Michael E. CONNORS, Ed. We Preach Christ Crucified. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2014. pp. 239. $24.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8146-3823-1. Reviewed by Stephen S. WILBRICHT, Stonehill College, Easton, MA 02357
In June of 2012, the John S. Marten Program in Homiletics and Liturgics at the University of Notre Dame sponsored a major symposium entitled “We Preach Christ Crucified: A Conference on Catholic Preaching.” This gathering, of more than 360 participants, honored the 30th anniversary of the U.S. bishops’ first document on preaching, Fulfilled in Your Hearing (1982). Seventeen talks from this conference have been edited by the director of the Marten Program and represent a broad spectrum of issues on the topic of preparing and proclaiming the liturgical homily.
The collection begins with a simple premise: the state of Catholic preaching is poor. Michael Connors writes in the book’s preface: “Everywhere one goes, one hears anecdotes recounted about preaching that routinely fails to connect with the lives of ordinary folk, fails to open the beauty and power of God’s Word, and about homilies prepared in slapdash fashion and delivered with all the verve and passion of a reading from an auto repair manual” (ix). What follows are essays geared toward addressing this crisis situation.
The topics of We Preach Christ Crucified range from a theological vision of the proclaimed word stemming from the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on revelation, Dei Verbum, and the recent exhortation from Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, to the formulation of guidelines for preaching with ecumenical sensitivity, to proclaiming the Word amongst the poor, and finally, to portraying the challenges of Twenty-First Century culture in preparing meaningful homilies. This volume is not intended to provide instruction as much as it is meant to inspire. It serves as a reminder for the Catholic imagination that the words and gestures at the ambo are as nourishing and life-giving as the enactment at the altar.
All those who are responsible for preparing weekday and Sunday homilies will benefit from the pages of We Preach Christ Crucified. It is equally suited for those who have been engaged in preaching for many years as it is for those just starting out in ministry. Given that the U.S. bishops have recently released a new document on preaching, Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily (January, 2013), the official call to improve Catholic preaching has been issued once again. The fruit of We Preach Christ Crucified, representing the wisdom and care of pastors and theologians alike, is sure to arouse hope for the future.