FIYH 7: Thinking in Lay Terms

The US bishops ponder the recognition that the baptized are the People of God. They criticize the lone ranger approach as they acknowledge the shift in understanding since the 1960’s will of necessity require changes in the preaching approach of the clergy:

[7] Obviously the development we are speaking of is not uniform. But it is clear that the parish in which the priest acts in an arbitrary manner, in which virtually all active ministry-liturgical, educational, and social-is in the hands of the clergy and religious, and in which the laity do little more than attend Mass and receive the sacraments, is no longer the norm. Such a drastic change in the practices and self-consciousness of the Catholic congregation is bound to have significant consequences for the content and style of preaching that takes place in the Sunday Eucharistic assembly.

Many homilists continue preaching without regard for the possibility that adults in a parish might indeed be growing and developing in the life of faith. How many homilists, for example, continue to go to the same well to preach Marian doctrines, the Trinity, or Real Presence?

To preach in a way that sounds as if the preacher alone has access to the truth and knows what is best for everyone else, or that gives the impression that there are no unresolved problems or possibility for dialogue, is to preach in a way that. may have been acceptable to those who viewed the church primarily in clerical terms. In a church that thinks and speaks of itself as a pilgrim people, gathered together for worship, witness, and work, such preaching will be heard only with great difficulty, if at all.

What are you reading in FIYH 7 , or in the document so far?
(All texts from Fulfilled in Your Hearing are copyright © 1982 USCCB. All rights reserved. Used with permission.)

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to FIYH 7: Thinking in Lay Terms

  1. Liam says:

    Preaching on “Marian doctrines, the Trinity, or Real Presence” is inconsistent with opening the Word of God for “adults in a parish might indeed be growing and developing in the life of faith”?

    Well, that’s news to me. If anything, it’s more typically a marked avoidance of preaching on such things that marks a hermeneutic of avoidance. Which is not adult, but adolescent.

    Preaching on the social implications of the Gospel call without preaching on those seemingly more doctrinal things is like sowing seed on rocky soil – those doctrinal things provide strong roots for the fruits we seek. And of course vice versa.

    I have very infrequently encountered homilists who preach on doctrine to the exclusion of anything else. But I have too many times to count encountered homilists who strain to avoid doctrine in their preaching.

    The latter group are a far bigger problem, and a reason I believe many parochial social justice apostolates are shakier now than they were before.

    And of course, arbitrary and know-it-all preachers know neither ideological nor clerical/lay boundary.

  2. Todd says:

    Sorry, Liam, I should have written more clearly. I meant the experience of hearing the same homily preached every year, assuming that last time nobody got anything at all.

    On Trinity Sunday, the homilist should preach the Trinity. Just not the same parish, same homily, different year.

  3. Liam says:

    Ah, yes. The emphasis was intended to be on “same well” not on doctrines. Got it.

    And that I agree. Though some homilies wear well – nay, improve – on repetition. In fact, it’s a mark of the highest grade of homilies.

    But such are *rare*.

  4. Liam says:

    Because, as you noted in an earlier post: the homilies are even more what we hear than what the speaker says. Hence, repetition can mark a profound change in *us* even while the speaker appears unchanged, as it were.

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