Preaching to the Whole Person: Classical Wisdom for the New Evangelization

October 28, 2012

Fr. Michael Dominic O’Connor, O.P., one of the newly ordained priests highlighted in the video “Five Paths to the Priesthood,” has recently published an article online at Homiletic and Pastoral Review about St. Augustine’s theology of preaching. This theology, he argues, has much to offer preachers today and thus a recovery of it will be a great boon for the New Evangelization called for by our Holy Father Pope Benedict.

Preaching to the Whole Person: Classical Wisdom for the New Evangelization

By Fr. Michael Dominic O’Connor, O.P.

Fr. Michael Dominic O’Connor, OP
“Given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved.” Pope Benedict XVI wrote these words in his 2007 Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis. The Holy Father then repeated this admonition in his 2010 Apostolic Exhortation, Verbum Domini, adding: “The art of good preaching…is an art that needs to be cultivated.” This need is all the more pressing as the Church embraces the call and challenge of the New Evangelization. A renewed effort on the part of preachers—to improve the quality of homilies, and to cultivate the art of good preaching—must be central to the work of the New Evangelization. The question is: How is this to be done? How can the art of good preaching be learned and cultivated? This is an age-old question, and there are some age-old answers to this question which, I believe, can serve preachers very well in meeting the challenges of evangelization in our day. St. Augustine is the Church’s foremost teacher in the classical art of Christian preaching, and it is to him that we will turn in order to learn something of the classical wisdom on preaching effectively. This master rhetorician, and former teacher of oratory, was convinced that the pagan rhetorical tradition, which was so important to the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, had great insights to offer Christian preachers about the art of good preaching. We shall explore Augustine’s appropriation of this classical wisdom—first, in his own theory of preaching, and then, in his actual practice—with the hope of discovering that the perennial wisdom contained in Augustine’s theory and practice of preaching can provide a firm foundation for the work of the New Evangelization… Continue reading the article here.

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