In the strict and only true sense of the term, implies public discoursing on a religious subject by one having authority to do so.
Preaching, therefore, can be applied only to the public religious discourses given by bishops or priests of the Catholic Church.
Preaching began with Our Lord Himself, who preached very frequently, and entrusted the continuation of the work to the Apostles.
Sacred Scripture speaks very frequently, and very forcibly, about the necessity and great importance of preaching the word of God.
When Our Lord invested the Apostles with the "power of teaching,"
He placed one of the three essential elements for the institution of the Catholic Church.
Christ by giving to the Apostles (and to their successors), the threefold power of ruling, teaching, and sanctifying, instituted His (the Catholic) Church.
He gave this power to the Apostles in the following words:
Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.
The Apostles looked upon preaching as a positive duty,
For if I preach not the gospel, it is no glory to me, for a necessity lieth upon me; for woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel.
1 Corinthians 9
It is the chief part of the bishop's office and that of priests likewise.
Faith is the beginning, the foundation of the whole. spiritual life; but faith comes by the grace of God through hearing sermons:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
How then shall they call on Him, in whom they have not believed?
Or how shall they believe Him, of whom they have not heard?
And how shall they hear, without a preacher?
And how shall they preach unless they be sent, as it is written:
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things!
Cardinal Gibbons says,
So essential to the preservation of Christianity is the ministry of preaching, that if the voice of the Evangelist were hushed in a district or city for fifty years, the light of the gospel would well-nigh be extinguished in that region.
Over and above the qualifications to be found in every speaker, the one chosen for the special office of preaching should:
As in every discourse, so in preaching, the proximate end to be attained is the persuading of the hearers to take those good resolutions which the preacher, by his argumentation, has convinced them they ought to take.
It is one thing to convince a man that he should take a certain step, quite another to persuade him to take it.
He who best knows how to combine the two qualities, convincing and persuading, in their proper proportion, is without doubt the best and most effective preacher.
The remote end to be attained is the salvation of souls.
A very important consideration in preaching is the remote preparation which consists in:
- possess a vocation to the holy priesthood
- be a man of virtuous life, since he is called upon to preach all the virtues
- be a man of prayer
- be well versed in the Sacred Sciences
The Council of Trent laid down many important regulations, to be observed by the clergy in their duty of preaching the word of God.
The New Code of Canon Law gives the complete law of the Church on preaching in a very clear and decisive manner.
Perhaps the most important document on this subject in recent years is the Encyclical Letter on preaching the Word of God, by Pope Benedict XV (15 June 1917)
- formation of a good style
- a judicious course of reading
- collection of useful and striking matter
- practise of composition
Wherefore since by God's good pleasure, things are preserved. through the same causes by which they were brought into being, it is evident that the preaching of the wisdom taught us by the Christian religion is the means divinely employed to continue the work of eternal salvation, and that it must with just reason be looked upon as a matter of the greatest and most momentous concern.
New Catholic Dictionary