FIYH 94-96: Drafting

The preparing preacher gets serious; time to pull the ideas from prayer and reflection and start making them incarnate:

[94] A time for writing should be scheduled at least two days before the preaching of the homily in order to provide ample time for alterations. Knowing that there will be opportunity to rework the homily will do much to save us from writer’s block. At this stage we need not be concerned with matters of style, or even with making sure that the homily is tightly reasoned and well constructed. The point is simply to begin getting ideas down on paper so that we will have something to work with.

Even in the computer age, this hand-writing stage is important. Unless a typist chooses a data-input format that retains discarded text, one can lose quite a bit in the writing. I still compose hymn texts by hand, just to compare and see lines used with earlier ideas. There is also a certain discipline to committing all of one’s preached text to paper via the hand.

[95] It is quite possible that we will come to this stage of preparation still not having any idea -any new and fresh idea, that is-of what we are going to say. We may simply feel empty and without inspiration. Begin writing anyway, for the very act of writing often unleashes a flow of ideas that will be new, fresh, and exciting. It is often at this point of initial writing that the difficult text suddenly opens up its meaning and provides a new, a richer understanding of how God is present in our lives. At this point, too, the two readings which had seemed so totally unrelated may suddenly come together and illuminate one another. When something like this happens (sometimes referred to as the moment of insight, or the “aha” experience), we may well have the central idea for our homily.

The bishops suggest not even crossing out words or phrases. More writer manuals suggest the same: in the early draft just let everything hang out. It is a great discipline to allow oneself to let go like this.

[96] So, at this point, simply write. Jot down words, phrases, unrelated sentences. Think of sketching the homily, or of working on an outline, rather than writing out a text. In fact, it is better not to put the ideas in too fixed a form at this point, for we may find that it then becomes difficult to alter them. Don’t stop to think of the best way to say something; don’t go back and cross out words and phrases because they don’t sound right. There is time for that later. Let the pen or the typewriter simply go, even though we are sure that we will not use anything we are putting down on paper. The very act of writing is a way of calling to the surface the ideas and the words that will in fact be the stuff of which our homilies are made.

(All texts from Fulfilled in Your Hearing are copyright © 1982 USCCB. All rights reserved. Used with permission.)

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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