The next two posts are about “the basics.”
Lately I’ve noticed that I am increasingly looking for more from the homilies I’m hearing at my parish.
(I have to pause here and mention that you truly have no idea how difficult it was for me to type this sentence. I do not want to be seen as one who incessantly complains because the Church is not made in MY image. My head pastor has been a friend of mine for over fourteen years and is a good and solid priest. So is our associate pastor. Perhaps what I’m saying here is “It isn’t you, Father. It’s me.”)
The only mention of the sanctity of a man and woman united in the Holy Sacrament of Marriage I’ve heard from the pulpit was by a young priest visiting our parish earlier this summer. Not once has there been any mention of the current Planned Parenthood flap. But it’s not this so much that has led me to other sources so much as the lack of Catholic teaching or reinforcement of what it means to be Catholic. It seems that we’ve become a parish that stops teaching our faith once 1) the kids graduate from our K-8 school; 2) after the Sacrament of Confirmation (5th grade); 3) after an adult finished RCIA and joins the Church.
As Clara Peller asked in the old Wendy’s commercial I find myself asking: Where’s the beef? There is plenty of pastoral love, and I very much appreciate that. Our parish and our diocese has at least not digressed into the Dr. Feelgood type homilies my family has experienced in other states while traveling on vacations or out of state baseball tournaments. But more and more I look around at the men and women I know in the pews around me and wonder “Why are you here? Do you know? Wouldn’t it be great to hear more about this beautiful faith to which we belong? Do your kids look at you and wonder why you’re there, too? They are being taught the faith in our school and then scratching their heads at home because mom and dad live contrary to what the faith is…how can we fix that?”
How can we fight the battles that are thrust upon us whether we want them or not if we are not prepared and trained to fight them?
When is the last time you heard the word “sin” mentioned in a sermon? I honestly could not tell you.
I won’t pretend to have the answers to that. There is obviously a hunger and a need for this as every three months in CatholicWorld a new evangelization program/study/book is being published. Tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent on these items, many of them very well researched and produced. But I ask myself how on earth did the Church thrive and grow for the previous two thousand years before we had Ignatius Press, Sophia Press, Ascension Press, Catholic Answers, Envoy Magazine, Crisis Magazine…and on and on and on.
Could it be the teaching contained within the homilies?
(It could also have been the pre-Vatican II Tridentine Mass, something to which I am beginning to seriously consider attending with my family instead of staying at my parish. But that’s a whole other post. I would greatly welcome a Novus Ordo Mass celebrated Ad Orientem.)
Several years ago I purchased a book first published in 1901 by The Neumann Press called The Sermons of the Curé of Ars. Fr. Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney (1786-1859) was the pastor of a tiny church in Ars, France (population 230). Yet for thirty years over 100,000 people per year, the simple and the affluent, would journey to Ars in order for this simple, humble priest to hear their confession and absorb his teachings. He would spend upwards of 17-18 hours a day sitting in the confessional because he so valued the souls of those making the journey to Ars. Vianney was named a saint of the church by Pope Pius XI in 1925 and in 1928 was named the patron saint of parish priests.
About the book:
A reproduction of the original 1901 impression. A very nice book on the outside, but its real claim to fame is the contents and inspiration on each page. Although St. John Vianney is the patron of parish priests, he is truly the saint for the average layman. The book includes sermons for the entire Church year (plus holy days and special feast days)-written over 150 years ago by this much-admired saint. (Not edited; printed exactly as the 1901 edition.)
This book contains preaching that is not easy to hear. It certainly would not be considered politically correct to our delicate modern dispositions and perhaps not very popular. But as I recall Jesus Christ was quite capable of shaking things up by talking about hard truths, so much so that they killed him for it. For two thousand years we have example after example of the blood of martyrs flowing because of their willingness to stand up for the truth. Since when do we shy away from these things?
Asking myself these questions is what leads me to read from this book almost every Sunday when we return home from Mass. It does follow the pre-Vatican II liturgical calendar, but that should not be a hindrance for those wanting to read and apply the book. If you doubt me read the reviews at Amazon. Another set of books I would recommend for those wanting more teaching for each day/week of the current liturgical year and Mass readings I highly recommend In Conversation with God: Meditations for Each Day of the Year, by Francis Fernandez. One of the best homilists I’ve ever heard was Fr. James Mason when he led the Ignatian Retreat I attended in 2012. When I visited his office for my spiritual direction appointment he had a copy of Fernandez’s book propped open on his desk where he was preparing a homily for our Sunday Mass. Coincidence?
Tomorrow I’ll post excerpts from the Vianney sermon I read on Sunday, Aug. 23 that inspired me to write this.
The battle is upon us and the wolves are at the door.
As Christ directed Peter: feed your sheep. I beg you. We are starving.
Fathers, you are our shepherds. Feed us.