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Extent: Paperback

Pages: 127

Size: 21 x 14 x 1cm

Publisher: Veritas

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As appeared in Intercom, February 2017, 10th Jan 2019

Reviewer: Veritas Publishing

Most preachers will recall the advice given in seminary to prospective preachers to read, study, meditate, structure and pray during the week before the Sunday homily. In truth, most of us will smile wistfully at the innocence of our professors and tell tales of the unpredictability and chaos that pastoral life can often throw in our path in the course of a week. ‘The best laid plans of mice and men…’
The book in review is not short of such advice but it is realistic, or at least more realistic than some advisors. Its layout is in the form of what might be seven short homilies on various topics. While the wisdom offered and the tools that are recommended are commendable, I felt the need for some critique or guidelines on the occasional homilies, as distinct from Sunday homilies, which form such a part of our workload and on the importance of diction and clarity of sound. The high quality of communication (p. 39) in the media means that we are speaking to an audio-visually trained congregation that has a low threshold for listening to ‘talking heads’. This raises the bar for us but the author wisely advises not to descend to simple-ness.
Someone once said to me that there was about six good ‘sermons’ in the best of preachers and with the help of computer technology I have discovered the truth of this in my own offerings. There are constant themes that recur in most preachers’ offerings and, preaching being a projective exercise, a lot of our inner world spills over into the ‘few words’. That is one good reason to heed the author’s advice to immerse oneself in the Scriptures in whatever form so that the ‘word truly comes from within’ (p. 14). While the book deals with scriptural approaches to preaching, I believe that it is imperative to also have a well-stocked mind with regard to the arts and to the sciences that mould contemporary minds.
The preacher must know the heart of the community (p. 43). This is the kernel of good preaching in my view. As the old

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Veritas Publications

Speaking from Within

by Kieran J. O'Mahony


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A good homily not only engages listeners but demonstrates the speaker’s keen understanding of scripture and its enduring relevance for Christians today. An effective preacher is someone who understands the complex and ultimately rewarding nature of this challenge and strives to communicate core scriptural values in a way that is clear and concise but never simplistic.

In Speaking from Within, Kieran J. O’ Mahony explores ways in which homilists can improve and develop their skills by engaging, first and foremost, in prayerful self-reflection, because ‘only from within that personal encounter can we hope that a word of life will be spoken’. The book also focuses on the integral place of the lectionary to preachers, before underscoring how a sincere and attentive reading of the scriptures is key to writing an effective, meaningful homily.

Speaking from Within will inspire not only all who preach, but also those who pass on their faith in any way.

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