‘Remembering Why We Preach’ Is a Self-Guided Retreat

Book seeks to deepen awareness of and response to God’s offer of an intimate, covenant relationship

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I have had the pleasure of meeting both authors of “Remembering Why We Preach” — Dr. Karla J. Bellinger and Father Michael E. Connors, CSC — through the University of Notre Dame Summer Preaching Conferences and the Marten Program in Homiletics and Liturgics. Though fond of both of them, I shall attempt to remain objective. Their collaboration — in full, “Remembering Why We Preach: A Retreat to Renew Your Spirit and Skill” — is less textbook and more a self-guided retreat, diving deeply into the reasons why a preacher preaches. In a single word, that purpose is simply this: encounter.

This book seeks to deepen awareness of and response to God’s offer of an intimate, covenant relationship. If the preacher brings God closer to the hearer and stimulates the response of faith, then the preacher has succeeded. In that sense, this book is a real departure from a how-to homiletics manual in favor of a soul-searching exploration of oneself. Moreover, this book provides discussion and reflection questions at the end of every chapter along with suggestions on new techniques and links for further study and associated videos. It could easily function as a tool for homily prep among members of a parish or a deanery.

What I found most compelling was not necessarily the information the book imparts, but the way it made me feel. It was energizing, and I cannot wait to try some of the authors’ ideas. Consider this quote from the beginning of the book: “We are to be the saints for today, the prophets and the evangelists of our day and age; that is our mission as the baptized. To foster that mission is our call as preachers. It is the reason we preach.”

Perhaps the conclusion offers the most concise summary when the authors say: “Conversion of life comes from falling in love with Jesus. The love relationship that is born from encountering the living God compels us both to be and to act as Christ is and as he acts on our behalf. Preaching that fosters encounter, that builds on that love relationship — that is what we have been driving toward in this retreat.”

It begins and ends with God, but the preacher’s personal encounter and relationship with Jesus is key. It begins with the interior life. Without that relationship, preaching is simply so many words that wash over the hearers and are forgotten by the time they begin to recite the Creed.

This book will put the deacon, or any preacher, back into right relationship with the God who called the deacon to preach in the first place. The techniques introduced in this book will cause the message to “stick” with the hearer, but more importantly will send out the recipient of the message as a “missionary disciple.” In the words of the authors, “The proximate goal of preaching is the experience of meeting God or Jesus, while the ultimate goal is to produce disciples.”

If you have fallen into something of a rut in your preaching, if you are looking for new ways to energize your listeners, if you want to recover the excitement and nervousness of your first homily, then this is the book for you.

DEACON VICTOR PUSCAS is director of diaconate formation for the Diocese of Joliet, Illinois. He holds a D.Min. degree from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

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