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Help for Homilists

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Dec 18, 2012

I had never heard of a “homiliary” before one of our colleagues in England, Mark Alder (www.christendom-awake.org), called my attention to the four-volume homiliary for the Roman Liturgy by the Dominican priest, Fr. Aidan Nichols (see my review of his outline of systematic theology, Aidan Nichols: Chalice of God). Entitled Year of the Lord’s Favour, this “homiliary” is a comprehensive guide to doctrinally-based preaching for the entire Church year.

The problem of doctrinal formation for Catholics has long plagued conscientious preachers, who are charged by the Church with using their homilies to apply the message of the liturgy’s Scripture readings to the daily lives of their people. While this approach gains in a certain ad hoc force, of course, it tends to lose in the way of systematic instruction. Fr. Nichols attempts to solve this problem by treating Scripture in the context of the doctrines which define the faith of the Church, within which the Sacred text must be interpreted and applied. For Fr. Nichols, both the Word of God and the liturgy impart their grace more fully through an awareness of their ecclesial dimension.

Given this approach, it is a little unexpected that the first volume of Year of the Lord’s Favour devotes itself to preaching about the lives of the saints, or the “Sanctoral Cycle”. But when you think about it, this is something every preacher must keep in mind, for the Church year consists not only of seasons with their associated readings but of commemorations of the lives of the Church’s saints. The homilist ignores this wealth at his peril.

But after the first volume, Fr. Nichols focuses on the Temporal Cycle. The second volume covers the special seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. The third covers the Sundays throughout the year, and the fourth covers the weekdays.

As useful as all this is, it is even more welcome to see it done by a Dominican—O. P., Ordinis Praedicatorum, the Order of Preachers. Priests and deacons who have been scratching their heads over how to provide solid doctrinal formation in the context of the homily should waste no time in purchasing all four volumes of Year of the Lord’s Favour.

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