to grow an interior life and enjoy those silences when they come, with a greater delight and a greater sense of the Lord.”
The five priests who are behind Godsplaining all went through their formation together, entering the Order of Preachers in 2010. They have remained good friends, but after ordination, their assignments took them to far flung parts of the Province of St. Joseph, which covers the northeastern part of the United States. Using Skype and podcasting technology, they are able to meet virtually on a regular basis to discuss topics and record new podcasts, which are rolled out each Thursday.
“The idea grew out of a conviction that our conversations about theology and philosophy, arts, literature, and culture, could be useful and encouraging, delightful, informative for a broader audience,” Fr. Pine said in an interview, “and so we thought we’d record those conversations and make them available through the podcast medium.”
But it’s also meant to be something quite the opposite of other projects Fr. Pine is involved in—Aquinas 101, an online course about one of the best known Dominicans, the philosopher St. Thomas Aquinas—and the Thomistic Institute, which brings highly erudite Catholic speakers to secular college campuses.
“We wanted it to be in a more laid back, less programmatic sort of way. Much more conversational—having a conversation about a particular topic either about the faith or how the faith relates to that topic,” said Fr. Jacob Bertrand Janczyk, vocations director for the province. It’s a way “people can listen to the truths of the faith that isn’t a lecture.”
The choice of topics is meant to be relevant to concerns in society today, whether specifically Catholic or more general.
“There might be Church issues that cause people some consternation, like the Pew study on belief in the Real Presence,” Fr. Pine said. “We’ve also had literature episodes, like those on G.K. Chesterton, Cormac McCarthy, and David Foster Wallace, another contemporary author. We’ve had some philosophy things, like apologetics, or the difference between good and evil and the modern view of the world.”
Other episodes have explored the topics of loneliness and friendship, sports and virtue, Catholic social teaching, leisure, and marriage.
The diversity of backgrounds and specialties of the five friars helps keep the show interesting: Fr. Janczyk is an athlete and used to work at the college chaplaincy at Dartmouth College. Fr. Bonaventure Chapman is a former Anglican who studied in a seminary at Oxford and now is a doctoral candidate in philosophy at Catholic University of America. Fr. Joseph Anthony Kress is a chaplain at the University of Virginia and has a background in liturgy and catechesis. And Fr. Patrick Mary Briscoe serves in a parish in Rhode Island and teaches at Providence College. He also is an editor at Aleteia and has a background in radio. Several friars, such as Fr. Pine, have a science background.
“In general, the thought is ‘contemplative preachers, contemporary age,'” Fr. Pine explained, “to have something contemplative which helps you ask good questions of life and good questions of the Lord—not so much to have the definitive answers that close down inquiry but the kind that help you to inquire further and deeper.”