The document, “Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily,” encourages preachers to connect the Sunday homily with people’s daily lives.
The vote was 227-11, with four abstentions. Approval required two-thirds of the membership of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, or 182 votes.
The document was prepared by the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations, chaired by Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St. Louis, with subsequent review and comment by eight other USCCB committees.
During discussion on the document Nov. 13, the bishops accepted a plea from Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., to include his amendment urging Catholics to make an extra effort to listen to the homilies of foreign-born priests for whom English or Spanish is not their first language.
Those priests’ speech “may have a heavy accent that the congregation cannot understand,” Bishop Ramirez said. “We have many foreign priests coming to work in our dioceses,” he added.
“Even though it takes an extra effort to understand what they are saying, they have wisdom. They are inspired by the Holy Spirit. … The people have to make an extra effort to understand their wisdom.”
“Preaching the Mystery of Faith” also required a suspension of the rules governing consideration of proposed documents issued in the name of the USCCB, as bishops did not receive it at least 30 days prior to debate.
In formally introducing the document Nov.12, Archbishop Carlson said it aimed for a “pastorally sensitive tone” so that it could build upon a strong theological foundation for the ministry of preaching.” He added, “It also makes a strong case for linking the homily to the Sunday liturgy.”
Preaching needs to be done “more effectively in the context of the new evangelization,” he said. “Our people hunger for better preaching, preaching that would help them rediscover their faith.”
“The homily is intended to establish a ‘dialogue’ between the sacred biblical text and the Christian life of the hearer,” the document says.
“Preachers should be aware, in an appropriate way, of what their people are watching on television, what kind of music they are listening to, which websites they find appealing, and which films they find compelling,” it adds. “References to the most popular cultural expressions — which at times can be surprisingly replete with religious motifs — can be an effective way to engage the interest of those on the edge of faith.”
The intent to write a new document first surfaced six years ago as the silver anniversary neared of the U.S. bishops’ last preaching document, “Fulfilled in Your Hearing.” [More]