On the Preacher and Preaching

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a letter by Francis de Sales
On the Preacher and Preaching
translated and with an introduction and notes by John K. Ryan

Following as it does the historic sessions of the Second Vatican Council, at which the major American contribution has been an insistence upon a return to its honored place of the living proclamation of the word of God, Msgr. Ryan’s translation of this classic is particularly timely and valuable.

During his life as a priest and bishop, St. Francis de Sales preached continually and addressed himself to all groups: to the rich and the lowly and to both Catholics and Protestants. Because of his outstanding abilities and his contacts with all classes of men, St. Francis de Sales was uniquely equipped to write on preaching.

On the Preacher and Preaching is the first English translation of an extended letter addressed to Andre Fremyot, a young priest who had been named archbishop of Bourges. Coming from a famous and devout family–his sister was the future St. Jane Frances de Chantal– the new archbishop was doubtful of his abilities and fearful of facing his duty to preach. Deeply concerned for his friend, St. Francis de Sales prepared what amounts to a treatise on preaching while being at the same time a completely human and personal document.

Preaching is defined and analysed under the four headings of (1) who must preach, (2) why, (3) what he must preach, and (4) into what form he must put his material. How Scripture must be used is indicated, along with use of the Fathers, the classics, natural history, and biography. 

Suffused with his love of God and zeal for souls, St. Francis de Sales’ Message is as urgent and instructive today to bishops and priests– and by extension to all teachers– as when he first wrote it more than 350 years ago.

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