Pope Francis has described how he prepares and delivers his homilies for morning Mass, in an interview given to introduce a new collection of homilies and speeches given while the Pope was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The volume of more than 1,000 pages, published in Italian, includes all Pope Francis’s homilies from 1999 until his election as pope in 2013, for which there was a written record or a recording that could be transcribed.
“Sometimes our words respond to questions nobody is asking,” Pope Francis said in an interview with Jesuit Fr Antonio Spadaro, editor of the Jesuit journal, La Civilta Cattolica. “If you don’t listen to people, how can you preach?”
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, said on Wednesday that the book is invaluable to understanding the roots of Pope Francis’ ministry and the development of his pastoral style.
Cardinal-designate Blasé J Cupich of Chicago, who also spoke at the book presentation, said Pope Francis’ pastoral experience as a bishop is now placed at the service of the Universal Church.
In the book, he said: “I did not find pastoral theories or technical formulas; I found a life lived, experience and wisdom.”
Although now compelled to write out his homilies for public events so they can be translated in advance, Pope Francis said he dislikes the practice and, whenever possible, he adds at least a few words or phrases to show he is speaking directly to the people in front of him.
When he preaches to a crowd in St Peter’s Square, “I don’t see a crowd; I try to look, at least, at one person, a precise face,” he told Fr Spadaro.
Pope Francis said that his small morning Masses in the chapel of his residence, the Domus Sanctae Marthae, allow him to continue to preach in the way he prefers, and that he had a regular practice for preparing his homilies.
“I start the day before, at noon the day before,” he said. “I read the texts for the next day and, usually, I choose one of the two readings” on which to focus. “I read the passage I have chosen out loud. I need to hear the sound, to listen to the words.
“And then in the booklet I use, I underline the words that strike me most,” he said.
“There are some days, though, when evening comes and still nothing has come to mind. I have no idea what I will say the next day. In that case, I do what St. Ignatius said: I sleep on it. And, then, when I wake up, inspiration comes. The right things come to mind. Sometimes they are strong, sometimes weak. But that’s the way it is.”
Listening to people’s stories, including in the confessional, is essential for preaching the Gospel, he said. “The further you are from the people and their problems, the further you hide behind a theology framed as ‘You must and you must not,’ which doesn’t communicate anything.”
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