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Posted December 18, 2007

Book: How to Make Homilies Better, Briefer, and Bolder: Tips from a Master Homilist
Author: Alfred McBride, O. Praem.
Our Sunday Visitor. Huntington, IN. 2007. Pp. 158

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

Sincere, encouraging, and downright practical, Father McBride’s How to Make Homilies Better, Briefer, and Bolder makes it easy to connect with your parishioners every Sunday and help them apply their faith to real life. Blending simple-to-follow instructions, proven strategies, and the occasional rule, this guidebook encapsulates 50 years of sermon mastery from one of the most notable preachers of our time. Develop the skills to:

– Create compelling twelve-minute Sunday homilies

– Deliver memorable speeches that resonate in parishioners’ hearts and minds

– Transform lifeless homilies into irresistible calls to action

Comprehensive yet compact, How to Make Homilies Better, Briefer, and Bolder includes practical steps for overcoming public-speaking fears and time-saving tips for finding relevant stories that warrant sharing. Includes special tips for weddings, funerals, and Masses for childre.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Rules for Funeral Homilies

1. Begin with words of sympathy for relatives and friends. Be warm, personal, and consoling.

2. Next, briefly refer to the paschal candle that symbolizes the presence of the risen Christ, who leads our friend to the Kingdom. Explain the white pall, or robe, over the casket that recalls the baptismal robe received by our beloved (name), who has completed the earthly journey. The liturgical prayers say this, of course, but it seems to help by expressing these truths in a more spontaneous way.

3. In your homily, it usually is best to address your opening words to the mourning family, and then extend your comments to the whole congregation. It’s also important to balance homily and eulogy, giving preference to the homily. In some places, the deceased is prematurely “canonized” at the funeral. Of course, good things should be said, and virtues upheld — but the attention should be on Christ and his saving graces.

It is certainly fitting to tell a brief story about the deceased. If you were at the deceased’ bedside at the hospital, hospice, or home — or were at the wake service — you should be alert to personal stories about him/her that you can bring to this homily.

4. An excellent summary of the Church’s teaching on death and future life is the preface of the Mass for Christian Burial. Relate the homily to messages from liturgical readings or other liturgical texts. If it is a child’s funeral, speak of Christ’s special love for children and of heaven. Always give hope in eternal life. If baby was not baptized, recall the teaching of the Catechism: “God has bound salvation to the sacraments, but he himself is not bound to sacraments. Also #1261, where the Catechism says, “Entrust them to the mercy of God who desires that all should be saved; and Jesus’ tenderness to children . . .that allows us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without baptism.

5. If possible, close with a memorable saying, such as “The only things we take with us to the next world are what we have given away,” or something else appropriate to the situation. [NB: if possible, have guest eulogies at the wake service. Or, if a eulogy is given after Communion, do whatever you can to keep it short.]

Table of Contents:

1. Let God’s Word own you
The secret of St. Augustine’s preaching

2. Call people to faith
The preacher: St. John Chrysostom

3. Begin with a story
St. Ambrose dramatizes scripture

4. Study the Bible
Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ: St. Jerome

5. Preach Christ
St. Leo the Great: defender of the Incarnation

6. Welcome the new evangelization
St. Gregory the Great: creating Christian Europe

7. Say the idea – speak a picture
St. Thomas Aquinas: the marriage of reason and faith

8. Preaching about the saints
St. Catherine of Siena – she changed the mind of a pope

9. Marian homilies
St. Bernard of Clairvaux

10. Preaching should be a prayer, not a performance
St. Teresa of Avilia — a Doctor of prayer

11. Humor in homilies?
St. Philip Neri, God’s clown became the Apostle of Rome

12. Wedding homilies
St. Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton

13. Funeral homilies
St. Paul the Apostle

14. Some preaching lessons from Cardinal Newman

15. Children’s homilies
St. Therese of Lisieux: her “little way” of spiritual childhood

16. Baptism homilies
St. John the Baptist

17. Advent homilies
Isaiah: prophet of the Advent

18. Christmas homilies
St. Norbert: began his Order on Christmas day

19. How to deliver a homily
St. Francis de Sales: under the radar

20. Lenten homilies
Sr. Thea Bowman, F.S.P.A.” she lived the mystery of the Cross

21. Preaching Easter
Cardinal Joseph Bernardin: he witnessed the Risen Lord

22. Pentecost: Preaching the Holy Spirt
Pope John Paul II: Be not afraid — overcoming fear of preaching

23. Remote preparation for homilies
How God prepared St. Paul to preach

24. How to talk
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen