The Pontifical North American College

March 23, 2018

Carl J. Peter Lecture 2018

On Sunday, March 11th, the Pontifical North American College welcomed The Most Reverend Bernard Hebda, Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, for annual Carl J. Peter’s Homiletics lecture. This lecture series is named after the noted professor, theologian, previous faculty member and alumni of the College, Fr. Carl J. Peter. To honor his memory, the Carl J. Peter Chair provides an intensive program of seminars, workshops, and courses in homiletics, as well as an annual lecture to promote the art of preaching. Archbishop Hebda is the current occupant of the Carl J. Peter’s Chair. The topic chosen for the Archbishop to address was “Preaching to the Indifferent.”

Throughout the talk, Archbishop Hebda spoke about his encounters with the faithful of his diocese and their desire for good preaching. This was to emphasize the point that in order to preach the Gospel in a relevant and effective way, the preacher must know his audience. In an era of growing indifference toward religion, there needs to be an adaption to the approach of homily preparation and content. “A preacher must keep an ear to the people,” says the Archbishop, “He must know well both God on one hand and the people on the other. He must know their hearts, their language and their culture.”

On several occasions, he quoted Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, a document in which the Pope emphasizes the need of relevant, effective preaching. Pope Francis states, “Preaching is God’s opportunity to speak to his people.” While more and more people are becoming indifferent toward religion, especially today’s youth and millennial generation, the true desire of every human heart for God is never absent. It is the job of the homily to rekindle this desire to know of God’s mercy and love. The Archbishop reminds the priests and seminarians in the audience to look no further than Jesus as the preacher par-excellence. Like Christ’s parables, the words of the homily will then awaken the desire and move the heart of even those who do not yet know the Lord.