The Catholic University of America

Final Examination

Rev. Matthew Luft O.S.B.

for the degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

9:30a.m., Caldwell Hall, Room 125




The proclamation of God’s wonderful works in the History of salvation: the approach of Robert Waznak, SS, to the Theology, Theory and practice of the Liturgical Homily


Director: Rev. Kevin Irwin, M.Div., S.T.D.


The Fathers of Vatican Council II established the principles for the reform of the liturgy of the Roman Rite in Sacrosanctum Concilium.  These principles were predicated upon the work of a number of liturgical and scriptural scholars, historians and pastoral theologians from the various centers of research and liturgical practice of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. 

Article thirty-five of Sacrosanctum Concilium called for the restoration of the liturgical homily to the rites of the Church, especially to the Mass.  The homily is preached on Sundays and holydays in the post-conciliar Church; however, the liturgical homily itself is one area to which theologians in the post-conciliar era have not given substantial energy.  Often authors will publish collections of homilies, but few have undertaken the work of understanding this integral liturgical unit. Robert Waznak, SS, is one of the trailblazers in this field.

Waznak (1938–2002) devoted his career to teaching, writing about, and practicing the liturgical homily.  Ordained for Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1964, he preached in the diocese during the Council.  After joining the Sulpicians in 1968, he taught homiletics at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and at the Catholic University of America before beginning his doctoral studies in Rhetoric at Temple University in Philadelphia.  Following his doctorate, he returned to teaching, eventually earning tenure at Washington Theological Union and assisting in parishes until his untimely death from cancer in 2002.

During the course of his career Waznak made two significant contributions to the field of homiletics: an inclusive definition of the homily and an inclusion of the Protestant New Homiletic via the topic of narrative theology in his work.  He also recognized a lacuna in the field, a need for a comprehensive theology of preaching, which he was unable to fill.

This present study examines Waznak’s two contributions in light of magisterial writings about the homily and the work of the New Homiletic on narrative preaching.  It then uses Waznak’s methodology of using what modern scholars consider the theological lynchpin of Vatican II, communion theology, to fill his lacuna by creating a theology of the homily based on communion ecclesiology.