Sunday, June 14, 2009

On giving homilies

Fr. Vic, our venerable professor in Catechetics asked us to interview a priest as regards the way he prepares his homily. This is in connection with GDC 51, which tackles at length about the functions and forms of the ministry of the word.

You see, of all the six topics given to us in this class, this one, by far, is the most interesting. For someone like me who pays attention well to the homilies of my favorite preachers, I got interested in inquiring about their method of preparing their sermon.

For this paper, I chose to ask one of the best Salesian preachers in the FIS province. My e-mail to him went like this:

We have this take home work in our catechetics class. Our teacher, asked us to interview preachers as regards their way of preparing their homilies.

Hearing you deliver awesome homilies made me think that you're the most reliable resource person. Just a brief description will do. thanks!

I hit the ‘send’ button in the morning of Wednesday last week, and that very evening, I was delighted to realize that the wise advice “Ask and it shall be given to you” (cf. Lk. 11:9) has never been so accurate. That very night, before hitting the sack, I noticed that a reply from him loomed in my inbox. And to my greater satisfaction, it was not merely a “brief description” but an elaborate and blow-by-blow account of his procedure in preparing the homily.

At this point, let me lend this keyboard to him:

My homily preparation starts the Sunday evening - 7 days away from next sunday.I use to spend 6 hours for every homily and always kept it under 13 minutes, 11 minutes average.

I use to have several metaphors for the process of homily preparation. Mine was that of the bee. (will explain later)

Sunday -Reading the Gospel

Monday -the other readings

Tuesday -hermeneutics—the historical and cultural context of the scriptures

Wednesday -I focus on one question—the human situation which the Gospel addresses; I go through current events that might be screaming for some pastoral interpretation or explanation

Thursday -I start writing rough notes and an outline; I capture my message in a theme or a tagline. In a sentence, I tell myself "what is my main message."

Friday -I visit the presidential prayers in the sacramentary; do my first draft concentrating in "what would God want me to say"

Saturday - I revise and rehearse; here I make sure that my homily will have a connection to the next part of the liturgy -- the Eucharist

Sunday - an hour before the mass; I revise and rehearse again.

Sometimes I follow the teaching format in summarizing my theme by asking "What do I want my listeners to know; feel, do"

Sometimes I use the mass media pattern: I should inform them, entertain them, persuade.

The bee metaphor is -- I first find my own message (finding the flower); ask if this is appropriate for others (thinking of the colony/ community); I meditate on its meaning (zap the nectar); own my own message (the bee partially digesting the honey); deliver the message (deposit the processed honey)

Sometimes towards the ending I branch off -- throwing a challenge to adults and then youth. In the first three years of my ministry all of my homilies ended with application for the family.

Point of fact is... I never delivered a homily without a copy. I've never been confident facing people without a prepared form. Until now, I've never gotten over my stage fright and public speaking. I have lessened my trembling hands, but I sweat tremendously not because of heat, but of nervousness, I guess. It boils down to preparation before presentation.

Whew! That was mouthful! I never thought that his Sunday homily takes that long time to prepare, and that it involves such a tedious process!

No wonder, every time I had the chance to listen to him, he had never failed, not even once, to make me really reflect on the profundity of his thoughts carefully gathered from the splendid mystery enshrined in the Word of God.

His sharing that he would usually target an average length of an 11-minute homily led me to evaluate the way I prepare for my catechism class, which would normally last for an hour.

The questions, which swim in my mind, are the following:

How many days in a week I prepare for it?

How many hours?

What materials I consult in order to make the lesson more enriching and interesting?

What means do I use to make my point clear?

Do I rehearse for the final delivery?

Of all the teaching methodologies at hand, which one I should use?

These questions are not meant to be answered. At least for now.

But these will surely be of help as I reflect on my performance as a Catechist to my students, a sign and bearer of His love for them, and also a communicator of His Word that will surely nourish and liberate them.