|Bede Jarrett, O.P., 1903|
Only it was not enough to possess vision and some mastery of words. A sermon was useless unless audible. In consequence many pages of his note book are filled with suggestions on pronunciation and on voice production and the use of the sentence and the paragraph in preaching. He realised very clearly that the methods of improvisation he encouraged had their particular dangers. It was not enough to see and to speak and to be heard; the sermon had also to be shaped. He urged that a detailed scheme should be drawn up and memorised; such a scheme could be plotted in skeleton form on the back of a postcard or an envelope, but it must contain a development of ideas. He recommended that it should be written out clearly and in some detail. This had been his own practice as a young man when he first began to preach without a script…
In his own life time he held a recognised position as the greatest preacher in Catholic England. In the light of his own teaching it is easy to understand the reason. Behind all his sermons there lay a personal vision and a personal love. He always preached to the individual: it made no difference to him whether these were many or were few. He would seem to put the same care and thought and vision into each of his sermons and his lectures for with him the lectures were in fact sermons. It appeared to make no difference whether these were to be delivered in Westminster Cathedral, or the Albert Hall or Our Lady of Victories, New York, or in some small church or class room. The author of the obituary in The Times noted that “he has been called the best Roman Catholic preacher in this country, and he was perhaps the most popular English preacher in the United States, his sermons being marked by their intellectual quality, their appositeness to the times and their incisiveness”. All this seems true enough. Much of his success as a preacher was due to his clarity of thought and of word and of voice. But it was Father Vincent McNabb who perhaps came closest to the secret of his influence: “His light was a spiritual flame that fed itself, increasing day by day–but alas a bodily flame that fed upon itself until the day when it made an end to its powers. I need not say that if he was on fire it was with the master-flame of love.”
From Bede Jarrett of the Order of Preachers, by Kenneth Wykeham-George, O.P., and Gervase Mathew, O.P. (Westminster, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1952) 140-142.