Monday, April 7, 2014

New Postings -- April 7 2014

The book is coming along!
The plan is for an introduction and six chapters: each chapter will describe a significant moment in my career as a homilist, and contain homilies which illustrate that point. Not all of them are my best; I hope the reader will be able to spot some defects and judge them on their merits.
I have posted the first chapter (in two parts, because of its length)
I have posted several sample homilies. The most recent ones are for weddings and funerals.  They are listed as "pages"  on this website.
Comments welcomed!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Chapter one = continued

So before I finished  high school, I learned by constant practice the elements of constructing a speech.  It sounds so elementary – the speech has a beginning, middle, and end –  and, most important of all, it has only one topic sentence.  Exactly the same rules apply as to writing an essay in English class.  (By now I can already hear the murmurs from readers:  Why didn’t MY pastor learn that?)

The introduction both gains the attention of the hearers, and announces the topic. The middle part broadens the topic, using standard techniques – examples, comparison and contrast, putting it in a context, etc. And the conclusion re-focuses the theme, leaving the hearers with one clear, easy to remember point. Simple, simple, simple – “tell them what you’re going to say, say it, then remind them what you said, and sit down.” It amazes me how so many preachers ignore that. While it sounds simple in theory to “stick to the topic,” it actually takes great discipline and practice.

oCath of sienar
intoro-  distracting;  jokes
omystery – long – is it good?
when  I was sitting down;   NO  when YOU were coming to church == examples


The role of repetition is a key one – how and when to repeat a point. Rarely do people pay attention to something until they have heard it repeated two or three times. Advertisers are totally aware of this. So it is important to CLEARLY state the theme AT LEAST three times. Don’t make the people work more than necessary! But timing is everything.  The most memorable parts of a sermon are the beginning and the end – that is why it is so important to clearly state the theme at the beginning and the end.
ojohn 6 – did I do it?
“Begin at the beginning; go on  to the end, then stop”

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I'm on my way

Hello !

I have now posted the draft copy of the outline for the book I am writing:  "The Bodacious Word."  You are invited to read it and to offer whatever reactions you have, either as comments on the web site itself or as e mails to me.  I would prefer any specific comments be put on the site itself, so that others can see and it becomes more interactive.

I have not yet found a way to let you know when  new posting is made, but I will soon find out.

As I understand this web site, there are three types of entries that can be made:  blog posts made by me, comments made by any of you, and  "pages" which are a separate category.  I will post parts of the book on the "Pages" section. At this point, I don't even know how you can comment on the pages themselves. This is a learning process !!

God willing, I might find another type of blog that will make further editing and comments easier and more helpful,  but I am just plunging ahead at this moment.
Thanks so much.

Friday, February 28, 2014

I'm back !

My new book is coming along!
When I decided that I actually would jump in and get a book published, I decided that the quickest way to do it was to EDIT a book that I have ALREADY written! For the last four years I have been writing out my homilies, and so I have over a hundred that are usable.
The challenge for me was to make it interesting, and personal.
So I decided to weave two themes together:
One, an autobiography of my life as a homilist, showing how significant moments in my life have affected my style of preaching;
Second, to illustrate for the reader the process by which a homily is written and developed.
In this way, I found a target audience for the book: people at the beginning of a ministry of preaching, in whatever form, and people who are interested in the quality (or lack of same) in Catholic and other churches.
Stay tuned!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy New Year!

Yes, we survived the end of the Mayan calendar. Our civil calendar  year 2013 has caught up with the  Catholic Church's new year which began with Advent.  Our Orthodox brethren wait for January 14 to celebrate by the old Julian calendar.  Now, we wait for the Lunar New Year in February 10, which begins the Year of the Snake.
But we missed the Muslim year 1434 which began already on November 15, Ras as-Sanah, not to be confused with  Jewish New Year 5773, Rosh Hashana, which began on September 16.
If this sounds like trivia to you, consider that in different parts of Jerusalem they have to be aware of five of these calendars (plus the fact that some use Daylight Saving time, and others do not!)

But enough trivia. Happy New Year to all.
I started this blog last year as an experiment. A couple months ago I got stuck, and as happens with procrastination, the longer I delayed the harder it got to return. Soooo....
My single New Year's resolution is to restart this blog.
I have a clearer focus this time: one, I will share my weekly homilies, which is a feature many people liked. Two, I will share poems on an occasional basis, as the spirit moves. Third, I will share my reflections on a topic which has always occupied my interest, but now more so than ever: the relationship between religion and science. I think of this as an ongoing class, and hopefully a discussion.

So stay tuned.


Epiphany 2013

for Epiphany  January  2013

Where is God? In heaven? In your heart? Here in church? Everywhere?
(Note: I really DO ask the question, and ask people in church to answer it !! )
This is a very important question, which most people ask many times during their life. We truly believe that God became human, we celebrate it at Christmas, we profess it at Mass every week, yet we often struggle to recognize God present in our everyday lives.
Today, in Epiphany, this second great feast of the Christmas season, the Church gives us a guide to help us answer this question.
We are coming to the end of the Christmas season, and what a season it is!
Even people who don't go to church, who don't believe in God, get into the Christmas spirit for a few weeks, smiling at strangers, showing charity toward the poor and needy, being generous and kind. Christmas truly celebrates the birth of a child in our world, and most of us are carried along by that joy and happiness.
The feast of Christmas shows God's presence in our world in a very clear and striking way. It reminds us that sharing, that giving and receiving love, is indeed the most powerful force in our world.
But, as adults, we know that Christmas cannot go on forever. So for that reason the church gives us other feasts to help us understand better the mystery of God become human.

Even though we celebrate the birth of a child, we know that the child's life began much earlier. When?
People answer, Conception, the Annunciation)
Correct, the Church gives us the feast of the Annunciation to remind us that this great mystery began long before Christmas. Mary received the Word of God in her womb and the Great Mystery took place. And then what happened??  NOTHING.  Nothing special. What did Mary do the next day? She got up, cleaned the house, fixed a meal, washed dishes -- did the chores. Her daily routine. Nothing special.
Oh, yes, she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Was that special? Did Mary sit on a throne and wait for Elizabeth to wait on her and sing her praises? No. She did housework.
For every joyful, festive Christmas day there were nine months of waiting. Working. Routine. Morning sickness. Pain. Fatigue. And not only that -- Mary also suffered in unusual ways. She was an unwed mother, a shame and embarrassment to everyone. She was not to give birth at home, surrounded by family, but alone, in a stable. Yes, she certainly suffered.

Think of it -- for every Christmas day there are nine months of hard preparation. God gives us this example so that we can understand the routine and painful times of life. When this happens in our own lives, we can feel not only the pain and suffering, the routine and the loneliness, but we can also feel the Word of God growing inside us, as the Word grew within Mary. If we feel only the suffering, we are lost; but if we feel God's Word growing and developing inside us,we will be ready when the wonderful moment of birth and new life arrives.

So what about today's feast? What do we celebrate today? What are these Magi doing? Why did they leave their homes? What were they following?  A star?  Yes.
But think about it. Who else saw that star?  Everyone. It was not a secret. Anyone could have followed that star. But only a few did. And they persevered, and arrived, and presented their gifts.
So this feast gives us a third way of appreciating God's appearing in the world as human -- the Incarnation. God appears not only in secret and in ordinary ways, as with Mary. God appears not only as a sudden burst of light and joy, as in Bethlehem. God also draws us from afar, like the Magi, following a star. Each one of us has a star. Each one of us has that pearl of great price, that treasure more valuable than anything else on earth. If we follow, if we are faithful, we will find God, not in a palace, but in a stable. And we will offer, freely, the gifts we have to give.

Notice that the Magi had problems. They needed help. They got lost. The heavenly star was not enough; they asked for directions. They trusted evil people like Herod. But through their faithfulness and purity of heart, they found God made human.

These three feasts -- the Annunciation,  Christmas, and Epiphany -- show us three different ways in which we experience the miracle of the Incarnation. May God's Holy Spirit guide us as we recognize and accept God's love entering our hearts.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Morning on Lake Michigan

Poem sunrise

Below the brightening sky lies
that blue-gray layer
hugging the horizon,
the undercurrent of the world,
seeming to block out all hope
of sunrise.

Suddenly it comes--
that sliver of the Sun God
peeking red over the horizon,
surveying its realm,
once more for the trillionth time
that all will be well.

Red, orange, yellow, white it climbs
up the ladder of clouds.
Day has begun.