March 17, 2006

Go and Make Disciples / John Valenti

What does the voice of God sound like?

(Editor’s Note: With this issue, we begin a new monthly column, “Go and Make Disciples,” by John Valenti, associate director for Evangelization and Faith Formation in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

The sound of the human voice animates a message with a distinctive style and purpose.

When the truth of a person’s voice resounds, it sings. When people singing resound clear and true, their voices become a choir. We listen to our voices, but what does the voice of God sound like?

Trusting the adage that wisdom comes from the mouths of babes, I recently asked children in Lillian Kelley’s class of 4- and 5-year-olds at St. Andrew/St. Rita Catholic Academy in Indianapolis what they thought.

Sharing a Scripture passage from 1 Kings 19:11-14, we learned that God’s voice was not found in the wind, an earthquake or in fire, but in a “gentle whisper.” Most of the children said God’s voice is the voice of a man, deep but soothing, comforting, maybe Daddy’s voice. Maybe a ghost!

Connie Zittnan, director of the Archdiocesan Schools Consortium, said God’s voice sounds like “balls of cotton,” billowing like the clouds.

I shared this with the children, and they laughed. “Cotton balls!”

“That’s right,” Connie said. “God’s voice sounds like children’s laughter!”

When I posed the same question to Katherine Seger’s sixth-grade students at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Indianapolis, Linda Albrecht said, “God’s voice is welcoming, a different voice at different times. God uses what is needed to get our attention.”

God’s voice can be heard when we pray, in Scripture, during Mass, in the Eucharist, in Christian music, in the voice of a pastor and in the voices of people who care about us, including parents (yes, God especially talks to parents), teachers, friends and those around us.

God sent a human voice to speak for him. “I will send my messenger ahead of you, a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’ ” (Mk 1:2-3).

Harry Dudley, the archdiocese’s associate executive director of faith formation, said, “God’s voice is in the sounds of silence and in the prophetic words to those who speak the social justice message.”

God’s voice can also be heard in nature, God’s creation. Bernadette Paradise, the archdiocese’s associate director of schools and urban education, said, “God’s voice sounds like the waves on the beach; it’s something larger than we are.”

Perhaps what we hear is the small voice of God, a gentle whisper reminiscent of the murmuring voice of the forest or like the voice of our conscience. Or maybe it is the voice of the Holy Spirit saying, “Lord, whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (Is 6:8).

Our Catholic Church is a voice that echoes what we have heard. We sing. To praise God, we lift our voices and hear the retelling of the story.

Five-year old Nicolas Ford at St. Andrew/St. Rita Academy said, “God’s voice is like a chorus!”

St. Thomas student Ciaran McQuiston said, “If love had a voice, it would sound like God.”
Classmate Aniah Baxter agreed. “God’s voice sounds like Jesus,” the voice of love, who said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27). †


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