2 Incarnating the Homily: Priestly Preaching and the Literary Imagination

Fr. Guerric DeBona, OSB

The Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests (Presbyterorum Ordinis) of the Second Vatican Council reminds the Universal Church that ordained ministers are to regard preaching the Gospel to all creation as their primary task, engaging the Word of God in various and diverse ways. To this end, preaching in ordained ministry strives to be present to the unique and particular historical lives where men and women work and love.

“Priestly preaching is often very difficult in the circumstances of the modern world. If it is to influence the mind of the listener more fruitfully, such preaching must not present God’s Word in a general or abstract fashion only, but it must apply the perennial truth of the gospel to the concrete circumstances of life. Thus the ministry of the Word is carried out in many ways, according to the various needs of those who hear and the special gifts of those who preach.”[1]

Indeed, the Word of God is “living and active” and present among us and so priestly preaching reaches into the hearts of the Christian faithful and opens up a space for the Spirit to breathe new life. Sometimes those wounded hearts have been shaped by tragedy and disappointment, disillusionment and anger and so the priest finds himself something like Moses and the prophets, revealing God’s works to those who have caved in from worldly anguish. How do we give a restorative word to the weary and set the captive free in a language that is compassionate, vibrant and authentic?

The task of making the Word present will always be inflected by the present culture and, inevitably, the ordained minister will find himself in the role of what Fulfilled in Your Hearing calls “the mediator of meaning.” “The preacher represents this community by voicing its concerns, by naming its demons, and thus enabling it to gain some understanding and control of the evil which afflicts it. He represents the Lord by offering the community another word, a word of healing and pardon, of acceptance and love.”

From the point of view of vocation, the ordained minister is called to be “priestly” when it comes to exercising the function of proclamation because he is “a mediator, making connections between the real lives of people who believe in Jesus Christ but are not always sure what difference faith can make in their lives, and the God who calls us into ever deeper communion with himself and with one another.”[2] Therefore, when he preaches, the priest exercises a unique faculty which gives a Word to those who are hungry, providing a rich and nourishing Table of the Word from which God’s people might feast.[3]

If priestly preaching is called to interpret meaning for the Christian faithful, this activity is rooted in the Church’s tradition, especially in the sacramental imagination. The preacher lives out his priestly ministry in dialogue with the world and with the God who created it, becoming a bridge between these two worlds for the sake of pastoral charity. As Gaudium et Spes teaches us, “To carry out such a task, the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in light of the gospel. Thus, in language intelligible to each generation, she can respond to the perennial questions which men ask about this present life and the life to come, and about the relationship of the one to the other.”[4]

Effective preachers, then, deepen their awareness of human language, helping others to come to a deeper understanding of the Word made visible in their very midst. Priestly preaching abides in a sacramental reality, calling to mind the marvelous deeds the Lord has accomplished; he names grace in the world. Especially at the Eucharist, “the salvation that the preacher announces in a word has already been made tangible and visible in deed. Before a word is spoken, the disciples of Jesus have already proclaimed the power of the resurrection in healing touch and in the community’s attention to the needs of the world, especially to those whose well-being is most threatened. The result of this ‘preaching in praxis’ is the very kind of conversion that is the goal of all preaching: Freedom, wholeness, reconciliation, and human flourishing that overflows in joy and praise.”[5]

When it comes to ordained ministry, then, we might ask, how shall such “preaching in praxis” best be accomplished? What tools should be used to enflesh the Gospel in the everyday lives of God’s people? How best to reveal the presence of the Word made visible? From the point of view of Christian anthropology, human language must be incarnated and, as Catherine Hilkert suggests, sacramental.

Does the preacher paint with words? If so, then such tangible epiphanies in language become a kind of gateway for intuition, for apprehending the Logos. In making the Word concrete and sensory, the preacher is called to deploy the literary imagination that is at the service of the Word. But that imaginative palate is filled with a spectacular array of colors. So for the remainder of this essay, I will suggest some primary colors in the artist’s box of tools and supplies, something like a subdivision of the literary imagination that priest preachers might access in painting a canvas for the sake of the People of God.

I will call these various functions of the literary imagination the poetic, the mnemonic and the prophetic. Since “the literary imagination” is a very general term and encompasses all of these aspects of the linguistic faculty, it stands to reason that every good piece of literature harbors these qualities to some degree. Needless to say, I am not suggesting that the idea of the literary is somehow corralled into these categories exclusively, but rather that these salient characteristics of the literary imagination broaden and enrich the scope of the ministry of priestly preaching and ministry.


The “poetic imagination” is human communication at its most basic artistic level; it is the quality or ability to invent and assemble language for a desired effect on a reader or hearer. That is not as easy as it sounds! Our contemporary age tends to think of the literary enterprise as the province of the lone artist, shut away somewhere in a lonely garret and suffering for art. But as Natalie Goldberg reminds us, “Writing is a communal act. Contrary to popular belief, a writer is not Prometheus alone on a hill full of fire. We are very arrogant to think we alone have a totally original mind. We are carried on the backs of all the writers who came before us. We live in the present with all the history, ides, and soda pop of this time. It all gets mixed up in our writing.”[6]

The conception of the poet as some kind of a lone wolf is a legacy of 19th-century Romanticism and could not be further from the way that Aristotle designed his Poetics. We know that the root of the word “poetics” comes from the Greek verb ποίέώ, I make or I do. Now Aristotle was hardly interested in what we might call today “art for art’s sake,” but recognized that poets wrote for the sake of the audience.

In a way, the Poetics concerns itself with what the literary does or makes happen to an audience. Everyone engaged in the authentic enterprise of the poetic imagination imagines an outcome on a receiver. Aristotle knew this literary dynamic perfectly. The plot, meaning the arrangement of the incidents, and character, or those persons in a drama who propel the action forward, are all foundational components of an imitation of life that exists for a desired effect on an audience or shaped around a desired pathos. All this is to say that the poetic imagination hardly exists in a vacuum, but desires to communicate itself in order to transform the other.

Perhaps a specific example would be illustrative in this regard. Consider, for instance, the importance that Aristotle placed on catharsis in the tragic play. As the word implies, the “pitiable and fearful” occurrences in the excellent tragic drama skillfully engage the pathos of the audience, thereby purging the viewer in a purgation of emotions. The audience has their pity enlivened for the sake of exorcising these fearful emotions.

The tragic play – and this is to cite only one genre – has a ritual quality that touches the deepest of emotions. When Oedipus recognizes that his pride in searching for Laius, the murdered king, has blinded him to the truth – that he is himself the criminal who perpetrated the crime on the one who he now knows is his father; when the sorceress Media is betrayed by her husband, Jason, and revenges herself by murdering their two children; when King Lear eventually realizes that he has divided his kingdom wrongly, persuaded by flattery and lies, we are engaging in some form of catharsis. The poetic imagination desires to engage the eyes and ears, the hearts and the minds of the audience into pathos, to move the participants in the drama in a process of ritual action.

The poetic imagination is by no means reserved to classical tragedy, or even drama. Centuries later, we can point to a unique Christian version of catharsis in a masterpiece of medieval Italian verse. “Midway in the journey of our life/I came to myself in a dark wood,/for the straight way was lost.” So begins the famous line of the first of the books of Dante’s Divine Comedy, The Inferno.[7] The overall trajectory of The Divine Comedy takes the reader through a passageway from Hell to Paradise, following Dante’s footsteps as he is led from the dark wood, first by Virgil and then, at last, by Beatrice.

The design of this medieval Christian masterpiece takes the reader through its own purification ritual, as Dante and his guide(s) make their way through sin’s dark night and then up the seven-story mountain of Purgatory and then, finally, to Paradise. The poetics of the Comedy shapes the reader, not unlike the very catharsis that Aristotle had in mind for tragedy: the pitiable and fearful sinners we meet along the way help to name our own demons buried deep within us so that we might be brought into the light.

The poetic imagination reaches one of its pinnacles in the Divine Comedy because the author has arranged the workings of language for the benefit of our salvation in Christ. Here Dante stands in for every reader: his initial confusion in darkness is ours; his astonishment and horror at sin is our own; his embracing of the beatific vision eventually becomes ours as well. We are taken through a process of purification as we witness the horror of sinfulness and scale the heights of heaven toward the beatific vision.

When it comes to contemporary homiletic practice, there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that the contemporary preacher inherited a kind of Romantic quality that paid very little attention to the ears of a hearer.[8] Moreover, our American individualism simply underlines the tendency to think of preaching, like writing, as a kind of singular activity. The preacher becomes removed from the concrete and sensate world of others and barely considers the formational role of the speech act itself.

Preachers become lost in abstractions, bogged down in unorganized structure, stuck in quirky habits of self-disclosure. Instead, every conscientious preacher should ask: what is preaching if it is not a communal act? Every good homilist possesses a poetic imagination because preaching allows the assembly to ascend the homiletic text (either using a manuscript or not) through a process where both demons and grace are named.

So the homilist, like every good writer, has to take to the task of “writing down the bones” of salvation history for the sake of God’s people. Indeed, like a good drama, the homily that focuses on the good of the assembly takes the congregation through a process that traces a plot or outline of the workings of grace, a map of God’s activity in human history. In the final analysis, if the homily does not fall on the ears of the listener in a communal enterprise, then our preaching is in vain.

With the skills learned from the poetic imagination, the homilist can recognize that the destiny of his preaching is for the sake of another; thus, he arranges his recounting of the works of God in the Scriptures that the hearer can be moved to praise and thanksgiving. In a very real sense, the act of preaching the Word exists for the sake of pastoral charity in order that our brothers and sisters will be able to worship the living and true God. Preaching must attend to the dynamics of the congregation by asking: where do you want this assembly to be at the end of the homily?

Therefore, the homily plays out a kind of ritual by which the assembly finds itself engaged with the Sunday Lectionary, mediated by the preacher. That the baptized are taken through something of a literary process in the homily has its roots in Aristotle’s theoretical musings on the poetics of ancient Greek literature and could be extended to a variety of literary genres (including film) that are well plotted and centered on the pathos of the audience or reader.

The experience of the poetic imagination cannot fail to ensure that homilists begin to ask fundamental questions about their preaching. With Sunday preaching, does he “plot” his homily so that he moves the congregation to the Eucharistic table so that the people “lift up their hearts?”[9] Does our preaching carry the faith-filled destiny that God has loved the world from its origin, redeemed it and will bring humankind to completion?

At weddings, is the preaching a retelling of the “plot” of God’s plan for his people, disclosing the God who created us in order to enable the couple to go out into world to witness to co-creation? In funeral homilies, is the grieving assembly taken through a process in which the Word of God becomes a consoling balm for their anger, confusion and darkness? These are plotted homilies shaped by sacred Scripture and forged by the poetic imagination.


The literary imagination also remembers. Like the poetic imagination, the mnemonic quality of literature has its roots deep in antiquity and becomes highly instructive for our contemporary culture and the identity of the priest preacher. As its name implies, the mnemonic simply refers to the capacity of memory and its literary ties are probably as old as speech itself.

Early epic poems such as Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey show us the power of memory to evoke key historical markers in our culture. “Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns,/driven time and again off course, once he had plundered/ the hallowed heights of Troy.” The narrator of The Odyssey calls upon the goddess of his inspiration to recall not only the hero Odysseus, but the national history of Greece as well.

Indeed, the Odyssey is driven not only by the winds of the kind of plot imagined by Aristotle (who mentions the Homeric epic and Odysseus’ exploits as particularly demonstrative of plot), but also by cultural memory. Memory forms the backbone of the poet, not only in oral culture – where entire books were committed to memory – but written practice as well. Such a predilection to recall national origins undergirds Virgil’s Aeneid as well. The hero of the story, Aeneas, escapes from the burning city of Troy and journeys to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans.

These large poems revisit national origins and suggest the importance of memory, literature and the place of the contemporary reader in the unfolding of history. To this day, the tradition of Homer and Virgil plays a strong role in the history of Greece and Italy, as does France’s Song of Roland and the Chinese or Icelandic epics; these are national historical charters put to verse and brought to life by memory.

But there is more to the mnemonic imagination, because its poetics marshals canonical literature itself as historical artifacts or cultural markers. The great works of literature become ways of understanding history and the diverse circumstances of the human condition. Consider, for instance, the works of Charles Dickens, who was writing in London in the middle of the 19th century. Dickens’ novels explored the social, psychological and political dynamics of his time in a variety of ways; these aspects point to the relevance of such literature as something of a time capsule for future generations.

David Copperfield is a Bildungsroman, or story of human development, which also revealed the treacherous societal practices of child labor and domestic abuse in British society. Bleak House is a novel about the collapse and failure of governmental legislation to take care of its citizens. Great Expectations deals with the coming of age of a young man, his moral collapse in the face of expanding capitalism and, finally, his moral redemption. If we were to look for the memory of 19th-century England, we could do no better than to read the works of Dickens.

In many ways, the mnemonic imagination reaches its zenith in the 19th-century British and Russian novel, with the likes of George Eliot’s Middlemarch, Henry James’ The Wings of the Dove and Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The narrator’s omniscient role in these fictions is clearly intended to place him or her outside of time as the holder of historical memory. Authors throughout the ages have represented their works as enormous sweeps of history, recollected and then disseminated for the ages.

The literary canon is a record of the importance we place on literary remembrance. The literary canon, or a kind of library of books that are thought to be of important value, is largely constructed during particular periods to establish a guidepost for navigating our way through the millions of literary artifacts generated over the years. Canonical literature is a memory of history, albeit a limited one. But these canonical works show us what values are important at a particular time – and indeed how these interests also change through history.

For many years, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was on everyone’s list of canonical literature, including high school reading assignments meant for standardized exams given at the end of the year. Then, the wisdom of granting canonical status to Twain’s novel was questioned, especially given its overt racial politics and explicit racial slurs. Very recently, further developments altered the canonical status of Twain’s novel. In 2011, Huckleberry Finn was re-edited and published, removing the offensive language against African-Americans.

Should the newly reframed novel be placed back in the canon? For some, the original novel must be in the canon, no matter what. For others, the new version of the novel makes Twain more appropriate as a canonical text for today. In any case, both the original novel and its revision show us something of the cultural politics of the canon in two very different periods in American history. The controversy surrounding Huckleberry Finn points us to the place of literature as the something that shapes human memory. The function of the mnemonic literary imagination is to remember, but its canonical texts also serve as the artifacts of historical memory as cultural values change over time.

A preacher without a memory is like an eagle without wings; unfortunately, that is an easy identity to claim in the United States in the 21st century. Study after study indicates that Americans draw a blank when it comes to the most important aspects of history, and this includes religious literacy as well.[10] Inevitably, the preacher will find himself in a difficult position during the Sunday preaching at the Eucharist. As a site for mediating meaning, the liturgical homily depends on traversing space and time and disclosing the intricate corridors of sacred and human history of the Christian assembly as witnessed in sacred Scripture.

Reconnecting the assembly to the reality of salvation history can be a daunting task, so the preacher himself will need to establish a firm foundation to historical memory. A relationship with good literature – indeed, “regular and sustained contact with the world’s greatest literature or with its painting, sculpture and musical achievement can rightfully be regarded by preachers not simply as a leisure time activity but as part of their ongoing professional development.”[11]

I will add to Fulfilled in Your Hearing by suggesting that canonical literature forms the backbone of the preacher’s library precisely because its traces have left significant footprints on the world stage and continue to do so. After Huckleberry Finn, what other text will be reshaped by the new historical circumstances in which we find ourselves? How does our own society read the polite world of marriage and manners in Jane Austin’s fiction? How did James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner anticipate the way we think of time?

Read one way, these are much more than literary questions; they are pastoral investigations that also help to shape homilies because the hearers have themselves been formed by the very same history that literature remembers. Secular history was not eliminated but sanctified by God’s presence among us.

And there is more for the preacher to consider, especially during the Sunday liturgical homily. The priest preacher at the Eucharist is the spokesman for the mnemonic literary imagination. In a way, the preacher is not unlike the unnamed singer of an epic poem, standing in the midst of the assembly, calling on the Holy Spirit and remembering salvation history as it is recalled in sacred Scripture. The connection from the Table of the Word to the Table of the Eucharist is bridged by the mnemonic: the Lord’s Supper is an anamnesis of Christ’s Paschal triumph over sin and death, which the Church recalls by the working of the Holy Spirit to the glory of the Father.

The preacher at Eucharist stands in the midst of the baptized assembly precisely and essentially to remember the works of the God through historical time. His language incarnates the mystery we have come to celebrate. In some sense, his preaching narrates the memory of salvation history so that the assembly might once again acknowledge the action of the Holy in the world.


The literary imagination has an intimate connection with the prophetic. In the Hebrew Scriptures, the Word of the Lord is both aggressive and irresistible. Those prophets, like Ezekiel, whom God wills to speak the truth before the Powers, are literally called to devour the Word. “He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll and go, speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat. He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey. He said to me: Mortal, go to the house of Israel and speak my very words to them” (Ezk. 3:1-4 NRSV).

Similarly, the Christian tradition understands the enfleshment of the Word of God in Christ as bringing “a two-edge sword” into every time and place, proclaiming a world in which the Beatitudes inaugurate the coming of the kingdom. Therefore John’s Apocalypse envisions a mighty angel coming down from heaven who “held a little scroll open in his hand” and he said, “‘Take it, and eat; it will be better to your stomach, but sweet as honey in your mouth… “‘You must prophesy again about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.’” (Rev. 10:2, 9, 11).

The prophetic imagination exists to reimagine the status quo. In the process of speaking the truth to what has grown ossified – even corrupt – in their contemporary culture, literary prophets deploy various genres to accomplish their task. Geoffrey Chaucer, writing in Middle English in the 14th century, created a cast of colorful characters on pilgrimage to Canterbury to the tomb of St. Thomas à Becket in order to draw bitingly satiric and parodic parallels to his contemporary age. In his masterwork, The Canterbury Tales, each of the pilgrims, be they friar, knight, miller – or a whole host of others representing the various professions at the time – tell a “frame narrative” that often unwittingly betrays their own interest and prejudice.

Toward the end of the “The Pardoner’s Tale,” for instance, we see Chaucer’s stingingly prophetic poetry burlesquing the horrendous practice of bartering absolution: “So graunte you his pardon to receive,/For that is best—I wol you nat deceive… But sires, oo word forgat I in my tale:/ I have relikes and pardon in my male/ As fair as any man in Engelond,/Whiche were me yiven by the Popes hond.”[12] The poet lets the pardoner disclose his own sin, a vice which was frequented by many during this period: he freely offers the sale of relics, allegedly blessed by the pope, while invoking the power of Christ to forgive sin. With irony and biting satire, Chaucer’s prophetic imagination reminds us that, in the world of The Canterbury Tales, we stand at the edge of the Reformation.

A striking example of the prophetic imagination emerged in the 20th century with what we now call the Harlem Renaissance, a broadly represented cultural movement (roughly spanning the 1930s and 1940s) that originated in New York City and which more or less embraced the principles of literary modernism, racial equality and American folk (especially jazz) traditions. We know that American literary modernism itself called for a break with the status quo and colluded with the prophetic tradition with the call to “make it new” for the purposes of “de-familiarization.”

The Harlem Renaissance was marked by manifestos that were both new and a plea to return to (racial) origins. Langston Hughes, writing in the Nation on “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” (1926), critiqued the enormous desire for black poets to assimilate into white literature. Instead of dissolving into cultural homogeneity, Hughes urged African-American poets to embrace their own cultural difference, “for the American Negro artist who can escape the restrictions the more advanced among his own group would put upon him, [there is] a great field of unused material ready for his art. Without going outside his race, and even among the better classes with their ‘white’ culture and conscious American manners, but still Negro enough to be different, there is sufficient matter to furnish a black artist with a lifetime of creative work.”[13]

Not surprisingly, the Harlem Renaissance spoke very prophetically to white American Protestantism and articulated the experience of cultural oppression from slavery to lynching. Claude McKay, who was born in Jamaica, expressed his ambivalence with the United States in his poem “America” (1922). “Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,/And sinks into my throat her tigers’ tooth,/Stealing my breath of life, I will confess/ I love this cultural hell that tests my youth!/ Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,/Giving me strength erect against her hate….”[14]

Religion’s prophetic voice played no small part in creating an alliance for McKay and others. During the 1940s, for instance, The Catholic Worker magazine became the chief vehicle for McKay’s poetry, as he galvanized his social protest against capitalism, using much of the social teaching of the Catholicism that would eventually convert him.

The call to the prophetic remains a necessary foil to the mnemonic imagination and should be sewn into the fabric of the mantle of preaching. If the mnemonic recalls the importance of tradition and holds up to the light the treasure of canonical works over the centuries, then the prophetic stands at the ready to balance the weight of the tradition with the emergence of a new (often disturbing) and reinvigorating voice.

The preacher ought to be attentively eager to listen to God’s penetrating Word, which must be spoken to the weary and proclaimed to prisoners, an echo of Jesus’ iconic stance in the synagogue as portrayed in Luke 4:16-21. We know that the Word Himself brought new life to his own culture: “You have heard it said, but I tell you” is a prophetic retelling of a tradition. Indeed Jesus’ parables are little masterpieces meant to unearth a kind of thinking that had become calcified by self-righteousness and legalism.

Therefore, as a constitutive component of Jesus’ own identity in the New Testament, substantially claimed in Nazareth to give sight to the blind and set captives free, the prophetic imagination should be hardwired into every priest’s identity at ordination and underlined every time he preaches. When Jesus tells his followers that they should be “in the world but not of it,” he surely was remembering the tradition of the prophets and their call to consume God’s Word and deliver a (sometimes difficult) message to the people they serve.

The preacher with the prophetic imagination understands the dynamics of popular culture and the various technologies with which his people are invested, but he is not absorbed by these activities; instead, the preacher with the prophetic imagination becomes an authentic witness to the Gospel by virtue of his prayerful and zealous dwelling each day with the Word and his desire to make it visible; the preacher with the prophetic imagination has “a comprehensive knowledge of the social, political and economic forces shaping the contemporary world,”[15] and calls the congregation and the culture to accountability in light of the Gospel of Peace and Justice.

If the priest preacher is familiar with the literary tradition of the prophetic – and reaches out to understand new, contemporary voices even now emerging – he will begin to ponder the ways in which the Holy Spirit has always spoken, from the moment that God’s breath moved across the water at the creation of the world – in many and diverse ways, and always with love.


The various facets of the literary imagination – poetic, mnemonic and prophetic – are undoubtedly inscribed in the vocation of preaching. In a certain sense, however, these qualities bear witness to all of priestly ministry. Hearing the graced call to mission, the priest invites others to long for the kingdom of heaven for the sake of the Gospel of Christ. To this end, his priestly ministry is rooted in making Jesus Christ present in the world.

Therefore if the poetic strives to make and to build a living community with language, the priest does so every time he gathers the baptized Christian community, especially at the Eucharist. If the priest draws on the mnemonic imagination to access salvation history in his preaching, then he does so as a spiritual leader and pastor of God’s people as well. What stronger impulse for ordained ministry can there be than to help parishioners in all circumstances of their lives to bless the Lord at all times, remembering God’s deeds, even in difficult times?

And finally, priestly ministry often must prophetically proclaim to unpopular societal attitudes, using as testimony biblical faith and the teaching of the Church. The priest accomplishes a prophetic role by his very life as a celibate witness to the coming of God’s kingdom in our very midst.

I have tried to suggest here that these roles in priestly ministry can only be strengthened by the daily involvement with the literary imagination. Making, remembering and challenging: these are priestly qualities that cannot fail to call the people of God to a greater awareness of the presence of God living and active in their lives, revealing “the perennial truth of the Gospel to the concrete circumstances of life.” Our Gospel proclamation is always Incarnational.

  1. Presbyterorum Ordinis, The Documents of Vatican II, Ed. Walter M. Abbott, S.J. (Piscataway, N.J.: New Century, 1966), 539-540.
  2. NCCB, Fulfilled in Your Hearing: The Homily in the Sunday Assembly (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, 1982), 7-8.
  3. For a brief but informed discussion on the Church’s teaching on priesthood and preaching, see Stephen Vincent DeLeers, “The Place of Preaching in the Ministry and Life of Priests,” in The Theology of Priesthood, ed. Donald J. Goergen and Ann Garrido. (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2000), 87-103.
  4. Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II, 201-202.
  5. Mary Catherine Hilkert, Naming Grace: Preaching and the Sacramental Imagination (New York: Continuum, 1997), 44.
  6. Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Boston and London: Shambhala, 1986), 79.
  7. Dante, The Inferno, trans. Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander (New York: Random House, 2000), 3.
  8. The great shift in the so-called New Homiletics in the mid-20th century was a turn toward the listener. See, for instance, Fred Craddock’s call to attend to the hearer in As One Without Authority, rev. ed. (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2001) and Preaching (Nashville: Abingdon, 1985).
  9. For a good discussion on this idea, see Eugene Lowry, The Homiletic Plot, rev. ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001).
  10. See, for example, Stephen Prothero, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn’t (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2007).
  11. Fulfilled in Your Hearing, 13.
  12. Chaucer’s Poetry: An Anthology for the Modern Reader, Ed. E.T. Donaldson (New York: John Wiley, 1975), 426. “So grant you his pardon to receive; for that is best: I would not deceive you… But gents, one word I forgot in my tale. I have relics and pardon in my pouch—as fair as anyone in England, the which were given me by the Pope’s own hand.” (English prose translation mine).
  13. Modernism: An Anthology of Sources and Documents, ed. Vissiliki Kolocotroni et. al. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 419.
  14. Claude McKay, “America,” in The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry. 2nd. Edition. Ed. Richard Ellmann and Robert O’Clair (New York: Norton, 1988), 518.
  15. Fulfilled in Your Hearing, 14.


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Catholic Imagination by Fr. Guerric DeBona, OSB is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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