Advice from a saint, praise for a priest, explanation for a practice

13_02_17_alphonsusAccording to the Novus Ordo calendar, today is the Feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori.  In the traditional calendar it falls tomorrow.  He is a Doctor of the Church, whose writings set the Church’s approach to moral theology on a healthy course enduring to this day among the faithful.  I once had the astounding, intimidating privilege of holding in my hands his own manuscript of his Moral Theology, replete with glued in pages and scraps of notes and corrections.  Moreover, his Stations of the Cross, his version is what I will always hear for that devotion, his Manual for Confessors strongly shaped my approach to the sacrament, his Novena Prayer to Our Lady of Perpetual Help formed my earliest sense of truly pious Catholics.

Not long ago I posted about how St. Alphonsus bilocated so he could assist Pope Clement XIV at his death. HERE

Once again, my friend His Hermeneuticalness has posted something helpful today. It is great to have him back in the saddle again and posting frequently.  Fr. Finigan points out something that the saint to preachers.

The “Instructions to Preachers” at the beginning of the book is still of value for priests and can unsettle us today.

It were well that the preacher should sometimes exhort the audience to relate to others what they have heard in the sermon; as by this means it may be made useful even to those who have not heard it.

 If we are handing on the teaching of Christ and His Church, we ought to not to be embarrassed to ask others to pass it on. If we are embarrassed, is that because it is ourselves we are preaching?

Did you get that?  Relate to others what you heard in sermons, because it could be useful to them.

Each week I make a post here called “Your Sunday Sermon Notes”, in which I invite you to post a good point from the sermon you heard.

Why?  Because a) I hope that you will pay close attention and look even for good points in an otherwise humdrum homily and b) because many of the readers out there hardly ever hear a good homily.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. lmgilbert says:

    Father, You write, “a) I hope that you will pay close attention and look even for good points in an otherwise humdrum homily.”

    Like everyone else ( I suppose), I have especially in my earlier years felt free in the car on the way home to critique or even express amusement at aspects of a homily. What a mistake that was! Not only does it not bring down any blessings, but one might find himself all unwittingly undergoing some chastisement. Things were going well, but now they are going badly. If only one had had enough instruction to make the connection between his amused critique and the frowns of Divine Providence.

    This came to a screeching stop on reading a passage from Kierkegaard when he posed the question, when the preacher gives a homily, who is the audience, and who are the performers? His answer made a lot of sense: God is the audience, and the congregation is the performer, for he is looking at us and critiquing how we receive His word.

    This is more vividly true in a Catholic context, where the priest is in the pulpit in persona Christi, so the issue for God is how well we receive the words that come from his Son. To critique the priest is to critique Jesus Christ. Of course, if he is preaching heresy or immorality that is a different matter, for that clearly cannot be either from Christ or pleasing to God. Yet, if he offends our sensibilities or our worldview, is that grounds for complaint, especially complaint preached from the housetops? Neither is there any blessing in that.

    On the positive side, though, I have found in homilies, but especially in priestly advice given in the Confessional, that although the advice may seem to be humdrum, routine, completely irrelevant to the point of being absurd, if I have the humility to act on it (not often enough, I am afraid), the door opens, the obstacle melts away. The key was not at all the wisdom of the priest, for often enough it was something he said parenthetically that was the key. Perhaps, after all, it was that God discovering this chink in my pride that had me listening attentively for a bit, led Him to pour into me what grace He could manage in those brief, humble moments.

    In short, at homilies, in the confessional, “It is the Lord” (John 21:7).

  2. This is one of my favorite books is by this wonderful saint. Once you start reading you can’t stop.
    Free ebook: “Preparation for Death”, by Saint Alphonsus De Liguori

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