To be great preachers—and everyone, not just priests, are called to preach—we must be great prayers. Only from our prayer life and our intimate communion with God does the conviction to follow the Gospel proceed. Read how often our Lord "went off to a deserted place to pray." He feeds the multitude, he delivers his sermons, he amazes the crowds, and still he retreats to his cave to be alone with God the Father. The more we pray and the more quiet time we spend with God, the more we become like God and the more attractive our words and our witness become to others. Then we preach effectively and make disciples.
There is no better example of this than the early medieval Irish saints, whom we honor this time of year. Starting with Patrick, the "Apostle of Ireland" with whose exploits we are all familiar, we see, fundamentally a desire to pray. He trained in continental Europe with St. Martin of Tours, the Roman soldier-turned monk. His "training" consisted, fundamentally, of prayer.
Saint Columbanus, who attracted many disciples and built monasteries, would spend hours alone in a cave. "One thing alone I ask of you," he once said to his brothers, "permit me to live in silence in these forests." Saint Kevin, before during and after his establishment of the Dublin monasteries, lived as a hermit. And Saint Brendan, the Great Voyager who some think may have reached North America, who could only compose this prayer because he himself prayed:
Help me to journey beyond the familiar
and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways
and break fresh ground with You.
Christ of the mysteries, I trust You
to be stronger than each storm within me.
I will trust in the darkness and know
that my times, even now, are in Your hand.
Tune my spirit to the music of heaven,
and somehow, make my obedience count for You.