A few weeks ago I attended a speech by nascent Catholic celebrity Michael Voris at Holy Child church. Mr. Voris started a Catholic media company in 2008 and has recently begun to garner a lot of attention on the internet for his uncompromising orthodoxy and hard-hitting reporting on Catholic issues. Mr. Voris is a 48 year old Notre Dame graduate, a one time seminarian, and a former Emmy award-winning news anchor. At least that's what he's told us.
I have no reason to distrust him, but I'm finding it increasingly odd that I have not been able to find one single piece of independent information about this man on the internet, except for what he himself has revealed. And all of the various websites that rave about him are simply repeating the facts he's provided in his own biography and interviews. I have no solid reason to be suspicious, but I'd like to know a bit more about the man before I'm comfortable seeing him elevated to the position of orthodox Catholicism's public face in America. Where was he born? Who are his parents? Where did he go to school? Why did he leave seminary? Is he now or was was he ever married? Does he have children? Are there any skeletons in his closet that could potentially embarrass the Church and the faithful should they be revealed?
Barring my unease over how little we know about him, I really like the guy. He's a powerful and dynamic speaker, he's zealous and intelligent. So I was eager to hear him in person.
There were a lot of people at the church, although it was by no means full. It might have helped if it were advertised a bit more. The announcement I received said that he was speaking at 7:30, but the Stations of the Cross were just beginning at that time. I didn't mind. The Stations are always spiritually salutary. I'd never seen a priest just stand at the altar and recite the prayers though. Usually, they make the little pilgrimage to each station along the wall. I was disappointed at that. Anyway, Voris came on the stage at 8 and was introduced by the parish pastor.
His theme was "Christ and Caesar" or something to that effect. He spent too much time, in my opinion, merely reiterating the Gospel stories which we all know, but the speech was ultimately a rousing success. His peroration was especially fantastic. He said things that need to be said from Catholic pulpits over and over again, but never are. He basically told us how we need to suffer for the Faith, because there is no value in any other life than one in which we take up our Cross and follow Him. We need to be proud of our Catholicism and publicly witness to it, despite the repercussions. It was an excellent speech.
It made me feel ambivalent though. It was kind of odd to see a layman up there preaching the Gospel from the altar, with a priest sitting meekly in the first row. It made me sad that the clergy has so abdicated their responsibility to preach the Gospel with the power of the Spirit that we need a layman to get up there and give us spiritual meat. I for one have never in my entire life heard a priest speak with such passion and inspiration. I'm sure it was a novel experience for most of the people there as well. Still, I couldn't help feeling ashamed for the Church that a layman from Michigan had to come all the way to Staten Island, NY so we could be inspired with the Gospel message. This parish has multiple priests in residence. Why aren't they giving lectures and inspirational sermons on Friday nights? Why aren't they evangelizing? Why aren't they tending to the spiritual needs of the flock? Why did they need to bring in Michael Voris? (no offense to him).
One last thing- in keeping with Catholic tradition of audio ineptitude, the sound system completely failed at one point, but luckily it was only about 2 minutes before the end of his speech.