I'm really glad that I went to the Michael Voris talk last night: it exceeded expectations. Beforehand, as we waited, one of our group joked that he might run onto the stage to some rousing music; I suggested the "Rocky" theme. We all snickered. I felt somewhat ashamed when he did come on and had a real spirit of humility about him: sure he's a practised orator, albeit in a very casual style. So much for the better -- it's hard to hold an audience in thrall for an hour unless you're a skilled speaker -- but he came across as sincere, authentic and profoundly Catholic. You got the sense that you were listening to a man with an genuine love for Christ, who is profoundly grateful for his re-conversion and the shot at eternity it gives him. A man who has discovered the pearl of great price, and wants to share it with as many people as possible.
He started and ended with prayer, and constantly redirected our focus to the Holy Trinity. This was not the "Michael Voris" show, he was the medium not the message. Some highlights included Voris's memory of Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen's response to a hippy who wanted him to read a book combining Catholicism and Eastern mysticism: "Get out! Get out! The Catholic Faith is a gift from Almightly God and I won't have you polluting it!" (a Vortex with the same incident is linked to below) and his question to the audience: how will you measure up in heaven against the martyrs of the early centuries of the Church?
That last question underlined much of the talk: it is not enough, argued Voris to be "a Catholic", to fully embrace the Faith one needs to be "Catholic", no indefinite article, no qualification, no secondary identity. To be Catholic is to embrace Our Lord fully and to be prepared to accept His cross. You might be made fun of, you might lose a few friends or compromise your career, but, argued Voris, none of these measure up to the sacrifices made by early Christians so that we could have the Faith handed down to us.
Voris pointed out that God's word through the Catholic Church is Truth: when faced with Truth you can either reject it or embrace it. Embracing Truth means changing your life. Taking up your cross to follow Christ. Keeping one eye on eternity while trying to live the Truth here on earth. God didn't intend us to pick and choose the bits we like, to water down Truths to suit fashion and cultural climate, or to accommodate those who oppose the Truth. This is where Michael Voris comes most into conflict with those who disagree with him: those who feel that he promotes a Catholicism that is too rigid, too unyielding, not gentle or accommodating or palatable enough for those who disagree with parts of the Magesterium or who believe that all religions are essentially aiming for the same place. Voris would argue that these people misunderstand the meaning of the word charity -> caritas -> love. He argued, persuasively, that to elide the Truth in order to prevent hurt feelings or offended sensibilities is the direct opposite of charity. Charity - love for the other - involves biting the bullet and telling the Truth in those matters that affect the salvation of souls. Hurt feelings are nothing compared to an eternity in Hell. Having been given a wake-up call by his dying mother, Voris is profoundly grateful for her lack of tact in addressing his dissolute lifestyle and the slippery slope to Hell it was leading him down. He she been tactful, he'd probably not be standing in front a a full house at the Regent Hall in London, exhorting his listeners to save souls, embrace the Faith and live radically.
Based on last night's talk, I'd say that none of the criticisms I've heard leveled at Michael Voris would stick. He was humble, charitable, amusing, self-effacing, meticulously faithful to the Magesterium, Catholic down to his very essence. Oh, and to knock another myth on the head: his hair was clearly all his own.
Among the people I went with there was (at least) one skeptic who, by the end of the talk was utterly convinced of Voris's sincerity and orthodoxy. The general consensus was "What's not to like"? followed by "Why are our shepherds not speaking as clearly and plainly as Michael Voris?"
Another reason that last night was good fun was because it was a sort of accidental blognic -- and I got to go to the pub(!) which is a rare occurrence. It was great to meet fellow Guild of Blessed Titus Brandsma bloggers Lawrence "Bones" England (even if he didn't have a clue who I was! See if I scribble in your combox again! :-P), Paul "OTSOTA" Priest, and Dylan "Reluctant Sinner" Perry, as well as seeing pals Mac "Mulier Fortis" McLernon and Bara Brith. There were lots of familiar faces in the audience (which was packed to capacity on the ground floor) including some new friends from the recent NACF pilgrimage to Walsingham. I also discovered that a fellow parishioner is, like me, a former rat fancier: now there's an essay topic - "Connections between Extraordinary Form Mass-goers and small livestock fancying". The mind boggles. It was good to see such a strong turnout from faithful Catholics, many of whom had traveled a considerable distance to get to the talk. Having an opportunity to socialise afterwards was a bonus, and made me wonder whether or not some "Juventutem" style evenings could be arranged for oldies like "Mr.Annie Elizabeth" & me who are well beyond Juventutem age but who enjoy good conversation and socialising with faithful Catholics?
As a last aside, I'll leave you with a rare sighting of the Lesser Spotted Mulier Fortis left (literally) holding the baby!