This week I received a book of Msgr. Stricker’s homilies, and leafing through it, I found this, from February 1952. Not a homily, but an 'occasional essay," it is what he would have blogged if he had a blog. I could not resist sharing. Enjoy!
Observing the manner of men’s conversation one detects four kinds of certainty denizened in men’s minds.
1. The man who knows what he is talking about and knows that he knows it. Usually he knows everything about some thing, and something about every thing. He is a safe man to follow as his advice is seldom wrong. But there is tragedy for many when he is mistaken since those who believe him are so many. He can be an unbearable companion to one who went awry by ignoring his advice, and his “I told you so” is relentless.
2. There is the man who knows what he is talking about but does not know that he knows it. Such a one is humble, agreeable to live with and probably has more experience and less disappointments than the average. More likely he subscribes to the adage that “the more a man reads the less he knows” and considers himself, as he usually is, a well-read man. He has become acquainted with too many exceptions to believe positively or belligerently that there are inflexible rules that the exceptions prove. He never forces his opinions on others, he is not given to prophesy and has little or no truck with those who are.
3. There is the man who does not know that he is talking about and is fully aware of the ignorance. He is not a dupe nor a rascal, but often an affable fellow who is willing to keep the conversation going on a topic that may be of interest to someone else present, but of no interest to himself. He is self-effacing for the pleasure he gets from other men’s conversation, and willing to accommodate himself to the pleasure of others. As a rule he is a better neighbor than his submission would lead one to surmise and capable of constructive ideas at times. He is a pupil of an old Celtic school that proposes, “I don’t know any thing about it, but I’ll be sociable and argue it with you.”
4. The saddest of all is the one who does not know what he is talking about and is unaware of his ignorance. His chief vice is that this one is too willing to talk. Familiarity with his personal habits would reveal that he sleeps on his chin, of necessity – to keep from talking in his sleep. He usually believes himself in demand as a speaker and if he has an audience of one individual it is a needless waste of audience. One would not call him a fool, if one has charitable regard for fools. He likes to pass as a sophist, who could support any side of an argument, a clever device for leaving either side without support. One thing he has to learn (but never will) is that ignorance never won an argument. The best thing that could happen to this character would be a mother-in-law with the same type of mind.
In conclusion it is better to follow the old Gospel maxim of letting your conversation be “Yea, Yea and (or) Nay Nay” and tell the truth, without pretending to wisdom, since the truth is the basis of all virtue.
Monsignor William F. Stricker (1903-1976)
Founding Pastor of Saint Bernadette