Thursday, January 31, 2013

Fears of the Priesthood (INTERLUDE)

Taking a break from all the fears of the priesthood mentioned in Fr. Brett Bannen's book, To Save A Thousand Souls, this interlude deals with this quote:
A man in this stage is assessing specific fears now: the fear of celibacy, the fear of not being a holy priest, the fear of loneliness, and the fear of preaching in front of people. (p 153)

The interlude is for the fear that isn't probably a fear.


Bad advice: When you think of the audience in their underwear, it may be kinda hot.
When guys come to me and tell me about their doubts concerning a vocation to the priesthood, this one NEVER comes up.

Outside of being phobic and unable to speak in front of a crowd in any circumstance, the only way this can be a valid fear is based on what priests say about it.

1. PREACHING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU DO. Is not. When it comes to being a priest, preaching is important and an integral part of your identity as priest but the most important thing you do is perform the Sacraments, in particular the Mass. Preaching, however, is very important because it is a means of sanctifying souls. With that lofty goal in mind, a priest can always "cheat" on his preaching. We have exposure to homilies that date back almost to the days of the Apostles and can swipe them anytime we want. What's John Chrysostom gonna do? SUE ME FROM HEAVEN? Like he can find a lawyer there..hahaha....
We also have the opportunity to use "homily helps". These are publications that priests and deacons may use to either preach directly from or use as a foundation for their homilies. Usually, the homily help does some background work on the readings, offers some scholarly perspective, maybe some relevant issue of the day could be tied in to the readings and then a challenge for the congregation. Although some of these homily helps are good, some aren't so. I personally shy away from any writer or school of thought that questions tenants of our faith or poses challenges to long held Catholic tradition. So it can be a homily HURT instead of a help. Ha. I think when I go to another priest meeting and a priest tells me he uses a homily help, I'll say, "More like homily HURT!" Then see who laughs. Like no one but me will.

The Lectionary is the Church's book of readings
2. PREACHING TAKES UP LOTS OF TIME. Not really. When I was in seminary, my homiletics professor, Fr. Dan Siwek told us to begin preparing our homily for the upcoming Sunday on the Monday before. Read over the readings. And during the week do some study on it. Find out more about the context of the readings: Who was it written for? Who wrote it? Why was it written? Where and When was it written? Then delve into the readings themselves. In the modern liturgy, the readings supposedly are related. What's the common thread of the readings?
Then we come up with the "fun" part. Do the readings have anything to say to MY parish during THIS time? How can I tie in the theme of our readings with the concerns of Oxford or our world today?
Now, some people write out their homilies and read from them. So that would take some time as well.

But it isn't some odious task that SHOULD take the priest away from his duties. It's pure garbage when a priest can't visit the hospital or perform a Baptism because he'll say, with emphasis, "I AM WORKING ON MY HOMILY!"

3. WRITING HOMILIES > SEX: Ok, this is scary. When I was seeking information about the priesthood, I innocently asked a priest, "What's the reason for celibacy?" And he told me, "We need time to work on our homilies. If we have a wife or children, we don't have time to work on our homilies." I thought, "Wow. Your homilies suck. You gave up sex for that?" Then I later found out he didn't even write his homilies but used homily helps. So that was curious. I think he'll be the one I'll say "It's not 'homily helps', more like 'homily HURTS'" and see if he cries. I bet he tears up.
After giving up a family, Father's homilies still can bore
the CRAP outta people.
So, working on your homily is important. It is time consuming, because it is important. But it IS NOT the reason for celibacy. Not even in the top zillion reasons. Ok, there aren't a zillion reasons for celibacy. Zillion isn't a word but anyway...
When a doctor has a family, I don't think some priest "working" on a homily is doing something more important than he is. When a fireman has a wife, I don't think what he does is of less importance than a priest's writing a homily. Same with most any of the helping professions. The celibacy-is-for-the-homily argument is not true. And if it is, I wonder if the homilist knows what sex is? I mean...really.

Finally, another possible myth:

4. WHAT IF MY HOMILY STINKS? Then you get to do a better one the next day or at the least, the next Sunday. I've given AWFUL homilies before. And here's what happened: complaints in emails, complaints in hand-written letters, complaints by phone, complaints by personal visits, passive-aggressive remarks (I like you but what you said was not your best work), calls to the Bishop, or me thinking of it and thinking, "I cannot believe I actually preached from the Holy Altar and used the word "moobs". That kind of thing.
I suck at a homily at least once or twice a week. Not intentionally but sometimes it's just not happening. Heck, homilies are a bonus to the Mass and not traditionally something that is integral to the Mass. But I try. Some days more than others. But to my credit, my homily HURTS come from me. Not from Celebrations  some Presbyterian-woman-writer-for-a-Catholic-Homily-magazine-that-is-used-by-Irish-clergy-and-a-bishop.

Comic book character, Preacher. Totally not a real priest shirt either. And he has Adam Lambert hair.
All said and done, we are priests. NOT PREACHERS. Protestant ministers are called PREACHER because that's the big thing they do. I am a priest because the BIG thing I do is perform the Mass. The PREACHER may deliver an awesome sermon but can he bring forth the BODY AND BLOOD OF JESUS?

No. He cannot.