Guideline: Read LCO Paragraphs 98-140 for more detail
If you are interested in ‘Preaching like a friar,’ you are beginning to get interested in what makes us who we are. Preaching like a friar is a big deal! It means preaching like a successor of one of the Apostles; it’s right in our Constitutions. Our ministry, “is a sharing in the prophetic office of the bishops.” (LCO 99) Our preaching, then, is supposed to be comparable to the preaching of Ss. Peter and Paul, James and John, and all the other apostles; it should call to mind also the Israelite prophets of old – Samuel, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah and even John the Baptist!
This awesome task lays a great degree of responsibility on one who would strive to serve as a Dominican friar. Our constitutions remind us that our preaching must be marked by an evangelical spirit, tied especially closely to the Sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation. It is not enough to speak with love and passion for our Lord Jesus; in order to be effective, we must also speak of Him in an accessible way. In order to rightly communicate this Jesus, whom we know, we must do everything we can to enter into closer relationship with those to whom we preach. St. Thomas Aquinas said, ‘That which is received is received according to the mode of the receiver.’ If we want to preach Jesus like we want to, we need to know how he is best communicated to the people to whom we preach.
Dominican preaching is also collaborative. Our Constitutions say that the preaching of any one Dominican ought to be seen as part of the preaching mission of a whole Dominican convent. Members of a convent who share in apostolic ministry together are especially effective witnesses; this explains, in part, the Dominican tradition of referring to the life of the community itself as a ‘holy preaching.’
Dominican preaching ought to bear one more special mark: that we speak rightly of our Lord and teach with theological soundness. St. Thomas Aquinas’ life works can be more easily understood if seen as his contribution to the Holy Preaching mission of St. Dominic. In order to preach his Lord more effectively, St. Thomas wanted to be able to speak rightly of that Lord, and his Dominican brothers strive to follow in his footsteps, perhaps with an awe of him, but more of the God whom he contemplated.
St. Thomas shows us one last aspect, perhaps more important than all the others, of what our preaching ought to be: contemplative. Thomas was a brilliant scholar and preacher, with a sharp mind and a strong will. Most of his contemporaries didn’t point to either of those things as most important. Instead, they pointed to his love for contemplation of God. We follow today in Aquinas’ footsteps, perhaps with an awe of him, but more of the God whom he contemplated.
In all of these, study, prayer both personal and communal, and living the vows are important pillars. To learn more about good preaching, read more about how these serve our preaching.