More on stones & bread

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 04, 2004

Prof. John Finnis offered some remarks on preaching as obiter dicta in an outstanding address on Thomas More, reprinted in AD 2000.

The present crisis of faith and morals, like the crisis in More's time, centres on the clergy, their formation, their esprit de corps, their preaching. When did I last hear a sermon which tried to explicate, vindicate or make real the factual truthfulness of what they commonly and misleadingly call the "stories" of the Gospel? Or which explicated the appointed scriptural readings by putting us in the presence of the meditations and explanations of one or more of the Fathers, or by showing us the interpretation of that text in the Councils? Or indeed which expounded for us a sentence, let alone a paragraph or a page or a chapter, of any of the constitutions of Vatican II, a Council which simply has never been preached and which remains substantially unread even by many quite learned clerics. Anyone who today would like to learn from Thomas More could do no better than to read and re-read (ideally with the texts cited in its precise footnotes) the 20 pages of Vatican II's Dogmatic Constitution Dei Verbum on Divine Revelation, unprejudiced by the misleading claims of those, far or near, who invite you to be less impressed by the text then by its differences (which they hugely exaggerate) from earlier drafts.

Finnis's last point may raise a few eyebrows, but he's right. Take a gander at Dei Verbum or Lumen Gentium -- or Sacrosanctum Concilium, for that matter -- and ask yourself if resembles anything you've ever heard from the pulpit.

Feel free to continue the discussion about what makes a good homily (and a bad one) in the comments boxes. Perhaps a seminarian will be listening in.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Fr. William - Jun. 08, 2004 3:29 PM ET USA

    Thanks, again, Diogenes. Thank you, too, Prof. Finnis. Good ammo for us priests in the trenches of the spiritual combat, one that is sometimes waged with our own brother priests and bishops. Homilists: tell the Truth with Charity about Jesus and His Church. Go directly to the Holy Bible, the Catechism, the Documents of Vatican II and I, and to the Church Fathers. Quote them. Paraphrase them. Be a witness to the Truth, Mercy and Love of Christ Jesus, the Only Savior of the world.

  • Posted by: Gertrude - Jun. 06, 2004 1:09 PM ET USA

    Hummmm, a good homily. Perhaps one that doesn't equate our emotions and the events of our lives with what Jesus Christ makes known to us in the Bible. That if we love Him, we must want to know Him. This knowledge can only imparted by the Holy Spirit as we immerse ourselves in the Bible, Church documents, writing by the Chuch Fathers, and above all else in prayer! NOT by looking at ourselves and our culture and trying to fathom the universe! I am so sick of emotionalism!

  • Posted by: Stonewall - Jun. 05, 2004 10:31 AM ET USA

    Years ago a pastor in Riverside, CA held weekly classes in which he taught from Vatican II documents. There was virtually nothing in those documents that would account for the changes that have been made in the Church or the Mass since 1965.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 04, 2004 3:57 PM ET USA

    Homework assignment for seminarians: Read Josef Pieper's Cardinal Virtues -- the chapter called the Virtue of Wrath. Once complete, please craft a homily that explains how getting angry is not of itself an objective moral evil, how it doesn't contradict the Sermon on the Mount, and how it convicts recalcitrant Bishops who shroud their lack of fortitude in the false light of luv. Vae victis.