I spent a very absorbing weekend at Media City here in Manchester, with a group called Catholic Voices.  Originally set up to respond to the opposition to Pope Benedict’s Visit, they are still recruiting teams of very capable speakers – to be wheeled into TV & Radio Studios as the relentless 24hr news schedule rolls remorselessly on and on.  To give you a sense of their great work watch the video clip below.

This weekend was a training weekend, accompanying them as their chaplain, I was both inspired and moved by their generosity and their commitment. It impressed me how much they cared about putting across the faith in the best way.  The training is very professional, they underwent a fairly hostile interview from experienced BBC journalists on both the radio and also on TV.  A brilliant technique they are taught is always to find the positive intention, especially in an ‘opponents’ view point or in their interviewers searching questions.  So when an interview begins with the question ‘ Are you a Bigot or a Dinosaur?’ they are able to gracefully sidestep it and get into the message they want to share.

Seeking the positive intention in a hostile interview or debate reminds me of St Ignatius advice to Spiritual Directors

That both the giver and the maker of the Spiritual Exercises may be of greater help and benefit to each other, it should be presupposed that they ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbour’s statement than to condemn it. (Paragraph 22)

25297_WWhen we were in the hothouse of the Jesuit Novitiate this was very useful – and we often used to say to each other – ‘paragraph 22’ – i.e. lay off.

The other thing that impresses me about Catholic Voices is their ability to get across a complicated brief, aided by an excellent book written by one of their founders, Austen Ivereigh. The Book is called How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice.  It is masterful how it deals with complex and damaging assumptions about the Catholic Church, and explores them to give a balanced and clear representation of the issues.

Keep up the good work!!