FIYH 102-105: Preaching

Practical stuff:

[102] Our emphasis on the importance of writing in the preparation of a homily does not in any way imply that homilies should normally be read. Writing is a means to arrive at good organization, clarity of expression, and concreteness. Whether or not we actually take a manuscript to the pulpit with us will depend on a number of things: the nature of the gathering (very formal or more informal); how familiar we are with our own material; how apprehensive we feel about forgetting something essential.

The “soft” and non-dogmatic documents draw snickers from some Catholics, but most often we see in them a practical side of how Catholicism is lived within a framework of real human lives. Simple things like FIYH 102: don’t read a homily like an automaton, but if you need text to do a good job, by all means, use it.


[103] Sometimes we know what we are going to say so well, and are so enthused about it that a manuscript would only get in the way or distract us. On the other hand, there may be times when we are sure that our message will be clearer and more forceful if we have the text with us. As long as we have something to say; as long as we are saying it, and as long as we establish and maintain rapport with the congregation, we may be able to preach quite effectively from a text.

Even when preaching from a text, a homilist should have great familiarity and comfort with the content.


[104] In general, it is much better to speak from notes or an outline-or without any written aids at all, for such a way of preaching enables us to enter more fully into direct, personal contact with a congregation. If we feel we must take the text with us, be familiar enough with the material so that instead of reading it, we can simply have it present as an aid to our memory.


[105] In preaching, as in all forms of communication, remember that it is the whole person who communicates. Facial expression, the tone of voice, the posture of the body are all powerful factors in determining whether a congregation will be receptive to what we have to say. If, as we preach, we remember that in carrying out this ministry we are showing our love, and God’s for the people, we will more easily avoid a delivery that sounds affected (“churchy”) or impersonal.   

A friend once had a motto posted in her office: relationship is the heart of ministry. It would seem the role of liturgical preacher demands something of a relationship with the assembly. Even a nose-in-the-outline priest can overcome certain weaknesses if the people know the man behind the pages, as it were.

(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.
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