Okay, yes, Aristotle was a pagan — but you can't blame the guy for living centuries before the birth of Christ. You can, however, give him credit for laying out the basics of a good speech. Basics, Father Damian Ference argues, that every good priest ought to keep in mind — and in practice.
Aristotle was a pagan. He died more than three hundred years before the Incarnation, and so Dante put him in the first circle of hell along with his great teacher, Plato. Yet St. Thomas Aquinas consistently referred to Aristotle as “The Philosopher,” and the Catholic intellectual tradition is steeped in Aristotelian thought. Although Aristotle never once heard a homily, he offers an excellent study of public speaking in his treatise titled Rhetoric, which can tell us a lot about what makes a homily good, or not so good.
According to Aristotle, a good speech – and in our case, a good homily – is built on three pillars:ethos, pathos and logos. So let’s examine each pillar to see what Aristotle is up to.
ETHOS: This first pillar deals with the credibility and the character of the preacher. Do you believe what the preacher is saying? Is he trustworthy? Is he worth listening to? Does he practice what he preaches? Does he have integrity and virtuous character? In other words, is he holy?...