In the Oxford English Dictionary, communication is described as the transmission or exchange of information, knowledge or idea by means of speech. Communications therefore becomes effective when the encoder and the decoder understand each other. When it is not effective, nothing is said or heard. In today’s world, there are so many noise outlets out there, each with its own audience and stories, whether good or bad, even as the world gets busier as each day passes. The Church which is the body of Jesus Christ is not left out in this same noise even though it is relieving.
The question therefore is; what do we listen to, and how do we know when the right messages are communicated in a world that is so noisy and seriously enmeshed in confusion, and no longer listen with the ear of the heart? This is perhaps why the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria designed a week-long communication enlightenment programme in all the parishes across the country to further educate the people of God on the essence of communication with particular reference to listening. It would climax with the interaction with media practitioners on May 29, 2022 on how to improve communications amongst the faithful, whether in the Church or in the larger societies where we live in. His Holiness, Pope Francis, in his World Communications Day message declared, ”From the pages of scripture we learn that listening means not only the perception of the sound, but is essentially linked to the dialogical relationship between God and humanity.
‘shema lsrael-Hear, O Israel (Dt. 6:4); the opening words of the first commandment of the Torah is continually reiterated in the Bible, to the point that Saint Paul would affirm that ‘ faith comes through listening (Rom 10:17). “The initiative in fact, is God’s, who speaks to us, and to whom we respond by listening to Him, in the end, even this listening comes from His grace, as is the case with a new born child who responds to the gaze and the voice of his or her mother and father. “Among the five senses, the one favoured by God seems to be hearing perhaps because it is less invasive, more discreet than sight, and therefore leaves the human being more free” The Pope further said “God always reveals himself by communicating freely, and on the other hand, man and woman are asked to tune in, to be willing to listen. The Lord explicitly calls the human person to a covenant of love, so that they can fully become what they are; the image and likeness of God in his capacity to listen, to welcome, to give space to others’. The point that we have ears, the Holy Father explained does not mean that we hear each other well. ‘We all have ears, but many times even those with perfect hearing are unable to hear another person. In fact, there is an interior deafness worse than the physical one.
Indeed, listening concerns the whole person, not just the sense of hearing. The true seat of listening is the heart. Though he was very young, King Solomon proved himself wise because he asked the Lord to grant him a ”listening heart” (1Kings 3:9). Saint Augustine used to encourage listening with the heart (corded audire), to receive words not outwardly through the ears, but spiritually in our hearts; ‘ Do not have your heart in your ears but your ears in your heart”. Just recently also, the pontiff bemoaned the chaotic situation in Nigeria, arising from the insensitivity of the leaders to listen to what the citizenry is saying in a supposedly democratic setting, to say the least. This is not unconnected with what is happening even in the family unit, which is today not insulated from these societal problems, leading to the legion of issues whereby parents and children now disagree with each other, and the stories continue, leading to the confusion that is almost everywhere in the society.
The objectives of this year’s communications week activities in the Catholic Church Nigeria more than anything else is targeted at improving communications among the lay faithful and equally afford everyone the singular opportunity to listen together for spirit guided decisions in the lives of Christians. It is worthwhile to reiterate also that the lesson of this whole week activities would enlighten the minds, as well as increase knowledge, more importantly for those that are already caught in the web of the already polluted noisy environment that has made effective communication impossible, whether in the Churches or in other public places we find ourselves as God’s children. The World Communications Day celebration also calls for reflections on how we relate to one another. The respective Archdiocesan/Diocesan activities on this auspicious time calls for self examination amongst the children of God, even as we encourage ourselves as we have been admonished by the Holy father in his message on this special day.