“Preachers should be aware of what their people are watching on television…”

Details, from CNS via the Catholic Review:

 “My dad used to say, ‘I know what happened 2,000 years ago. I need to know how to live my life today.’”

These words, from Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, get to the heart of a new proposed document on preaching to be considered by the U.S. bishops at the fall general meeting in November.

The document, “Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily,” encourages preachers to connect the Sunday homily with people’s daily lives.

Archbishop Carlson, as head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, shepherded the writing of the document, which he said had reviews by eight other USCCB committees. “Everyone gets a chance to put their oar in the water. That’s what makes it a better document,” he told Catholic News Service in an Oct. 18 telephone interview from St. Louis.

Although the full text of the proposed document has not yet been made public, an Oct. 10 USCCB press release highlighted excerpts from it.

“The homily is intended to establish a ‘dialogue’ between the sacred biblical text and the Christian life of the hearer,” the proposed document says.

“Preachers should be aware, in an appropriate way, of what their people are watching on television, what kind of music they are listening to, which websites they find appealing, and which films they find compelling,” it adds. “References to the most popular cultural expressions — which at times can be surprisingly replete with religious motifs — can be an effective way to engage the interest of those on the edge of faith.”

It has been 30 years since the bishops last addressed preaching, in a document called “Fulfilled in Your Hearing.” Archbishop Carlson said the intent to write a new document first surfaced six years ago, although the work of drafting “Preaching the Mystery of Faith” took place over the past year and a half. New traction on the document after Pope Benedict XVI issued the apostolic exhortation “Verbum Domini” (“The Word of the Lord”) two years ago, and “Preaching the Mystery of Faith,” the archbishop said, is rooted in “Verbum Domini.”

With so much time between documents, “I think we really had to take a look at preaching in this country and to the students in the seminary who are preparing to become priests,” Archbishop Carlson said, adding bishops were concerned over “the whole question of catechetical preaching.”

“Following the Second Vatican Council and ‘Fulfilled in Your Hearing,’ there is a whole focus on being faithful to the Scripture. At the same time we have to pass on the deposit of the faith,” he said.

Catholics in the pews, according to Archbishop Carlson, deliver a mixed verdict on the effectiveness of their own preachers. “There are places where the preaching is considered excellent,” he said, and there are others who “wish their homilies were not presented better necessarily, but (that) they were more in touch with their lives.”

Read it all.  

Conspicuously absent from this discussion: deacons and diaconal preaching.


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