Purchase or Read The Traditionalist Magazine at http://www.catholicmediaapostolate.com

Preaching Well

Preaching Well

Roman Catholic Books

Regular price $5.00 Sale

What makes a great sermon -- or a bad one?

This prominent speech expert supplied the answers in his guide for Catholics who preach, teach or give speeches

Dull, shapeless and uninspiring sermons aren’t a uniquely modern phenomenon, but they do seem more common than ever. Why? Lack of proper training, mainly.

Decades ago, addressing this problem, the Milwaukee Archdiocese hired Marquette University speech professor William Duffey to instruct priests and seminarians in every aspect of preaching, from composition to delivery. Such was Dr. Duffey’s success that, after 30 years of refining his lessons, he distilled them into this widely-used manual.


The “lost” art of preaching, regained

Professor Duffey delivers a complete course in how to prepare and deliver a sermon or speech, and how to improve one’s speaking ability:

  • The “great rule” for instructing listeners in religious matters
  • The type of preacher that listeners mistrust most
  • The 5 proper goals of a sermon, speech or discourse. Why one must be dominant
  • 5 basic methods of oral presentation (e.g., the memorized speech and the “extempore” speech) and when to use them. Advantages, disadvantages and techniques of each
  • Different types of pulpit address, and their distinctive styles, characteristics and rules
  • The unique characteristics of preaching -- and why it should be studied only after other styles are well grasped
  • The first step in preparing material for a sermon
  • 4 criteria in choosing a good subject. Five ways of collecting material for sermons
  • The “decisive moment” in a speech: where it comes, and how to structure a sermon around it
  • “False leads”: the single most common fault of speakers, especially preachers
  • The 3 basic emotions that, properly kindled in preaching, can best lead men to God. But beware of “emotionalism”
  • Vocal interpretation of Scriptural passages: How to choose and apply the right “spirit” -- oratorical, narrative, lyrical or dramatic -- depending on content
  • How to take into consideration the circumstances in which a speech or sermon will be given, and adapt it accordingly
  • A speaker’s most important asset, according to psychologists and rhetoricians
  • Comparisons and contrasts: essential to effective speaking of any kind. The different types, and how to use them
  • Citing Scripture: 3 types of instruction the sacred orator should draw from it
  • How different books of the Bible serve different preaching purposes
  • 7 types of non-scriptural “authorities.” When and how to cite them in sermons
  • How to choose, and employ, the best examples to illustrate your points.
  • 4 criteria for choosing examples from Scripture
  • The importance of a good outline. How to construct one
  • The basic “divisions” of a properly constructed sermon. What each must accomplish
  • Timeless advice from great teachers of rhetoric, such as Aristotle and Cicero
  • Different types of endings -- some to be avoided
  • “Amplification,” “refutation,” “conviction” and other speaking techniques.
  • 3 types of “proofs,” and why they’re useful
  • The most powerful motives a preacher can appeal to in order to arouse the will
  • 17 types of expression which lend force and grace to a sermon
  • The occasional usefulness -- and more frequent pitfalls -- of slogans, sayings and “well-turned” phrases
  • Special considerations of oral style in religious discourse
  • 3 basic types of preaching style, each best suited to certain occasions or audiences
  • 9 “qualities” of style that should be present in every type of sacred utterance
  • Faulty notions of preaching style -- nowadays the rule rather than the exception
  • Special “figures” of words, thought, and construction. How to use them to present thoughts more vividly and memorably
  • 4 methods for improving style
  • The 5 less formal types of sacred oratory (e.g., catechism and homily) and the 4 formal types (e.g., sermon and eulogy). Nature, purposes and methods of each
  • Basics of proper poise, posture and comportment
  • 6 guidelines for improving bodily expression
  • 8 guidelines for developing skill in gesture
  • 7 basics for training the voice
  • How to diagnose and correct faults, defects and disorders in speech or voice
  • Techniques for optimizing vocal intensity, pitch and quality. Faults to avoid
  • Improving your vocal tone and “carrying power”
  • The 6 elements in the “vocabulary” of vocal expressions
  • The right use of vocal rhythm. Pauses and phrasing
  • What is good diction? PLUS: Faults of diction peculiarly associated with preaching
  • Pronunciation: common errors and pitfalls
  • 12 suggestions for effective “oral reading” (reading aloud)
  • Basics of microphone technique: positioning, amplification, voice factors, maintaining correct levels, reading from manuscript. Faults to avoid
  • The acoustic problem in churches. How to distinguish a “dead room” from a “live” one -- and adapt delivery accordingly
  • What every preacher must understand “to make himself a useful instrument in the hands of God”

The principles of fine preaching

“The needs of the faithful come above everything else. Do the people ignore the truth of a dogma? Then the preacher must instruct them. Do they question a truth? Then he must prove it. Is there a disparity between their belief and their conduct? Then he must insist upon the obligation which truth imposes upon them. The practice of morals must be stressed. Are passions in their hearts an obstacle to truth? He must oppose feeling with feeling, emotion with emotion.”

“A preacher must give the impression that he believes his hearers better than they really are. If he must deal with some major disorder, he infers that it is rare, or that those who are guilty of it are few. He often implies that no grave disorder is present among his listeners, but he must warn people of evil; consequently he signals out this or that disorder to show its terrible consequences. he inspires horror of vice, and in isolating the guilty, frightens them into believing that they stand almost alone.”

“In the pulpit a preacher should have dignity tempered by modesty and firmness. He must hold a middle ground between unnatural immobility and ridiculous agitation. His body can be held straight without being stiff. His poise can suggest dignity without any element of haughtiness.

“The face, habitually calm, grave, and serene, ought to reflect the sense of the discourse. Nothing is more ludicrous than a sermon delivered by a preacher whose lifeless and expressionless face seems to get more blank as the speaker uses stronger words and more precise assertions. The term ‘dead pan’ rather accurately describes such a performance, and the expression ought to be reserved for a certain type of comedy. The countenance should expand in joy, hope, and desire, taking on an air of happiness and satisfaction.”

“The following types of exercises may suggest to the seminarian ways of practice for visible speech.

“Stand easily erect, arms dangling loosely at the sides, eyes closed; as you inhale, allow your arms to rise gently to chest level. Keep wrists and finger relaxed. Then open your eyes, step forward, and energize your wrist and hand as you make an appropriate gesture to illustrate the sentence: This man is here. Repeat the same exercise, and at the proper time point the index finger as you say: I am pointing at you. Suggest then by gestures that you are reaching for an object; you are warding it off; you are revealing it to listeners. Practice gesturing with a number of phrases locating or describing objects.”


BONUS: Practice exercises end each chapter

APPENDIX: Techniques for improving posture, gesture, breath control, vocal tone and volume

Detailed table of contents and extensive index