Your Feedback: Preaching

What advice would you give on how to become a better preacher?

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Before we can preach to others we must preach to ourselves. Let your preaching be the result of your own reflection upon what you have learned through your own prayer. Make sure you can summarize in one short line the message you want the people to take home with them.
Father Andrew P. Carrozza
Yonkers, New York


Be humble. Ask the Holy Spirit what message he wants his people to hear. Be faithful to prayer, especially meditation, centering prayer and lectio divina. Be well-rounded — read a variety of spiritual books. Be spiritual — people don’t want to be impressed with your knowledge; people want to be inspired by Jesus through your journey with him.
Father Paul Bonacci
Rochester, New York


Be able to tell me the point of your homily in one sentence. Follow the advice laid out by the bishops in “Fulfilled in Your Hearing.” Make it personal — share something of yourself or your journey. Base it off the Scriptures of the day. Make it relevant to the lives of the congregation. If my homily ever fails, it is because I violated one of the above rules.
Father Michael Haag
Carlinville, Illinois


Make it personal. Draw on your own faith journey and how you are affected by the Scriptures as you read them, then share with others how to live as Christ calls us.
Father Joseph Cervero
Redding Ridge, Connecticut


What you say is less important than how you say it. What you say is important, but if the people do not hear it, it is wasted. You could have a homily that would awe and inspire St. Augustine with its content, but if your delivery is dry and lifeless, you may as well be speaking to yourself. If you cannot get excited about the Good News, how can you expect your parishioners to get excited?
Father Sean Bonner
Wayne, Michigan


The word of God is living, and we must recognize it as such. We must pray and call on the Holy Spirit to listen to what God is saying to us in his living word as it speaks to us, as it speaks to the community and what is happening around us. We must pray not only for the insight of listening to his word, but we also must pray that God use us to deliver his living word with passion.
Father Sylvester Peterka


Always remember that even with all our preparation the Holy Spirit will not only guide, but has a message to deliver. To personally engage the people is crucial. Limit the number of points to be made. The main point should be mentioned at least three times and done so in three different ways, so it is reinforced.
Father Bill John Melancon
St. Martinville, Louisiana


I think it’s important for the preacher to develop his contemplative side. The late Abbot Thomas Keating of Centering Prayer fame through his books helped me to know that God is always present within me and always loving me no matter what. The late cartoonist Johnny Hart wrote the comic strip “B.C.” in which he would often give an interesting definition to a word. Once the word was “Rev-elation,” and he defined it as “when the preacher is filled with the joy of the Lord.” Abbot Keating’s insights have led me to that joy, which is reflected in my preaching.
Father Jim Benz
St. Charles, Missouri


Preach the Word of God and always preach it from the heart. Keep it real for yourself and for them. Looking out into the congregation, always think: “What are these good people going through in their lives? What is their situation in life? How can I break open God’s love for them? God’s hopes for them? God’s words for them? And do it in a way that they can understand!” Do not ever try to impress anyone with how much you know. Do not feel compelled to explain the origins of the text in the original language unless it’s very pertinent to your point — nobody cares. Yes, prepare — don’t ramble. Be on fire for the ministry of preaching, and above all, be real and keep it real.
Father Steve Ryan, SDB
Stony Point, New York


Find some space to just sit and breathe as you study, pray and reflect over your resources for preaching. Take time to allow your ideas, inspirations and prayer to simply soak in a little. Ask for God’s Spirit to be with you.
Father J.P. Forte, OP
Tucson, Arizona


Reflect, share and love! First reflect on the word yourself. How is God speaking to you? Share the word — not your opinion — and let them know of your love. Know the difference between being a scholar of the word and sharing the word in a dynamic way. Call your brothers and sisters to dynamic discipleship.
Father John Henderson
Tigard, Oregon


What I find most effective is speaking the truth and using a number of different sources to substantiate. For example, people like to hear stories — personal or other — that is not just added in the beginning or end but is used throughout. Then also use quotes from Church documents, the Catechism and more. A homily that is all theology does not work most of the time. I never plan to use jokes, but a sense of humor lightly added into the content also is effective.
Father Steve Mondiek
Anna, Ohio


Preach the message of the Scriptures as they present themselves. The word is living and active. Use concrete images or brief stories to illustrate as Jesus did. You don’t have to preach on all three readings at once — maybe the Gospel alone with a brief mention of the first reading. Be careful of humor and telling jokes. If humor is used when appropriate, make it somewhat self-deprecating or a humorous everyday event from your life. Recognize that you are not preaching to seminarians, theologians or Scripture scholars but to hard-working people who are doing the best they can to live Christian lives. The more learned ones would not be offended by simplicity if it is used properly. Remember, it’s not about you but about seeking a deeper relationship with Christ in his Church. Relax, be human and vulnerable if necessary. People want us to be human but also men of holy integrity — not above them but with them. Be Christ walking with and feeding his people, not Moses on the mountain.
Father Timothy Mockaitis
Salem, Oregon


My advice would be to read, study and meditate on the Scripture. Then prepare a homily with notes and/or a text. Keep the homily to be 8-10 minutes. Shorter is better. Our people want to hear the message, not opinions.
Father William Franken
Aberdeen, Maryland


Pray first. Humility! It’s about Christ, not you. A little exegesis goes a long way; have some clear idea you want to convey. Answer clearly, “What did Father talk about?” Be substantive. Be topical. Be specific, not generic. Complex ideas can be expressed clearly, but that takes more work. Don’t fear hot topics; yet they take even more work. Be well-read and informed, while always aiming for eternity. Craft your message not for a group but for individuals. Seek out people who will give candid, pointed feedback. Learn and adapt others’ styles; yet genuineness is the best eloquence.
Father Martin Fox
Russia, Ohio


If it relates to the Mass readings of the day, I begin with a hook — a story that invites the listener’s attention. Appropriate humor helps — again, as long as there is a tie in with the readings; no jokes just for the sake of telling jokes. Personal experiences of my spiritual journey show how the readings relate to and impact my personal life and direct my faith journey. Good exegesis and sound application of the readings help bring the message home.
Father Nick Zukowski
Warren, Michigan


The preaching must be:
1. Engaging: People’s interest must be piqued so that they listen.
2. Comprehensible: They have to understand what they are listening to.
3. Memorable: They must recall at later times what they heard.
4. Useful: They must find a way that what they heard can be used in their daily lives.
5. Authentic to the preacher: To quote Fulton Sheen: “Don’t meditate in order to preach; preach your meditations.”
Father Lou Vallone
McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania


We need to begin our messages — preaching, announcements and teaching — with a clear statement of how this message concerns our relationship with God, and then we can tie that to our love for the Church (his body) and the Catholic faith (his gift to feed, enrich and guide). For many in the parishes, most visitors and those somewhat active or inactive Catholics do not see the connection of the Church (just an institution) and the Faith (just your personal belief) with the eternal truth, goodness and beauty of God. We must begin with the person of God.
Father Kurtis Gunwall
Mooreton, North Dakota


Begin your homily preparation the Sunday evening prior to the next Sunday. Use a portion of your daily prayer time for lectio divine on the Sunday Gospel. Meet with your fellow priests early in the week to discuss plan for what we want the congregation to know and what we are going to ask them to act on for the week. Apply an important news story that is on the congregation’s mind and applies to the Gospel message.
Father Greg Schlarb
Scottsdale, Arizona


Good preaching is hard work, takes a serious commitment of time and a lot of prayer and inspiration from the Holy Spirit. If a homilist can summarize his homily in a few words, then the homily will be on target and won’t have extraneous points. Say what needs to be said and then sit down.
Father Fred Valone
Huntsville, Texas


I use a few resources, but primarily I use lectio divina principles. What is the Lord saying to me in these readings? How is he calling me to grow? I don’t think I am so very different from the rest of my congregation; I am all too aware of my failings and limitations. If the Lord is calling me to conversion or growth in some are, maybe others in the pews can benefit from the same call.
Msgr. Thomas Costa
Amityville, New York


Prepare by reviewing the readings and a good commentary that opens the readings. Move from behind the ambo. Pray that the Holy Spirit will feed the lambs and sheep through you. Review the culture of the peoples at the time of Christ. Review a few commentaries on the readings and let the material roll through your mind.
Father Richard Perko
Yulee, Florida


My main advice is to make sure that what you are saying means something to you. If what you’re saying doesn’t touch your heart, why expect it touch the hearts of the people to whom you’re preaching? Preaching isn’t an intellectual endeavor; it’s about connecting people and their lives to the Scriptures. It’s an act of the heart more than the mind.
Father Brian Saylor
Altoona, Pennsylvania


A homily should be written with the end in mind. Most preachers have a decent beginning, and the body of their homily is fine, but they often don’t know how to jump off. When that happens, they sound unprepared. If you have a firm idea about where you are headed, there is a movement from where we started to where we ended, modeling the conversion process.
Father Kevin Schmittgens
Washington, Missouri


Cultivate a deep prayer life and watch the congregation to see if they are listening. Pay careful attention to what is going on in the news. If you ask how was the sermon, few people will really tell you the truth.
Father Vincent Euk
Howell, New Jersey


Remember first and always we are God’s instruments, so take on the mind of Christ. Love the ones to whom you preach; this requires that you know them. Ask, “Who needs to hear what I say? Am I talking to myself only, the saved only?” Encourage if you challenge; show your own weakness and vulnerability and suggest how to let grace bring new life. Lighten up — humor helps. Be sincere — serious if you must, but always sincere. Prepare do the work, and part of this work is being holy with God’s grace.
Father Jim Cormack, CM
St. Louis

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