Eucharistic Preaching in a Time of Eucharistic Revival

On February 10, Theological College partnered with Catholic University’s School of Theology and Religious Studies to put on the 2024 Preaching Symposium for local diocesan seminarians, religious in priestly formation, and priests. This year’s Symposium followed upon one TC sponsored last year, featuring New York’s Archbishop, Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Theological College was honored that the 2024 Symposium served as the inaugural event for Catholic University’s Fulton J. Sheen Excellence in Preaching Initiative, a funded program ($1.25 million) of the Compelling Preaching Initiative of the Lilly Endowment.

The theme of the 2024 Preaching Symposium was “Eucharistic Preaching in a Time of Eucharistic Revival,” and featured a keynote address by Most Rev. William D. Byrne, bishop of Springfield, Mass. After Mass at TC and breakfast at Catholic University, followed by communal praying of Lauds for the memorial of St. Scholastica, Bishop Byrne gave his remarks. Noting the call for better liturgical preaching in the Catholic Church, Bishop Byrne emphasized the need to return to the fundamentals of sound rhetoric.

First, he exhorted preachers to have a well-defined logos or main point that the congregants can take home with them from the liturgy. In formulating this message, he cautioned those gathered to allow it to flow from one’s own prayer, rather than to try to instrumentalize prayer to manufacture a homily on demand.

Second, he encouraged preachers to pay attention to pathos, which he defined as a rousing call to action that answers how the message chosen makes its way into people’s lives and enables an authentic encounter with Jesus.

Third, Bishop Byrne stressed the importance of ethos or the appeal of the preacher’s character. In order for the preached word to be more living and effective, the preacher must present himself as someone who is believable, trustworthy, and knows the hopes and dreams, the joys and sorrows of his congregation. The preacher in today’s secular culture, he noted, is very much like St. Paul addressing the skeptical Corinthians. Therefore, he must witness to the beauty of the Gospel’s message of mercy and love. In so doing, he may present the kerygma — the saving truth of our faith — with a freshness that perhaps a poorly catechized congregation has never before experienced.

Turning to the specific topic of preaching on the Eucharistic mysteries, Bishop Byrne began by saying that the preacher must himself foster a reverential awe for the great sacrament. The best Eucharistic preacher will be first a Eucharistic adorer himself. Then, he emphasized once more the importance of preaching often on the mercy and love of Jesus for us as a means for preparing a congregation to go deeper into knowing and loving the Lord present in his body, blood, soul, and divinity upon the altar. Bishop Byrne shared his conviction that once the faithful grasp something of Jesus’s love and desire for a relationship with us, then they will be amenable to embarking on a great journey deeper into the Lord’s loving relationship as manifested in the Eucharist.

After the bishop concluded his talk and generously answered questions, Dr. Susan Timoney, Associate Dean for Graduate Ministerial Studies in the School of Theology and Religious Studies, moderated a discussion among four priests with a wealth of varied experiences in preaching: Fr. Pat Smith, pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Washington, D.C.; Fr. Patrick Mary Briscoe, a Dominican and editor of Our Sunday Visitor; Fr. Frank De Siano, a Paulist professor of homiletics and mission preacher; and Fr. Bud Stevens, TC’s rector. These priests engaged in a lively conversation and shared practical advice in response to questions posed by the deacons at Theological College and by the audience present.

In short, the 2024 Preaching Symposium was a wonderful opportunity to hear from great preachers and to engage in fraternal discussions with priests and those in formation from various dioceses and religious orders. While the day’s proceedings only began to scratch the surface of the Ars Praedicandi (the Art of Preaching), it certainly left those who participated desiring more — as any good homily should as well!

To watch the video of Bishop Byrne’s remarks, click here. (Note that the audio is disabled until the  15:20-minute mark of the Bishop’s address.

(By the Archdiocese) of Washington’s Deacon Joseph McHenry, event co-organizer, pictured in the final photo, below.)