All posts filed under: Practice

Practices of Priesthood

I have been quite fortunate in my twenty-three years of priesthood to have known some superb role models of priestly life and sacerdotal zeal; unsurprisingly, most of them are older than I am, but in fact a few of them are younger. And the lessons I have learned from them in terms of pastoral fruitfulness can, I think, be boiled down to four simple—stunningly simple—principles. Now I say “fruitfulness” rather than “success” not merely out of deference to Blessed Mother Teresa, whose advice was, quite similarly, “worry about being faithful, not successful,” but also because the language of success carries the baggage of a secular business model and I am not entirely persuaded that the Church at all benefits, least of all unwittingly, from shaping its life around the corporate paradigm; a crucifix is not, after all, an image of efficiency, productivity, or success. What are these four stunningly simple principles of pastoral fruitfulness? In short: Show Up, Smile, Work Hard, and Be Nice to People. Of course these lessons could be offered by almost any …

The Deacon as an Agent of Social Change

My assignment, “The Deacon as an Agent of Change in the Community,” is a daunting one, to say the least.* I tried to refuse the great honor of tackling this topic, suggesting some better qualified people to speak to the dynamics of social change, informed by Catholic Social Teaching. One of several liabilities I bring to this task is that not only am I not a deacon myself, but the theology and practice of the diaconate are simply not something I’ve studied or thought about much. I do bring an interest in questions of faith and culture and the way they interact in the Church’s pastoral ministry, especially preaching. But I don’t have a deep, on-the-ground knowledge of the ecology of the city, urban sociology, or the practicalities of social change. Moreover, I’m very aware that I speak as an outsider to this community, a community which appears to be passing through a kind of anguish at this historical moment over events in Ferguson. But perhaps this limitation in speaking here today can also be …

Preaching at the Liturgy of the Hours

How might we preach at the Liturgy of the Hours? On the one hand, what is unique about preaching in this context? Is there something about this setting which suggests a particular homiletic approach different from preaching at Sunday Eucharist? On the other, what does preaching at the Hours have in common with other forms of liturgical preaching? For the sake of this essay, I will focus on the two “hinges” of the Liturgy of the Hours (LOH)[1]—Morning and Evening Prayer[2]—and will exclude special considerations such as preaching at the LOH in the context of funeral rites or Eucharistic Adoration.[3] Finally, I use the word “homily” to refer to the form of preaching which “flows from and immediately follows the scriptural readings of the liturgy and which leads to the celebration of the sacraments”[4] or to the non-sacramental rite being celebrated, whether the preacher is ordained or not.[5] As in other forms of preaching, I would argue that the preacher at the LOH is challenged to attend to multiple factors in crafting his or her …

Male Religious: Models of Masculinity?

It may seem absurd to entertain even for a moment the idea that monks, friars, and brothers might be models of healthy masculinity. First of all because our vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience might rule us out us as plausible male figures. Poverty and obedience suggest that we are irresponsible people, fleeing the ordinary burdens of manhood, such as having a job, acquiring a home, taking decisions about our lives. And the vow of chastity, the renunciation of sex, robs us, it would seem, of the virility that one would expect of a male figure. And the gross and shameful history of sexual abuse by so many religious might make such an idea seem distasteful, even repellent. Yet there is a desperate need in the Church for people who offer models of Christian manhood. Our society is suffering from a crisis of masculinity. Because of the breakdown of family life, many children are growing up without fathers. The economic crisis means that many fathers, if they are around, are unemployed, discouraged, and feel robbed …