Communication is vital in any relationship. But we often associate it with just expressing our perspective. We might be inclined to leave out the listening part which helps us in effective dialogue.
When I was a Communication student, we were taught the SMCRE Model. Using this model in the area of Church Communication would result in: S for Sender which would be the Church in our case; M would pertain to the Message, and in our example, it is the use of natural family planning instead of artificial birth control; C would be the Channel by which the teachings are delivered; R would be the Receiver, the Catholic families; E would be the Effect: would Catholics willingly and with conviction obey these teachings?
The teachings of the Church have been thoroughly examined by the Magisterium. However, our main goal is to lead Catholics into a genuine love relationship with the Holy Trinity and to let them experience the fullness of this union. Listening in this case entails having a deep understanding of their circumstances and concerns.
The Philippine Commission on Population and Development showed that in 2017, 54.30 % of Filipinos used any method of contraception. To listen more keenly means to look closely at current situations and conditions of Filipino families, and to tailor communication approaches to them. For example, how could the Church explain more clearly to Overseas Filipino Workers’ spouses the use of Natural Family Planning Method if a spouse comes home for a limited time during the holidays?
Listening involves initiating more feedback methods and surveys on the part of the Church. Catholics and non-Catholics, whom we evangelize too, are experiencing distinct life situations and would also want to be understood. This involves acknowledging these needs in these times, and discerning what could and could not be changed in the evangelization activity of the Church. The outcome would be a Church which does not simply impose teachings but a Church which is more open, affluent, and can lead people to practice their faith wholeheartedly.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle stressed on December 10, 2019 during the blessing of the Veritas Asia Institute of Social Communications: “Evangelization is communication. God is a God who communicates, who dialogues. But He is also a God who listens.” According to him, essential is “the spirituality of listening, to God, to neighbors and to the signs of the times…” A listening Church is needed, a Church which listens to God, to neighbors and to the signs of the times.