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Tradition and Preaching: Back to the Future

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Dec 13, 2012

One of the tasks of the USCCB’s November meeting was to review and approve the American bishops’ first statement on preaching in some 30 years. It was approved by an overwhelming 227 to 11 vote, with only 4 abstentions. The original English text of this 54-page document will be published as soon as the Spanish translation is completed.

But Adoremus received permission to publish a few excerpts in its latest Bulletin. The excerpt which struck me most forcibly, given the lack of concern for Catholic continuity which characterized much of the Church in the West in 1982 when the last statement was published, was this one on the preacher as a “Man of Tradition”:

Along with a profound love of the Scriptures, the homilist should also have knowledge of and religious adherence to the Church’s Sacred Tradition and its essential link to Scripture. From the perspective of Catholic faith, the one Word of God is expressed both in Scripture and in the Church’s Tradition. Blessed John Henry Newman said that the teaching of the Bible is like a seed, which has gradually unfolded across space and through time. Theology, spirituality, the liturgy, the lives of the saints, the formal teaching of the Church, great Catholic art, architecture, and poetry—all of these constitute the unfolding of the Word of God within our Catholic heritage. Tradition along with Scripture, therefore, is an important source from which preachers can draw inspiration.

This particular passage does not seek to clarify the relationship of Tradition as a source of Revelation with traditions which develop as Christians live and implement their Faith in specific cultural contexts, both of which combine to from our Catholic heritage. But it is an excellent reminder for preachers to draw their inspiration not from the latest theories but from those traditions which have developed in harmony with Tradition, Scripture and the Magisterium, and which have become part of our heritage because they have stood the test of time.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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