FIYH 97-100: Revising

The second of four working stages of homily preparation, revising–it’s a vital one.

[97] The revising stage is one of the most important and the one that is too easily omitted for lack of time. To revise is frequently to cut: the good but extraneous material that surfaced in the jotting down stage of preparation; the technical theological terms and jargony “in” words that creep into our vocabularies; the use of the non-specific “this” or “it” at the beginning of sentences; the moralistic “therefore let us” or “we should” which we so easily resort to in winding up the homily; the references to “he” and “men” when the words are meant to include everyone; the vague generalities that can be replaced with specific incidents or examples.





A preacher should be rightly concerned about the words of communication, but the bishops also say structure is important in addressing a message, holding an assembly’s attention and making maximum use of the ability to format the overall effort:

[98] The time for revising is also the time to arrange the material in the order best suited to gain, and hold, people’s attention and to invite them to a response of faith in God’s Word. In the sketching stage a story may have occurred to us which exemplified perfectly the human situation being addressed by the Word of God. Bring that story up front. Use it as the opening so that people are able to identify with the situation right from the beginning. Beginning the homily with “in today’s Gospel … ” or words to that effect, risks losing the attention of the congregation right at the beginning for they will not have been given any indication of why they should be interested in what was said in today’s Gospel.

Is it always important to have a single unifying idea? The bishops think so:

[99] The time of revising is also the time to make sure that the homily does in fact have a central, unifying idea, and that this idea is clearly stated and repeated throughout the homily. We need not repeat the idea in the same words all the time, but we need to come back to it several times. People will inevitably drift in and out, no matter how good the preacher is. The restatement of the central idea is a way of inviting people back into the homily again if they happen to have been distracted from what we were saying.

Finally, as we look at the task of revision, the bishops ask if the homilist has prepared the way in which the preached material interfaces with the rest of the liturgy, and not just the Scrpture readings proclaimed. This is probably one of the notable emphases in the whole FIYH document. I’ve heard many good preachers through the years, but I don’t often hear the explicit connection to what is to follow in the Eucharistic celebration. Do your parish preachers live up to this?


[100] Finally, the time for revising is the time to make sure that the homily is fashioned not simply as a freestanding talk, but as an integral part of the liturgical action. Does the conclusion in any way lead people into the liturgy that follows? Have we spoken the Word of God in such a way that God has become more present in people’s lives and they are enabled to be drawn more fully into the act of worship for which they have gathered? Remember that a homily is not a talk given on the occasion of a liturgical celebration, but an integral part of the liturgy. Just as a homily flows out of the Scriptures of the liturgy of the Word, so it should flow into the prayers and actions of the liturgy of the Eucharist which follows.


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

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Fulfilled in Your Hearing, Liturgy, USCCB documents. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to FIYH 97-100: Revising

  1. FrMichael says:

    “I’ve heard many good preachers through the years, but I don’t often hear the explicit connection to what is to follow in the Eucharistic celebration. Do your parish preachers live up to this?”

    I have to say that I generally do not live up to this in my preaching, despite seminary training to the contrary and the general desire to do so. When push comes to shove in my homilies, the tie to the Liturgy of the Eucharist generally seems forced and so I drop it from my final homily.

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