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Preaching with a Prop
- Ryan Duns, S.J.


Incorporating a prop into one’s preaching can be profoundly effective. It can also prove completely disastrous. Having attempted on several occasions to incorporate a musical instrument into my own preaching, allow me to share some thoughts.

First, the prop is meant to support your preaching. Its use should flow from your message, enhancing the Word rather than detracting from it. When I use it best, the tin whistle serves to give an auditory illustration supporting homily’s point.

Second, one must remain mindful of the prop at all times. Whether preaching with artwork, an instrument, or something else, you must be attentive to its placement. I had to sacrifice mobility in order to keep the whistle “out of sight” while preaching, bringing it forward only when needed. Remember: if a congregant sees something out of the ordinary near the preacher, attention will be directed to the thing and not on receiving the preached Word.

Third, and I say this with a mea culpa, I have succumbed to using my musical gifts as a substitute for the hard work of crafting a homily. People left Mass saying, “Wow, he’s a great musician!” but I fear my musical flourish obscured the transformative word of the Gospel.

Drawing a prop into one’s preaching can transform the way the congregation receives what is preached. It provides another cue and anchor to help them grasp the Scriptures. Attentiveness to the question, “How does this support the Word?” will help to ensure the prop remains just that: a support and buttress used to bring people to move the hearts and minds of the congregation toward greater love for Jesus Christ.  



The Missing Note


A Conversation with Ryan Duns, SJ



Questions for Reflection

  1. Why do you think “preaching with a prop” enhances the message of a homily?
  2. What are the benefits? What are pitfalls?
  3. Is the prop integral to the message of the homily or simply an add on?
  4. What inspired you to preach with this focus?
  5. What have you learned from the experience?
  6. How does “preaching with a prop” support the Gospel message in a unique way?
  7. Why preach from one scriptural text, especially the Gospel?