14 September 2009

Why so muddled?

Reading back over Sunday's homily, I am struck by just how muddled it is. It took me a while to figure out that problem.

Quite apart from the fact that it is about three homilies in one, there is no voice to it. I'm not speaking to anyone. There is no audience for it, meaning I didn't compose the thing for a particular audience, a specific congregation. Even when I compose homilies that I never preach, there's an audience listening "behind the computer," or so I imagine.

Having been away from Normal Catholics (!) for so long, I can't hear you listening! :-) It's amazing how vital a component the audience really is to preaching.

What does having a clear audience in mind do for the preacher?

1). Real people have real problems that the gospel addresses.

2). Knowing that a homily will be heard by these people forces the preacher to deal with these problems.

3). Dealing with problems means clearly addressing the root of the problem and exposing folks to what the gospel says about a possible solution.

4). And even when there seems to be no pressing problems, there is always the need to encourage, inspire, teach, and maybe even admonish (just a little)--the preacher included.

5). For the preacher, having an audience clearly in mind also forces him to consider his own spiritual condition, his own state of grace before daring to open the Word to others.

6). Also, the preacher must be open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit that moves through and with the whole Church. Every time I have tried to bend a homily to my will, it has failed. And so have I.

So, yesterday's homily was me preaching to me. I wonder what I learned? :-)


  1. lois in Indy12:37 PM

    Father, I like your 3-in-1 homily that you don't like. I am often confused or stymied by your homilies. Have wanted to try to explain this to you before and may still not be able to do it and it may not even be worthwhile to try because most of your readers get what you mean in them. I think, for me, when you wrap them up like you prefer to do you just go over my head. This one gave me room to explore on my own at my level. This comment from me may have no value to you whatsoever and I don't mean to be critical so please do not take offense. Thanks for writing your homilies and trying to bring us close to God. lois

  2. well, I've showed up and am sitting here.....when're ya gonna start preaching? ;-)

  3. Lois, please, never think you are not qualified to offer an opinion on my homilies. If I'm not making sense to you, PLEASE tell me. That is the whole point of this blog. Because of readers' critiques in the past in four years I have changed preaching styles many times. If I'm not communicating, I'm not preaching.

    By telling me that you have been stymied by some of my homilies, you are doing exactly the right thing!

    Many thanks and God bless.