On the Preacher and Preaching

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9781517796624: On the Preacher and Preaching

DURING his life as a priest and bishop, St. Francis de Sales preached continually, never neglecting an opportunity to speak, no matter how small his audience might be. He addressed himself to all groups: to the great and learned at Paris and elsewhere, as well as to the ignorant and lowly; to those in the religious life and to the laity; to townspeople and to country folk; and to non-Catholics as well as Catholics. St. Francis not only preached frequently, but, according to our standards, he preached long. His reputation was deservedly great and crowds flocked to hear him. The results were likewise great, as is shown by the success of his missionary work in Chablais and by other records of his life. Some of his countless sermons still survive,l among them certain shorter ones that became chapters of his treatise On the Love of God. Preaching was indeed one of the means by which the bishop of Geneva attained to sainthood. Because of his abilities as a speaker and writer, and his great knowledge and his experience with every class of men-all of which he expertly turned to the fulfillment of his duty to spread the gospel-St. Francis de Sales was equipped as few men have been to write on preaching, and has in fact produced the short treatise which is here presented in translation. Its occasion was the departure of a friend, Andre Fremyot, archbishop of Bourges, to take up residence in his see city. Unable to leave the work of his own diocese and make the long journey to Bourges, St. Francis wrote a letter to the archbishop wishing him well and offering him ideas on this chief duty of a bishop. At the time St. Francis was spending some days in his birthplace, the family chateau at Sales, where, as he remarks in the letter, there were no books to provide him with exact references to the many authors he quotes. It is a long letter, and was written rapidly, and because of such facts the work is all the more spontaneous in expression and all the more noteworthy for the variety and value of its contents. This work is as instructive to us today and as relevant to present-day needs as it was to the man for whom it was first written and to the others who read it more than three hundred and fifty years ago.

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