“How Not to Preach”

columbus ohio amboFr. John J. Conley, S.J., of Loyola University Maryland offered a tongue-in-cheek reflection over at America earlier this week on what has become a popular topic, “how not to preach.” Conley points to Pope Francis’ exhortation, Joy of the Gospel, and the much anticipated document from the Congregation for Divine Worship, a Directory on Preaching. 

Following a number of stories of preaching gone awry, Conley offers this advice for those who will take to the pulpit this weekend:

First, fall in love with God’s word in Scripture. Let the great hymn of creation, fall and redemption become your personal theme song. Walk around in the Bible. Pitch your tent in it. If possible, learn biblical Hebrew and Greek. You are giving your congregation a word of hope that no government and no psychological technique can provide, because it is a hope rooted in Christ’s conquest of sin and death itself.

Second, love the people addressed by your sermon. A distinguished Protestant preacher once remarked that he began each week with an hour in his church. He walked up and down the aisle, imagining the various parishioners he would see on a typical Sunday. He asked God to show him how the sermon he was preparing could actually meet their particular needs and questions. It is in the persevering study of God’s word and in this loving intercession for one’s listeners that the Holy Spirit really begins to teach us how to preach.

Conley’s full column is available here.

One comment

  1. While I feel the homily is of utmost importance, I also feel it should not be considered as unconnected or unrelated with the rest of the liturgy. The various orations, prefaces (especially for feasts and ritual Masses) and Eucharistic prayers all proclaim an aspect of “the mystery of faith” and, I feel, should be considered as mutually complementary to the homily. Too often the prescribed texts of the Mass are simply considered “words we gotta say” and given little heed when, in fact, they say a great deal. Perhaps if those prescribed prayers were prayed aloud by the priest with the same intention of trying to communicate something as in the homily, the entire liturgy could end up greatly enhanced… and loved.

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