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Archives: October 2020
Many years ago I used to give a talk to seminarians about taking responsibility for their spiritual growth after their ordination. One of the recommendations I offered them was that when they prepared their homilies each week they spend some time reflecting on the scriptures for the coming Sunday with some of their parishioners.
My reasoning was that the scriptures—as the inspired word of God—speak to each person differently. I reminded them that as celibate males it can be helpful to hear how the scriptures speak to women, to those who are married, and those of different ages. I also told them that over the years, I have been continually and pleasantly surprised—and often humbled—by the insights and wisdom of parishioners as they shared how a particular scriptural passage spoke to them. I always closed by telling them that it was the height of foolishness and hubris for a priest, deacon, or bishop to think that in preparing a homily they can’t benefit from the insights of others.
Now, I know most people reading this column aren’t preparing to become preachers. But you do participate in the homily each week, by listening to it and reflecting on how it affects or reflects your life. Given this, your insights are important and can provide a grounding in reality for the homilist.
I would hope parishioners would feel confident and comfortable enough to let a preacher know when he has missed the mark and failed to tie the homily to your lived experience. A good preacher can learn from feedback from his parishioners. That doesn’t mean just telling a priest his homily was “good” or “bad.” Instead it may involve telling the priest about a specific point that resonated with you or raising a question about something you didn’t understand.
Preaching is an art not a science. Preparing a homily takes time and effort, and an openness to God’s grace and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. In my experience, however, priests often face three major pitfalls in regard to preaching. 1. Superficiality; 2. Splitting; and 3. Spilling. Let me say a word about each of these.
Superficiality occurs when the preacher spouts glib bromides and tired maxims instead of taking the time to do background reading and research, prayerful reflection on the scriptures, and welcoming and listening to the insights of others. It may be easy to be sweet and sugary in preaching, but the people in the pews deserve better.
Splitting occurs when the preacher tells people how they should live and act, but isn’t living and acting that way himself. In its worst form, this has occurred with abusive priests, but it also occurs when a preacher is telling people to be good, kind, forgiving, generous and loving, and isn’t doing this in his own life. People pick up on this almost immediately. It takes a certain amount of humility to be able to say: We need to do these things and I struggle with them in my own life. This is a vital aspect of preaching.
Spilling in preaching is perhaps the worst offense for preachers. Spilling occurs when a preacher decides to talk about their personal issues, or uses the pulpit to express his own opinion on a political issue. For example, when I was growing up I remember hearing a homily on the evils of chlorinated water. I also have heard priests preach about how poorly they have been treated by people in their parish.
To this day, I have no idea where these priests found these themes in the scriptures, but nonetheless they preached on them. These are good examples of spilling. At base, spilling is an abuse of the power of the pulpit. The person who is spilling may use the scriptures as a springboard, but in reality all they are doing is using the pulpit to promote their own ideas and agenda. It is always and everywhere, wrong.
The power of preaching is not to deliver holy truth from on high, but to connect people’s everyday experience with the extraordinary experience and presence of God. Preparing and giving a homily should be an opportunity and an occasion for spiritual growth. Most priests I know take preaching very seriously and work hard at it. I suspect, though, that there have been times when we have all been guilty of superficiality, splitting, or spilling. And unfortunately, some do this on a regular basis. One of the best ways to prevent this is to take the time and make the effort to listen to what the scriptures are saying to others, to consider the lives of the people in the pews, and to connect God to their everyday live. That can help us hear more clearly and keenly what God has to say to us in the scriptures.
I hope this message finds you and your family continuing to stay well during these very challenging times.
Today I’d like to update you on the activities going on at The Basilica. While most of these activities are being done virtually, we have resumed some activities. For example, last Sunday we resumed our 4:30pm Mass on Sunday afternoon. Both this Mass and our 11:30am Mass on Sunday are open to the public, but we do ask you to pre-register in the unlikely event that we need to contact you.
We will continue to livestream our 9:30am Mass. At the present time, however, this Mass isn’t open for public worship. Both our 7:00am and our Noon daily Masses are open to the public. We do ask that you pre-register for the Noon Mass, but you can register for the 7:00am Mass at the door.
On a related note, anticipating the colder weather, beginning October 12, we will be moving our check-in tables for all of our liturgies, with the exception of the 7:00am daily Mass, to the ground level doors of The Basilica. This area is large enough so that people won’t have to wait in the cold to check-in. The doors for check-in will be the southwest ground level doors near the circle garden and flag pole. Again we will begin using this area for check-in beginning October 12.
We have also begun to resume some activities on our campus on a case-by-case basis. Our standard will be ensuring the safety, security, and well-being of the participants or attendees. When there are activities on our campus, we will use the same protocols we currently use to check people in for the celebration of daily and Sunday Mass, and weddings and funerals.
In regard to our beautiful Basilica building, the tuck-pointing work on the west exterior wall of The Basilica above the doors near the Mary Garden continues. This work is needed to seal the mortar and prevent further water damage. As part of this project, we will also install an additional 10-12 moisture monitors in the church interior, and evaluate next steps for moisture testing and work needed to continue to dry out the church interior.
Additionally, within the next month, we hope to install a Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization Unit in the Church. This unit will clean the air in The Basilica and the lower level of viruses (including SARS and COVID-19), as well as allergens and mold. This technology is already being used at places like the Mayo Clinic, local schools, and museums. It will be a tremendous help in ensuring the safety and well being of all those who come to The Basilica. We are very blessed and fortunate that both of these projects are being paid for by The Basilica Landmark.
Finally, I want to let you know that I will be on retreat next week, so I won’t have an update next week. Please remember me in your prayers while I am on retreat, and know that you will be remembered gratefully in mine. As always, if you have questions or concerns about anything that is happening at The Basilica, please contact me at the parish office or send me an email. My contact information is available on our parish website.
Holy Mary, full of God’s presence during the day of your life, you accepted with full humility the Father’s will, and the devil was never capable of tying you up with his confusion.
Once with your Son you interceded for our difficulties, and full of kindness and patience, you gave us example of how to untie the knots in our life. By remaining forever Our Mother, you put in order and make more clear the ties that link us to the Lord.
Holy Mother, Mother of God and our Mother, to you who untie with a motherly heart the knots of our life, we pray to you to receive in your hands all those severely impacted by the Coronavirus, and to free us of the knots and confusion with which our enemy attacks.
Through your grace, your intercession and your example deliver us from all evil, Our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, may have our hearts placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our brothers and sisters. Amen..
October 1, 8, 15, 29; November 5 & 12, 6:30-8:00pm
Livestream Season of Creation: Prayer and Blessing of the Animals
October 4, 1:30pm
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