Brief Book Review: The Art of Preaching

The Art of Preaching: A Theological and Practical Primer
By Daniel Cardó, SCV

Who should read this? Those interested in a more “patristic” approach to preaching, especially fans of Augustine, and those attuned to the teachings of Benedict XVI on the homiletic art.

Why is this book important? It draws readers into more “classical” approaches to preaching and rhetoric and provides 14 homily or homily excerpts – most pre-20th century – that comprise almost one third of the volume.

What will you (the reader) like the most? The well documented 260 plus footnotes that reveal the architecture of the author’s thought, the deep love of Augustine that pervades the volume, and the surprising turn to TED talks as a source of wisdom for preaching.

What will get you (the reader) thinking? Engaging wisdom and practical advice from other cultures and ancient contexts is always a challenge.  For example, how do the practices and advice drawn from one of our most celebrated theologians, St. Augustine (d. 430), translate into a 21st century digital context? How do we engage our tradition without simply trying to repeat it, which is largely impossible.

Kudos. True to his position as the Pope Benedict XVI Chair for Liturgical Studies at Saint John Vianney Seminary in Denver, the author has shaped a theological and liturgical approach to teaching very much in line with the thought and practices of Pope Benedict, and one of the Pope Emeritus’ favorite theologians, St. Augustine.

Suggestions. While in dialogue with rich patristic sources as well as the thinking of John Eudes (d. 1680), John Henry Newman (d. 1890) and other giants from the past, there seems little inclination to engage the contemporary explosion of writing about preaching, especially after the so called “narrative turn” ushering in the new homiletic in the late 20th century in the United States.  More generosity towards Protestant preachers – theologically characterized here as coming from traditions “bereft of the sacraments” (p. 41) – as well as women preachers and theologians (absent from the volume) might have provided more balance in the writing.  As it stands, this seems a quite sacerdotalized approach to preaching (e.g., linking “consecration” with “proclamation,” p. 39), that downplays the deacon as preacher (p. 38, note 13).

Daniel Cardó, SCV. The Art of Preaching: A Theological and Practical Primer. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2021. 216 + xi pages.  $34.95. ISBN: 9780813234731.

REVIEWER: Ed Foley, O.F.M. Cap.
Duns Scotus Professor Emeritus of Spirituality
Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, Illinois

One comment

  1. I read his book on the role of the cross /crucifix in worship and did not find it very helpful. Some of Augustine’s homilies are terrific Sermos 227, 272, etc..), I wonder if those are some that he uses.

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