woe unto me if I preach not

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 08, 2007

The Church Times has an article on a new guide, issued with a view to improving homiletic effectiveness, published by a body that calls itself the College of Preachers. Discouraging. Few churchgoers would deny that preaching can stand improvement, but most of us would argue that the problem is not in the delivery, but in the fact that the preacher has absolutely nothing to say. That makes the emphasis on Rotarian-style "effectiveness" and communication skills all the more beside the point.

Preachers should be open to discussion of their sermons, and should check with experts in their community when referring to technical subjects outside their expertise, a brief guide issued by the College of Preachers suggests. ... Paul Jones, director of the College of Preachers, said on Monday: "For serious-minded preachers who want to test the effectiveness of their sermons, the only way is to ask. Churchgoers should be able to discuss with the preacher the sermon --

In part, that's what blogs are for, Doctor Jones.

-- otherwise it can be words left hanging in the air. The sermon is a dialogue. If the sermon has technical content, say, on climate change or genetic engineering, it would be good to pick up information from experts in the congregation."

If the sermon has technical content on climate change or genetic engineering, the preacher should be beaten (moderately, with a view to brotherly correction) and a Christian desirous of strengthening the Faith should be installed in his place.

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org 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 15 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - May. 10, 2007 1:36 PM ET USA

    Amen, Diogenes, Amen.

  • Posted by: - May. 10, 2007 6:21 AM ET USA

    Yes, “the preacher has absolutely nothing to say” – because he won’t say the absolutely something that must be said: “Any of you in the congregation who are engaged in masturbation of any kind -- solo masturbation by the unmarried and mutual masturbation (contraception) by the married are the two most common forms -- must not receive communion because objectively you are in the state of mortal sin. You must go to confession before receiving communion." Nothing else counts.

  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2007 10:33 PM ET USA

    It’s not that simple. It would be nice, and make things more effective, if the congregation would have read the readings BEFORE they came to church (late). And I suppose it is asking too much that the pew people aren't mired in sin so they could be open to Grace. The homily isn't the only place to be fed - read something good from the patristic fathers, why don't you? Sometimes I think we get what we deserve.

  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2007 1:36 PM ET USA

    I'd also appreciate it if Father would skip the cordless mike and resist the wandering up-close-and-personal in-front-of-the-altar nightclub act!

  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2007 1:34 AM ET USA

    The priests too often fall into a regurgitation of the gospel-word for word. The congregation does not need to hear it a second time. Rather, some specific examples of how to apply what Christ teaches would be appropriate. These examples should fit the modern life's mode. Most importantly the homilist should remember: After ten minutes, "No souls are saved!"

  • Posted by: - May. 09, 2007 12:47 AM ET USA

    St Francis did NOT say "preach always..etc" (He also did not write the 'peace prayer') He was a deacon and preached with words. He also preached this, which was put into a letter to the Faithful that he hoped every Christian would read, here in part with a prayer : http://www.vatican.va/spirit/documents/spirit_20020127_lettera-fedeli_en.html Here in full with others: http://www.franciscan-archive.org/patriarcha/opera/letters.html Would that clerics today read their letter & ponder deep.

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2007 6:35 PM ET USA

    The Preacher's JOB is to TEACH the congregation HOW to live their lives as St. Francis declares. The good saint is not referring to priestly duties, but to our duties as Christians. We are all sorely in need of instruction, and at times correction. It is the purpose of having a shepherd to keep us from going astray. He does not have to tell us about the current football statistics, or feed the con game on global warming, or extoll the wonders of scientists playing god.

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2007 5:23 PM ET USA

    Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Live what you teach. You know, the Gospels are pretty tough. Do we preach them?

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2007 4:20 PM ET USA

    At the risk of repeating myself, I wish I could live in a parish whose pastor (or other priests) read CWN and Sound Off. My Universalist Holy Ghost fathers preach the Gospel of I'm OK, You're OK. Except, of course, for the one whose idea of a homily is to re-read the day's Gospel, verbatim, but the second time with pauses.

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2007 2:52 PM ET USA

    I'm sorry, but the homily is not a dialogue; it's a Spirit-led message of truth, which is meant to comfort the disturbed and to disturb the comfortable. It should be where the scriptures meet real life, and should have a take home message that causes the listener to ponder, reflect, and then act. It most certainly is NOT to be entertainment, or a fluff-fest. I preach the truth in love, faithful to God's Word and the Magisterium...and let the chips fall where they may!

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2007 12:08 PM ET USA

    Granted, technical content is (usually) inappropriate, but woe to me if I were NOT to preach on the evils of the ongoing genetic engineering of human beings (e.g. cloning, embryonic stem cell research, etc.), and woe to me if I were NOT to preach on other topics of public interest from an orthodox Catholic point of view! Climate change, on the other hand, is largely the hoo-haw and claptrap of uninformed do-gooders.

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2007 11:50 AM ET USA

    Perhaps a clarification... (I would not want us all to become Carthusians) You live the "life" first... THEN you speak... if you do not live it... you have nothing to say... "Let every man carefully examine himself... to see if he is in the faith..." St Paul

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2007 11:15 AM ET USA

    Preach the Gospel and stay within Church Canons. We get too much touchy feely good time sermons which do nothing to instruct or foster Catholicism.

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2007 10:53 AM ET USA

    With all due respect, that phrase attributed to St. Francis has become abused. Preaching "with words" is an integral part of our mission, indeed, of the Church's mission. It should not be something extraordinary or unusual. Preachers would have something to say if they looked to God in prayer.

  • Posted by: - May. 08, 2007 10:33 AM ET USA

    "Preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words..." St Francis of Assisi...