Winter Reading for February 2015

Masters of Preaching: More Poignant and Powerful Homilists in Church History, Vol. 2. Ray E. Atwood (Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books/University of America Press, 2014) xiv + 469 pages. (Reviewed by Fr. David Vincent Meconi, S.J.)


Teach, Delight, Persuade: Scriptural Homilies for Years A, B, and C. James W. Kinn (Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2009) 369 pages; Christ-Centered Sermon: Models of Redemptive Preaching. Bryan Chapell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2013) xxviii + 241 pages. The Word Explained: A Homily for Every Sunday of the Year: Year B. Fr. William J. Byron, S.J. (New York: Paulist Press, 2014) viii + 254 pages. (Reviewed by Fr. David Vincent Meconi, S.J.)


Love Becomes Service: The Integration of the Sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders in the Ministry and Life of the Married Permanent Deacon. By Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Chaback, KCSH, STD (Dufour Editions, Inc.: Chester Springs, PA, 2013), 91 pages. (Reviewed by Mrs. Allison LeDoux.)


Praying the Roman Missal: Pastoral Reflections on the Revised English Translation. Robert L. Tuzik (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications: 2011) 237 pages. (Reviewed by Brandon Harvey.)


Masters of Preaching: More Poignant and Powerful Homilists in Church History, Vol. 2.Ray E. Atwood (Lanham, MD: Hamilton Books/University of America Press, 2014) xiv + 469 pages.

Last August, I had the opportunity to review the first volume of Fr. Ray Atwood’s Masters of Preaching. Fr. Atwood serves in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, and fortunately for all of us, his alacrity is as expansive as the list of great preachers is in the history of Christ’s Church. We are, therefore, treated to a second volume, following more or less the outline of the first. That is, we first receive an opening chapter on “The Principles and Mechanics of Effective Preaching” wherein Fr. Atwood lays out not only a general overview of this work and preaching in the life of the Church for the past 2,000 years, more importantly he provides the six basic general principles of great homilists. Master preachers know, first and foremost, that the context of their words is the sacred liturgy; this is not an infomercial or a paean for some secular cause. The homily is part of the Eucharist! The second quality to look for is content that is “faith-based and directed,” that is, words that are aimed at building up the faith and charity of God’s people. Next comes the homily’s necessary Christocentrism: the good preacher sets out to explain Christ’s words, never to supplant them. According to Atwood, then, the fourth and fifth qualities of a good homily is its “specificity” as well as its applicability. Christ wants his preachers to meet others in the lives they live, and in the concrete circumstances of their everyday existence. This takes a cleric who is truly human, and not above, or afraid of, the human condition. The final quality of a good homily is its preparedness and the effective substance, as well as its style, that a thoughtful preacher puts into his exposition of the liturgy’s readings.

This is a process that began very early in the story of God’s people, and so Fr. Atwood next takes us back to preaching in the Old Testament (ch.2), as well as the New Testament (ch. 3). Here we learn the various ways a sermon was actually preached in biblical times that is described in some scriptural passages that we may have never noticed. Given Atwood’s definition of a homily, this becomes clear: “preaching by an ordained minister to explain the scriptures proclaimed in the liturgy and to exhort the people to accept them as the Word of God.” With that we come to see how the patriarchs and the prophets, the apostles and the earliest followers of Jesus, were all empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim his covenantal fidelity. In these pages, Atwood never succumbs to what I have come to call “liturgical monophysitism”—wherein one’s humanity is erroneously swallowed up by God’s divinity. On the contrary, we see beautifully how each canonical author reveals in truth not only God’s workings, but his own history, personality, and experience as he recalls how the Word of God shaped the New Israel.

Chapters 4 (Post-Apostolic Church), 5 (Church Fathers), and 6 (Preaching in the Middle Ages) serve to set the great Church in focus by taking us through the major preachers of those formative years. Preaching in such Church manuals as the Didache, as well as in the second century Apologists, are standard fare in these histories, but Atwood is mindful enough to include very pivotal figures, such as Melito of Sardis, to show how the first generations of clerics used preaching not only to shore up early Christian doctrine, but (as always, hopefully) to exhort the People of God to true holiness. A theme which appears now and then in these pages is how early Christians interacted with their pagan neighbors; and while Atwood is not out to show how we need to do the same today, there are some wonderful images and concepts embedded in these pages that will assist us all in “preaching” the Gospel of Jesus to our contemporaries. In the “Middle Ages” (which Atwood takes to be 476-1453, the Fall of Rome to the Muslim seizing of Constantinople), we learn that the distinctive homiletic characteristics of these pivotal years was the rise of the mendicant religious orders (e.g., the Order of Preachers!), the spread of Islam, and the beginnings of modern science. We are brought into the worlds and words of Peter Damian (d. 1072), William Perault, OP (d. 1271), Blessed Humbert, OP (d. 1277), and others. Atwood refuses to sanitize the problems these years were fomenting, while the Reformers sought to fill the vacuums that lazy clerics, bad preaching, and ecclesial abuses made all too evident.

Therefore, in “Preaching in the Reformation and Post-Reformation Periods” (ch. 7), we learn how these years of Christian division led to the rise of a bolder and more sophisticated type of scriptural sermon, evidenced across Europe in such men like John Fisher (d. 1535) in England, Philip Neri (d. 1595) in Rome, Peter Canisius, S.J. (d. 1597) in Germany, and Francis De Sales (d. 1622) in France—saints whom Atwood is careful to describe all along as “men of personal integrity, profound spirituality, great pastoral skill, and intellectual excellence.” From these “first responders” to the Reformers’ socio-ecclesial challenges and theological distortions, we are brought into “Preaching in the Modern and Contemporary Era” (ch. 8). While most histories on preaching fail to see some of the brilliance surrounding us, Atwood highlights the best of the voices of our time. He begins with later 19th century clerics like Henri-Dominique Lacordaire (d. 1861) where the human heart is spoken to—including an excellent selection from Lacordaire’s talk on “Man as a Moral Being,” inviting all in attendance to embrace the depths of their entire being in Christ—and then proceeds to move into the preaching of the 20th and the 21st centuries. With a smile one cannot see, the words of John Paul I appear here, a shepherd with only 33 days to serve the world as Pope, but whose words truly capture his joy (and his defense of more misunderstood Church teaching, such as Humanae Vitae).

There are many other preachers and sermons included in this rather lengthy volume. It is thus a work not just for historians, but for anyone who wants to understand the lives and the logoi of many of Christ’s best “voices” crying out in the desert, as well as in Dubuque! For that we thank Fr. Atwood, and I will end by pointing out his own homiletic skills featured in this same issue of HPR where he has written on the homilies for Sundays and Holy Days for the month of March 2015.
Fr. David Vincent Meconi, S.J.
Saint Louis University


Teach, Delight, Persuade: Scriptural Homilies for Years A, B, and C. James W. Kinn (Chicago: Hillenbrand Books, 2009) 369 pages; Christ-Centered Sermon: Models of Redemptive Preaching. Bryan Chapell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academics, 2013) xxviii + 241 pages. The Word Explained: A Homily for Every Sunday of the Year: Year B. Fr. William J. Byron, S.J. (New York: Paulist Press, 2014) viii + 254 pages.

Besides Atwood’s more comprehensive overview of preaching reviewed above, three more books on preaching deserve brief mention here. These are all more practical guides to preparing a homily on any given Sunday. Fr. James Kinn served as both professor and pastor in the Archdiocese of Chicago, but is now retired. His years of wisdom and priestly service come through in this volume which is broken down in terms of liturgical seasons.

Chapter 1 treats Advent, following the respective readings, and providing superb homily tips for Sundays A, B, and C. Next comes Christmastide, following the same format, helpfully providing different theological tips for preaching at Midnight, Dawn, and on the Day of Christmas. All other Christmas feasts, and even some possible “alternate” homilies, are given. Chapter 3 takes up (only) the Sundays of Lent (unfortunately no homily for Ash Wednesday); and chapter 4 discusses all the beautiful feasts of Eastertide—from the Vigil through Pentecost and the Ascension, to Holy Trinity and Corpus Christi (again, giving different takes for Years A, B, and C). The next three chapters succinctly and smartly give us insights into the Second through the Tenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (ch. 5), the 11th through the 21st Sundays (ch. 6), and the 22nd through the 33rd Sundays (ch. 7). Chapter 8 then rounds things out by examining possible homilies for the Solemn Feasts strewn throughout this beautiful cycle of praise—Christ the King, The Immaculate Conception and Assumption of Our Lady, as well as All Saints Day. Fr. Kinn’s work here would surely be valuable to all who work hard throughout the week to give the local parish a robust sermon, but it will also, no doubt, prove indispensable for those who are inevitably rushing to collect their thoughts in order to deliver an intelligent and liturgically-focused homily.

In Christ-Centered Sermon: Models of Redemptive Preaching, Bryan Chapell is a seasoned Presbyterian pastor, but his words here will be helpful to Catholic clerics as well. In short, this book shows how to structure (ch. 1) a biblically-centered (ch. 2), applied (ch. 3) sermon. The reason I chose to review this in HPR is because Chapell’s words are theologically solid, and his guide to preparing a godly sermon are helpful. What I especially enjoyed were his “Prayers for Illumination” in asking the Holy Spirit to be the one who ultimately shapes and sends my sermon. This work is not something we all have to have immediately available on our shelves, but it would prove helpful for students of homiletics, as well as those looking for a more sustained—it not ecumenical—approach to the art of preaching.

Fr. William Byron, S.J., is a faithful Jesuit of many years, the President Emeritus of The Catholic University, and is now teaching “Business” and “Society” at St. Joseph’s University, as well as around the greater Philadelphia area. His latest, The Word Explained: A Homily for Every Sunday of the Year: Year B, is precisely as the title indicates. Here, Byron takes us through every B-Sunday reading, completing his already popular guides to Year A (2013) and C (2012). I rely on these works practically weekly, and always come away with a new image, or a catchy way of expressing an ancient truth. In particular, Fr. Byron’s way of integrating the Second Reading with the Old Testament proclamation is always helpful, in that he sees clearly how the First Reading is always selected to prepare for the fulfillment of whatever event or truth is foreshadowed in Israel. As a business professor and social critic, Byron is also uniquely poised to give real world, as well as to draw from contemporary events.
Fr. David Vincent Meconi, S.J.
Saint Louis University


Love Becomes Service: The Integration of the Sacraments of Matrimony and Holy Orders in the Ministry and Life of the Married Permanent Deacon. By Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Chaback, KCSH, STD (Dufour Editions, Inc.: Chester Springs, PA, 2013), 91 pages.

In Love Become Service, Monsignor Michael Chaback offers a unique and much-needed contribution to the ministry of the permanent diaconate in the Church today. Permanent deacons and their wives will find this book to be a rich source of reflection, spiritual renewal, and inspiration for their ministry and mission.

Love Become Service is a theological essay based on number sixty-one of the Congregation for the Clergy’s Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons. Monsignor Chaback’s priestly experience as a pastor, seminary professor, and director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Allentown, have imminently qualified him to share the valuable insights he has gained by reflecting on the two sacramental realities of marriage and holy orders that the married permanent deacon uniquely lives each day.

The main premise of the book is the importance of the integration of these two lived sacraments in the deacon’s life. Monsignor Chaback maintains that “the oft-quoted priority paradigm of God, wife, family, work, and ministry projects a misleading image of the task facing the married deacon … Prioritizing all too readily compartmentalizes life rather than integrates it. … The integration of his life becomes a necessity not only for his own well-being, but also for those whose lives he touches, and to whom he has committed himself.” (p.12)

By reframing the “priority” model into a model of integrity of life, it becomes evident that Monsignor Chaback has spent a great deal of time in prayerful reflection and study. The theological, scriptural, pastoral, spiritual, and practical aspects of this book are themselves evidence of, and witness to, successful integration of life and ministry. The model of integration he proposes affirms the words Pope John Paul II addressed to the Congregation for the Clergy in 1995: “The exercise of the diaconal ministry … requires per se of all deacons … a spiritual attitude of total dedication. … to think of oneself and to act in practice as a “part-time deacon” would make no sense … The deacon … is not a profession, but a mission!”

The first section of the book, dealing specifically with commentary on No. 61 of the Directory, reflects on the meaning of marriage for baptized Catholics in which the grace of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony empowers the husband and wife to live out their call to faithful, permanent, life-giving love in conscious fidelity, for their own fulfillment, and for the sake of the Church. The author explains how this reality is also an integral part of the person of the husband who becomes a deacon of the Church, who by the laying on of hands in the grace of Holy Orders becomes conformed to Christ the Servant. These two vocational sacraments form the unique and personal identity of the married permanent deacon.

Of particular note is the development of the principle of “love-becomes-service” that emerges from Christian marriage’s transformation of human love into divine love (p. 18). The indissoluble unity of the couple, lived out in their daily responsibilities and obligations, their prayer life, and their decision-making is shaped by love-become-service. This “‘love-becomes-service’ as the fruit of {the deacon’s} marriage becomes the stuff at the heart of his self-gift to a fruitful diaconal ministry.” (p. 21)

A life of self-giving love is key to what orders the deacon’s integration of all aspects of his life. Attention is also given to the role of deacons’ wives and the Church’s obligation to help them grasp and treasure the vision of “love-becomes-service” in this unique calling as witnesses of the Gospel. Noted also is the importance of assisting deacon candidates and their wives throughout the formation process. This lays a solid foundation for the journey upon which they are embarking.

In the subsequent sections, we see the practical application of the principles set forth, as Monsignor Chaback provides scriptural models for integrating the two life sacraments.

He shares insights from his own seeking of integration in his priesthood and develops the reader’s appreciation as he applies these insights to the two sacraments lived by the deacon. The image he uses as the integrating principle for the priest is the role of the Good Shepherd, citing St. John Paul II’s development of this theme defining a priestly vocation as “a singular solicitude for the salvation of our neighbor.” Certainly the idea of laying down one’s life for the other in imitation of Christ is central to both marriage and holy orders.

The next scriptural image elucidated is applied specifically to the married permanent deacon: that of Jesus rising from the table at the Last Supper and washing the feet of his disciples. His detailing in an almost lectio divina style, the behaviors of self-giving love Christ demonstrates in this example, is powerful indeed, so much so that the idea of “love-becomes-service” takes on a unique dimension. One particularly helpful point of reflection in regard to the role of Peter in the story, is: “Jesus does not require that what he does for us be fully grasped at the moment. He allows the unfolding of life to reveal to us what indeed is occurring.” (p. 61). How true this is in the journey of the deacon and his wife. Undergoing the process of preparation, formation, and transformation is a mystery that is difficult to express in words. To say that the “ontological change” that occurs when the deacon is ordained is profound would be an understatement. By meditating on the “love-becomes-service” model of integration, the permanent deacon and his wife will grow closer in love, and more fruitful in ministry. While the deacon’s ministry is uniquely his own, the support and help of his wife allows for a more complete integration of what Christ is doing in both their lives, leading to a deeper reverence for Christ in one another (cf. Eph. 5).

One of the most helpful features of this book is that Monsignor Chaback carefully incorporates reflection questions throughout each section. Many of the questions go deep, but they are not difficult. He offers concrete examples, scenarios, and thought-provoking questions intended for deacons and their wives to ponder and discuss, providing opportunities to compare, contrast, and relate to their own experience.

The importance of integration versus compartmentalization of one’s life and vocations is something that is deeply needed, but is rarely heard or understood. Monsignor Chaback’s deep reflection on this idea, rooted in scripture and prayer, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is clearly reminiscent of the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II in regard to the diaconate, marriage, and the truth about the human person.

The journey of discernment, formation, ordination, and active ministry is indeed a profound one for both the deacon and his wife. Love Becomes Service is a must-read, for both candidates in formation, and for the ordained. Heeding and praying, with Monsignor Chaback’s rich reflection on the uniqueness of the vocation of the married permanent deacon, will surely make the deacon’s journey, marriage, and ministry a closer walk with Christ, and a fruitful one.

In ninety-one short pages, Monsignor Chaback offers an unprecedented and valuable contribution to the ministry of the permanent diaconate in the Church today. Both spiritually enriching and practical at the same time, the book can be used creatively—seeking to enrich the lives of married permanent deacons and their wives will find Love Becomes Service to be not only auseful tool, but a treasure.
Mrs. Allison LeDoux (wife of a permanent deacon)
Director of the Respect Life Office, the Office of Marriage and Family
Teacher, “Theology of Marriage,” Diocesan Diaconate Formation Program.
Diocese of Worcester, MA.


Praying the Roman Missal: Pastoral Reflections on the Revised English Translation. Robert L. Tuzik (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications: 2011) 237 pages.

November 27th, 2011 was a day of great change for Roman Catholics in the English speaking world, the implementation of the newest translation of the Roman Missal. Reviewing the process and fruits of this translation can help the Church to meet those that slipped through the cracks, to appreciate the changes that have improved the faithful’s participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass, and to address the problems. One of the more popular books that prepared Catholics for this change was Robert L. Tuzik’s Praying the Roman Missal: Pastoral Reflections on the Revised English Translation. To best understand this work, it must be understood that the notion of “praying” in the title does not mean it is a book to directly guide the internal participation of the faithful, or a liturgical lectio, but rather it provides information on the process of liturgical translations, and the changes that have occurred in the latest revision. In the 1963 Sacrosanctum Concilium, it called for a revision of the liturgical books (25), and approved translations of the Latin text (36.4). Countries with English as their primary language were assisted by the International Commission of English in the Liturgy (ICEL).

In 1969, the first edition of the Order of Mass in English was published. ICEL was “rushed” into a new translation, and it was due to this rush that some of the issues with the original translation arose (pg. 2). The complete English edition of the Roman Missal was issued in 1974 and “was more complete than the first edition” and in harmony with new liturgical directives (pg. 2). The 1974 translation was often characterized as a paraphrase of the original Latin. At the time, ICEL used the translation theory of dynamic equivalence that was less worried about literal translation, and more with modern words and images to express the original.

This greatly changed in 2001 with Liturgiam Authenticam that provided various directives, and a desire to translate the original Latin more literally. The process of the new translation included various stages that began with the work of ICEL, episcopal boards, translators, and numerous committees. Also involved were experts in Latin, poetry, linguistics, philology, music, scripture, and patristics. Once the episcopal board had approved a text, it went before episcopal conferences for review and vote. ICEL collected the feedback from episcopal conferences, advisors of bishops, committees, and Rome. Revisions were made, and the episcopal board reviewed the text. After an approval by the episcopal board, the episcopal conferences received the revised text. This required a two-thirds approval of the full-members of ICEL. Episcopal conferences were still able to seek amendments, but on a minimal level. Upon this approval, the text was sent to Rome’s Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments. Eventually the text was sent on to the Holy Father for approval.

Praying the Roman Missal takes the reader through the various aspects of the Roman Missal to explain the changes that came with the New Translation. It begins with the first section of the Missal, the Proper of Time, and looks at the correction of titles for various times in the liturgical year, and provides some comparisons between the old and newly translated collects. Following the Proper of Time is the Order of Mass that journeys through the new text with the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, and the rubrics as liturgical commentary. Other chapters deal with the approved Eucharistic Prayers, the Proper of Saints, Commons, Ritual Masses, Votive Masses, Masses for the Dead, and the rites contained in the Appendices of the Roman Missal. The reflections of each section demonstrate not only the difference between the two translations, but how the new translation is more faithful to Scripture, Latin, and patristic sources. While the book expresses its approval of the new translation, it is honest to point out certain difficulties: sometimes overly technical terms, the lengthy sentences as in the prefaces, and the conflict between fidelity to Latin and fidelity to English grammar. Praying the Roman Missal provides not only an excellent survey of the new translation, but an excellent introduction to the missal in general.

This book still has potential to be a service to priests, musicians, and liturgists. It can provide priests with reminders of changes in order to answer the needs of the people, assistance for priests in knowing their options for various occasions, and introduce new liturgists, or music ministers, to the sections and contents of the missal. Perhaps, the greatest use today could be for parish study groups. Tuzik has provided helpful questions at the end of each chapter that are aimed at content and personal reflection. This book does not address the new translation of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) included in the missal. Some changes in this text are significant. For example, GIRM, pages 48 and 87, contain a list of sources for liturgical music. The previous translation of the GIRM included the final option of an approved “song” which was changed recently to “chant.” The introduction of the new translation was a difficult change for everyone, but it is also an opportunity to constantly grow in our knowledge of the process and nature of the changes. Continuing to go deeper into these realities allows us a greater participation in the Mystery of Christ that is celebrated in the Church’s Sacred Liturgy. Therefore, books on the already implemented new translation still have a place in our communities.
Brandon Harvey
Catholic author, speaker, and teacher
Omaha, Nebraska.

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