The fall meeting of the U.S. Bishops begins today, Nov. 12 in Baltimore. (LINK) An item on the agenda is preaching, and they will consider a new document on preaching (“Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily”) to express their sense of it in the Church in America today. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, head of the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, shepherded the writing of the document. Some highlights of the proposed document that have been released include:
- “The homily is intended to establish a ‘dialogue’ between the sacred biblical text and the Christian life of the hearer,”
- “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,”
- “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.”
The draft of “Preaching the Mystery of Faith” has this: “The ultimate goal of proclaiming the Gospel is to lead people into a loving and intimate relationship with the Lord, a relationship that forms the character of their persons and guides them in living out their faith. … By highlighting his humanity, his poverty, his compassion, his forthrightness, and his suffering and death, an effective homily would show the faithful just how much the Son of God loved them in taking our human flesh upon himself.”
This draft inclusion holds the most promise for me – for homilies that lead to Christ, that bring persons into intimate personal communion with Him, and that encourage and challenge Catholics to faithfully live the truth of Christ. Including, specifically, I hope:
- The sacred right to life for the unborn!
- The intrinsically sacred character of marriage as traditionally understood!
- The crucial importance of the family for persons and for nations!
- The horrific scandal of Catholic politicians who trample upon the truth of the Catholic Faith in their public lives!
- The false, acidic, corrosive and destructive character of most popular entertainment!
Personally, I hear an occasional reference to some of these contemporary burning issues from some Bishops. Rarely do I hear these issues preached with the zeal the issues deserve, and the zeal that lukewarm and sleepy Catholics need to hear that they might be awakened. More often from Bishops, but still not frequently, I have read written teachings that communicate more an academic analysis than a full-throated call to action. When the theater is on fire, whispers are not appropriate. But mostly – mostly – I hear nothing of these matters from the pulpits.
Most of the readers of this blog are in the U.S. Some are in Canada, some the U.K., the Philippines, occasionally a visit from an African nation, and so on. How is the preaching in your parishes, and dioceses? The world is aflame, dear friends, and it is not with the fire of the Holy Spirit! It is not with the fire of Truth! There is a fire spreading, world-wide, that has origins in a place we do not want to go, and is being spread by a destroyer we do not want to meet.
Dear Bishops, do you see the fires of destruction spreading throughout the cultures of the nations of the world, in our time? Do you see the damage already done in the Church, among the people in your flock? Do you realize how confused so many Catholics are, how weak so many are in their grasp of the Faith, how vulnerable so many are to the lies and seductions of the evil one?
There is a fire reaching into all cultures that must be identified, and resisted, and fought with the light and zeal of holy Truth. Warnings must not be whispered, dear Bishops! Warnings must be clear – unambiguous – potent! You, dear Bishops, are called to be the authentic teachers and preachers for Christ and for His life – and you are the shepherds and overseers of your priests. We, the people, are seated before these priests every Sunday at least, and we hear their homilies, we read your writings, and we need to hear the Truth preached and taught with the clarity, the simplicity, the unction and the zeal that it deserves.