Preaching the Word: When People Stop Listening
Each year, the Pontifical North American College community is blessed to be visited by a distinguished speaker who delivers the Carl J. Peter Lecture. The lecture takes its name from Rev. Carl J. Peter (1932-1991), a noted theologian, teacher, and preacher who was a priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska, and professor at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. To honor his memory the Peter family established the Rev. Carl J. Peter Chair of Homiletics at the Pontifical North American College, through which the seminary provides an intensive program of seminars, workshops, and courses in homiletics.
On the evening of Sunday, March 15th, 2015, Rev. Msgr. Stephen Joseph Rossetti delivered the annual Carl J. Peter Lecture to the Pontifical North American College community and guests. Msgr. Rossetti is a priest of the Diocese of Syracuse, former CEO of the Saint Luke Institute in Maryland, and guest lecturer at the Catholic University of America and at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Additionally, he has authored numerous articles and books, including, Why Priests are Happy: A Study of the Psychological and Spiritual Health of Priests and Letters to My Brothers: Words of Hope and Challenge for Priests.
Msgr. Rossetti’s lecture, entitled “Preaching the Word: When People Stop Listening,” focused on the reality of preaching as a “sacramental moment.” He said, “An essential part of preaching is its two-way engagement. Both parties must be engaged—the speaker and the listener […] Christ is dynamically present in both preacher and congregation, moving and inspiring both.” Msgr. Rossetti did not limit the concept of preaching strictly to the homily at Mass, but, rather, he called those present to be open to preaching “in the streets” with the hope of sharing the Good News with those who desperately need to hear it. He remarked, “A church alive is necessarily a missionary church, always pushing beyond its current borders and pushing you and I, its ministers, beyond our comfort zones.”
Msgr. Rossetti supplemented his lecture with quotations from Pope Francis’ encyclical letter Evangelii Gaudium and from the recently released Homiletic Directory (2015) from the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Drawing from these documents, Msgr. Rossetti spoke about the need for personal holiness in the preacher and his living awareness of Christ’s saving love. He noted Pope Francis’ call to preachers to not only “contemplate the word” but to also “contemplate the people” so to preach the Good News while addressing this Good News to the needs of the people.
Thank you Msgr. Rossetti for an exceptional Carl J. Peter Lecture, sure to stay with us as we seek to live holy lives and preach the Good News in love with joy.
UPDATE: Msgr. Rossetti has graciously allowed the College to publish the text of his lecture on our website. The text of his lecture is available here.