Monday, March 22, 2010

On Liturgical Preaching

"A well-attended Catholic service is the evening Mass at the Christ the King Seminary in Quezon City. Parishioners like that the bespectacled priest descends from his seat in the altar to dialogue with them during the homily. They love it whenever the lights are dimmed at one point, giving the Mass the nostalgic feel of a school recollection."

I came across this article "Schools of Preaching" written by Christian V. Esguerra and published at the March 23, 2010 edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. The article speaks about the changing standards of preaching: "To some extent, preaching is 'performance,' according to Fr. Nilo Lardizabal, OP, assistant director of the Institute of Preaching...It involves strategies and techniques - and even 'gimmicks' - all with the clear purpose of communicating the living Gospel of more than 2,000 years ago in the here and now." The article confuses preaching with entertainment. And it even justifies entertainment as the means to send the message across to the listeners.

Unfortunately, many modern preachers have this bias against traditional liturgical preaching which is oftentimes labelled as "pontificating": "He cites instances when some priests, no matter how academically grounded they are, fail to establish a 'connection' with their flock during homily. The result, he says, is either a monologue or outright pontificating...'We discourage pontificating,' Lardizabal said. 'We have to be casual. We have to take off from the internet, YouTube, Twitter - cool, funky, unsophisticated."

I feel that this is outrightly a sweeping statement that "pontificating" does not "connect" with the flock. In the desire of many preachers to be "relevant" to the modern audience, they have become overly concerned with the gimmickry and the entertainment value of their preaching at the expense of the content. I remember that when powerpoint presentations became a fad in the seminary, more time was spent by the seminarians in finding pictures and videos to make the report more "cool and funky". The depth of the supposed lesson is oftentimes sacrificed.

And is this not the sorry state of liturgical preaching today? The richness of the Word of God is oftentimes sacrificed for the sake of making the preaching "cool and funky". How much substance is there in the usual Sunday preaching? Is liturgical preaching a real preparation for the faithful to recognize the Lord at the breaking of the bread? Who is at the center of the preaching: Christ or the preacher? In all honesty, how much conversion comes out of all this gimmickry?

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