Between the Fall and Spring semesters, the seminarians are scattered all over the map with different activities.
Typically those who are from the United States return home for some rest, relaxation, and a home-cooked meal. Many of the men paid visits to their home-parishes where they grew up and have been supported in their vocations. With our schedule as it is, sometimes months or even a whole year goes by where we don’t get to spend substantial time with the parishioners and priests in the parish which inspired our vocaions. The Christmas break is a good time to catch up. I refer to these times as the cameo appearances which reminds the people that I’m still in the seminary and they should continue praying for me. It’s encouraging for me to see many familiar faces and some new ones. Seeing, talking with, and praying with them after Mass reminds me of the motive for the toil of my academic studies: the salvation of souls (even those I’ve not yet met), the healing of families, and the joy in fostering communion with the Lord.
This year of my formation is a little different, however. As a deacon I served at Ss. Bonaventure Church (where I am assigned for the year) at their Mass during the night (9PM). At many parishes this is usually a midnight Mass. But, I suppose, because the Mass at St. Bonaventure is typically 2 hours, the pastor felt that it might be a little more that folks can take in at midnight. Trthfully speaking though, I think that cogregation would have no problem with Mass if it lasted even three hours at midnight. I rarely run into a congregation where people so enthusiastically enjoy so much preaching and so much music on a regular basis. It was a joy to continue the begin the celebration of Christmas with them and a beaustiful sacrifice of the Mass on Christmas Eve.
As soon as I had finished shaking hands and seeing people off to their cars, I jumped into my own car and raced over to Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Jamaica where the pastor, Fr. Christopher O’Connor graciously allowed me to preach at the Midnight Mass. Needless to say, I was quite a nervous (even to the point of editing my homily in the glow of street lamps whenever I stopped and a red light.
Truth be told: I’m usually an effective homilist. But this time, I laid an egg. The homily, delivered in English and Spanish, was so painfully drawn out some people might have thought we transitioned from Advent to Lent.
I recovered the next day, however. I offered the homily at St. Bennedict the Moor Church (the other worship site of the parish where I’m assigned). This (even more edited) version was much more solid, direct, and (if I may say so) effectively edifying. I felt it in my bones as I stepped down from the pulpit.
Sometimes a preacher hasn’t gone over the material enough and fails for lack of preparation. Sometimes he failed because he went over the material too much. Thankfully, though, Christmas reminds us that we can’t get it right on our own. If anyone is edified by a homily on Christ it is because of the grace of Christ working through the preacher. He is not only the Word proclaimed but also the linguist (so to speak) helping us to translate the Word into a understandable and helpful message.
May the grace of Christ in our hearts prepare us to share Him with everyone we meet according to our station in life (teenager or college student, husband or wife, catechist, deacon, or priest).
And may our Lord raise up new shepherds to call his people out of darkness and into the marvelous light of the Incarnate God.
Several months ago my family moved to Florida and I had the opportunity to visit them there for the first time.