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Smorgasbord of homilies

Preaching to the converted: on Sundays and feast days throughout the year

Richard Leonard SJ, Paulist Press, $45

Reviewed by Br Brian Grenier CFC

THE Australian Jesuit Father Richard Leonard is well known to Leader readers for his insightful film reviews.

In his latest book, Preaching to the Converted, he offers a series of homilies for all of the Sundays and Feast Days of the three-year liturgical cycle.

Though he identifies the three assigned readings at the beginning of each of these reflections, his focus is principally on the Gospel of the day.

Fr Leonard is alive to the three common complaints that church-goers make about homilists, namely that their weekly preaching is too long, too abstruse and unrelated to the everyday lives of their hearers.

He suggests that homilies should take about seven minutes to deliver and as many hours to prepare.

An essential part of that preparation, I would add, is prayerful meditation on the text in question.

People expect that the one who presumes to talk to them about God first speaks to God.

Drawing on the liturgy documents of the Catholic Church, the writer states that preaching should give the listener “an accurate picture of the biblical message” and is “meant to nurture faith and help Christians to live their daily lives”.

In this regard his own homilies are deserving of high praise.

As he makes good use of stories, they are also interesting and engaging.

I recommend Preaching to the Converted not only to priests as a useful tool in the preparation of homilies worthy of the name but also to people generally who will find it helpful in their practise of scripture-based prayer.

Let Fr Leonard have the final word: “The best way to use this homiletic smorgasbord is as a resource of stories and ideas that enable the one who preaches to help Christ’s converts hear the word of God, alive and active in the here and now”.

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