Personal Musings: January 2008 Archives

Preacher's Woes

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To Preach or Not to Preach

I was sorely tempted not to preach this morning. Preaching seven days a week is a huge investment of time and energy; at the same time it is an inestimable grace. I believe that the Word of God sanctifies the preacher's heart and his lips so often as he delivers it in the grace of the Holy Ghost.

A Necessity Lieth Upon Me

All the same, there are days when everything in me wants to slack off. And then I hear Saint Paul saying, "For if I preach the gospel, it is no glory to me, for a necessity lieth upon me: for woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel" (1 Cor 9:16) — and so I "preach the word, being instant in season, and out of season: reproving, entreating, and rebuking in all patience and doctrine" (cf. 2 Tim 4:2).

The Grace of Holy Preaching

A stellar French Dominican of the last century used to say that the grace of la sainte prédication, holy preaching, was given to the preacher in proportion to the spiritual desire and openness of his hearers. Most priests have experienced this. There are situations in which the grace of the Word seems blocked by an almost perceptible resistance to it in the assembly. There are also situations in which the grace of the Word flows abundantly under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, causing the preacher's heart to "overflow with a goodly theme."

A Cast of Characters

On any given day, I am faced, while I preach, with a poor disgruntled soul who mutters disapproval in a stage whisper or noisily turns pages. That hurts. And it's rude. Another uses the time of the homily to read the commentary in Magnificat. (Shouldn't the editors write something about not reading Magnificat during the homily, at least when one is seated under the priest's nose?) Especially discouraging to me is the defiant sour puss whose entire body is a study in passive aggression. Nearly every day I see one or two dear souls who doze while I speak. That doesn't really annoy me. Sleepiness is a weakness that I fully understand. There are also those who register a benign indifference. I can cope with that. And, thank God, there are a few who listen attentively, giving the occasional indication that something has touched their hearts.

Visited by the Word

This morning I battled with the temptation not to preach. The devil uses all his tricks to silence a preacher of the Word: discouragement, wounded self-love, a sudden onslaught of inexplicable weariness, the fear of rejection, and the insinuation that it is all useless. The power of the Holy Name of Jesus, today's glorious feast, triumphed over my reluctance and fears, and so I preached in spite of myself. As I was walking to my car after Mass, a lady with a lovely smile stopped me and said, "Father, thank you for your words today." By the light shining in her eyes, I knew that the Word had visited her. And I gave thanks.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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