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 CNS Story:

SYNOD-PREACHING Oct-7-2008 (660 words) xxxi

Preaching should change lives, inspire, U.S. bishop tells synod

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After the current church year dedicated to St. Paul, the Catholic Church should dedicate a year to the art of preaching, Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., told the world Synod of Bishops on the Bible.

"Unfortunately, preaching in our day can lose its savor, become formulaic and uninspired, leaving the hearer empty," Bishop Kicanas, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told synod members meeting to discuss "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church."

Bishop Kicanas and Cardinal Francis E. George of Chicago, USCCB president, were among the 23 synod members to address the assembly Oct. 7.

Each member submitted a summary of his talk, which was released to the press, and a synod briefing officer provided further details to reporters.

Pointing to an account in Chapter 20 of the Acts of the Apostles, Bishop Kicanas told the synod members that even St. Paul "on occasion was known to talk on and on."

"We are told that Paul was preaching in Troas on the first day of the week and one of his listeners -- the young lad Eutychus -- was sitting on the windowsill listening. He became drowsier and drowsier and finally fell asleep," the bishop said.

"He fell from the third-story window to his death," he said. "God, through Paul, brought the young boy back to life."

The bishop said that while people still tend to nod off during a boring homily no one usually dies.

But the liturgy is supposed to build people up, he said. Preaching is supposed to comfort, heal, bring hope, inspire, challenge, teach and confront.

"Through grace, it changes lives," he said.

Bishop Kicanas said preaching in the Catholic Church must improve, and he asked what would happen if the church dedicated a year to improve preaching.

Bishops and priests, working together, should study what makes a homily effective in "this distracted world," he said. They should ask laypeople what matters to them and what they would suggest to improve homilies.

With a global, concerted effort to improve preaching, "the new springtime for Christianity, about which the Holy Father speaks, could burst forth and bloom throughout our church," Bishop Kicanas said.

Cardinal George spoke to the synod about the importance of pastors working to ensure that biblical texts become part of the lives of believers, something that is more difficult today when biblical language and imagery are disappearing from popular culture.

"A generation ago, the world of art and theater were replete with biblical images," for example, the good Samaritan or references to Sodom and Gomorrah, he said.

"Those images have now disappeared" and so has "the image of God as an actor in human history," the cardinal told the synod. People are losing an understanding of the world as the place where the Holy Spirit is active, where angels and demons are present, where people must seek to do God's will.

By proclaiming and explaining the word of God, pastors must help people come to a "conversion of the imagination, the intellect and the will," the cardinal said.

"Too often the contemporary imagination has lost the image of God as an actor in history," his summary said. "The contemporary intellect finds little consistency in the books of the Bible and is not informed by the 'regula fidei' (rule of faith). The contemporary heart has not been shaped by worship and the submission to God's word in the liturgical year."

Cardinal George urged synod members and all Catholic pastoral workers to teach people the art of "lectio divina," a prayerful, meditative way of reading the Bible in groups as well as individually.

"If the power of God's word in holy Scripture is to be felt in the life and mission of the church," he said, "pastors must attend to personal context as well as to inspired text."


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