loader image

To Listen with the Ears of the Heart

May 24, 2022


Listening with the ears of the heart

Since 1967, the Church has been celebrating World Communications Day, instituted by the Second Vatican Council.

In his message for the 56th World Communications Day, Pope Francis focuses attention on the verb “to listen”, which is decisive in the grammar of communication and a condition for authentic dialogue.

He begins by noting that “we are losing the ability to listen to those in front of us”. While, curiously, “listening is experiencing a new and important development in the field of communication and information, through the various offers of podcasts and audio chat”. This confirms that “listening remains essential to human communication”.

In three short sections he gives us his thoughts and his message. Is it only for communicators? No, that’s why we share it with all of you.

Listening with the ears of the heart

In the biblical pages we learn that listening is essentially linked to the dialogical relationship between God and humanity. Of the five senses, it seems that the one privileged by God is precisely hearing, perhaps because it is less invasive, more discreet than sight, and therefore leaves the human being freer.

Listening corresponds to God’s humble style. God loves human beings: that is why he addresses the Word to them, that is why he “inclines his ear” to listen to them. Listening, in the end, is a dimension of love.

Only by paying attention to who we listen to, what we listen to and how we listen can we grow in the art of communicating, whose core is not a theory or a technique, but the “capacity of the heart that makes proximity possible”. (Exhort. ap. Evangelii gaudium, 171).


Listening as a condition for good communication

There is a use of the ear that is not true listening, but the opposite: eavesdropping and eavesdropping, instrumentalising others for our interest. On the contrary, what makes communication good and fully human is precisely listening to who we have in front of us, face to face, listening to the other to whom we approach with loyal, trusting and honest openness.

Listening is the first and indispensable ingredient of dialogue and good communication. You cannot communicate if you have not first listened, and you cannot do good journalism without the ability to listen.

Listening to more voices, listening to each other, also in the Church, among brothers and sisters, allows us to exercise the art of discernment, which always appears as the ability to orient oneself in the midst of a symphony of voices.

The ability to listen to society is extremely precious in this time wounded by the long pandemic. It is necessary to have an open ear and to listen deeply, especially to the social malaise that has been exacerbated by the decline or cessation of many economic activities. The reality of forced migration is also a complex problem, and no one has a ready recipe to solve it. To overcome prejudices and soften the hardness of our hearts.



Listening to each other in the Church

Also in the Church there is a great need to listen and to listen to each other. It is the most precious and generative gift we can offer one another. We Christians forget that the service of listening has been entrusted to us by the One who is the listener par excellence, in whose work we are called to participate. The Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer thus reminds us that the first service to be rendered to others in communion consists in listening to them. He who does not know how to listen to his brother will soon be unable to listen to God. [1].

Communion is not the result of strategies and programmes, but is built on mutual listening between brothers and sisters.

Conscious of participating in a communion that precedes us and includes us, we can rediscover a symphonic Church, in which each one can sing with his or her own voice, welcoming the voices of others as a gift, in order to manifest the harmony of the whole that the Holy Spirit composes.

Rome, St John Lateran, 24 January 2022, Memorial of St Francis de Sales.



[1] D. Bonhoeffer, Vida en comunidad, Sígueme, Salamanca 2003, 90-91.