Sunday, 15 August 2010

Assumption Sermon

Today's preacher, close friend and confessor, stopped by my pew before mass. This is a usual weekly face-to-face catchup, and I always keep my head tilted for his familiar tread up the side aisle. This time, he mentioned that he was thinking of ad-libbing the sermon, as he had done at the 09.30. I firmly came down on the side of him taking the risk.

He did. And how it paid off.

I'm not sure if he was aware of the elegant completion his sermon brought: on this same feast a year ago, another priest spoke of suicide from the point of view of doctrine. Today, so did he - in a way that made it clear that he understood the fear and hopelessness that underlies that drastic decision, in a way that held those who had either been there or are there. His point was that the Assumption is a feast of hope - and we all *need* hope, even when it is the tiniest silver thread through the darkness which we find ourselves in. One of the most powerful points he made was that when we are in that darkness, it is impossible to see past the present moment: but it is in THAT moment that we most need to look beyond that moment - which brought him, most naturally, to Our Lady.

I wasn't sure whether to cry or cheer - maybe both. What had felt sharply poked at or necessarily hidden now felt safely held.

He also talked about how we tend to emphasise soul over body, but that we are both - and we need to remember that no matter how our bodies can seem to hinder us, they ARE part of us and we can't disown them - and that we need to bring body and soul back together, using Our Lady as a template and a sign of hope.

And in that hope, in that looking to Our Lady, we - as she - need to renew our 'Fiat' to God, with life and our faith every single day of our lives.

It was, without a doubt, one of the best sermons I've ever heard.

Weaving the threads of his sermon, he held us, his flock, compassionately whilst offering orthodoxy, which is what shepherds must always do - from the public pulpit to the private confessional. But it was the fact that he ad-libbed it, which allowed him to be really present and emotionally engage with us, that moved it from great to one of his best.

The person I saw in the pulpit was the person I see across the table at La Cucina.

He was practising what he preached - integrity of body and soul.


Giselle said...

SO freaking awesome. This made me happy to read.

The world is my cloister said...

Thanks for this. I heard this homily and it officially ROCKED. I was ready to pounce on almost anything I was going to hear today because the Feast of the Assumption confuses me, and because often it elicits comments about femininity and virginity that rile me, but my defenses were destroyed by the opening line, 'I LOVE this FEAST!' After that I was ready to listen - why? Great thoughts on hope (my favourite virtue) throughout. I thought, when you mentioned suicide, that he didn't speak directly about it...but then remembered the two examples of the young teenager and the bishop he gave. He didn't focus on the action though, turning instead to the hopelessness that brought them to it. Complete compassion - and then the hope, the hope of Our Lady. I thought he allowed people to think about their own darkness, and the hope that God offered them today. Powerful stuff. I want that Ronald Knox quote from the end too, it was great. I think this Feast may have changed for me today, and been transformed into a Feast about which I too can say, 'I LOVE this FEAST!'

Great post, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for quoting someone being positive re suicide, especially when that person is in the church. Too many people think they know about suicide related matters, but as they've not been there or close to it, they can often harm rather than heal. Well that's my experience...

Anonymous said...

"The person I saw in the pulpit was the person I see across the table at La Cucina." ...Very disturbing!

As a lady who, on another blog, has raved about the 'Letter to Pope Benedict', and yet who obviously takes great pleasure in drawing our attention to your meetings with 'your confessor', I seriously have to wonder what exactly your agenda is.

I know exactly to which priest you refer, and again, I wonder if he knows the erratic nature of your opinions, and is he is any way concerned about them.

If hw isn't, then I am VERY concerned.

Irim said...

Dear Anonymous -

Thank you for concern for my soul, as well as your concern for my confessor - as you know 'exactly who he is'. I'm sure he's grateful for your friendship and the fact that you're keeping an eye out for him.

FYI: he and I have known each other for 13 years, I have been searingly honest with him both in the confessional and in public, and he is VERY aware of my opinions. Whatever his feelings and concern - or lack of it - they are the correct ones, because he has taken the time and effort to get to know ME. And they are none of your - or anyone else's - damn business. That's between us.

Oh, by the way - yes, he reads this blog, and knows whenever he's referred to.

I seriously have to wonder what exactly your agenda is.

I often find that the people who feel the need to ask that question are the ones with the agenda.

Mine is simply to write about what I know, how I feel, what my struggles with my faith are. If others resonate with that, then someone knows they're not alone in their struggle towards God - and that matters. If people disagree, but stop to think, that's important too - they're thinking about their faith.


Irim said...


Faith is not simple; it is complex. I can love that letter to Benedict, yet still hold closely to Christ and Our Lady, believe in transubstantiation, hold the sacraments dear.

My feelings about the Church are multifaceted - as feelings are in real relationships: ones that are strong, that are true. Ones that have space for love and anger, sorrow and joy, seeing the Christ in someone and seeing their failings.

In seeing the Church for what it is: good and bad, light and dark, right and wrong - I can love it truly. If one insists on only seeing the good, insisting that there is nothing else, then that's fairweather love and faith, isn't it? It's shallow and it's nothing but a lie, based on what one needs from the Church, rather than what the Church truly is.

So my agenda is to chart my faith journey, complex and mixed as it is.

So, what's yours? Well, let's extrapolate from what you've written, shall we?

1. Clearly, you are disturbed that I know this priest as a friend. 'very disturbing' - why? Because he was being himself in the pulpit? Because he was showing authentic faith, rather than your - and others' - narrow definition of it? Because I, as a layperson, know who that person is? Why are you obsessed with this? What is implicit in "I know exactly to which priest you refer, and again,I wonder if he knows the erratic nature of your opinions"

Is that a threat? You're going to tell him? Show him? Go for it, sweetheart. And I'll tell you now, you may know exactly who he is, but you don't know HIM. He'll tell you, in kinder words than I did, that it's none of your damn business - because he knows what real friendship and real pastoral care is about.

2. This has nothing to do with orthodoxy, or 'concern' for me or the faith. You don't know me, you haven't bothered to get to know me. You don't give a toss about me, though you seem very happy to follow me from one blog to another and comment, so clearly something I say draws you.

Your agenda here is to make yourself feel better, more righteous, more Catholic than someone else. Knock yourself out, babes. But you should be made aware of the fact that your thinly veiled nastiness and innuendo doesn't lend credence to your orthodoxy.

3. This is where you have made the mistake of making me coldly furious. Call me 'erratic'; call me a heretic; call me what you like. But don't mess with my friends and don't you DARE pretend orthodoxy and then show such utter disrespect for the clergy as you did in your last two sentences:

"...and is he is any way concerned about them. If he isn't, then I am VERY concerned."

I may be liberal, and priests may make me angry, but I have the grace and the integrity to call them on it to their faces, with my name attached, so they can come right back at me.

How DARE you hide behind the cowardice of anonymity, 'orthodoxy' and fake concern and imply that a priest, and a bloody good one, at that - someone whose office you *claim* to respect - isn't doing his job by bringing me back to your definition of the straight and narrow. Speak not of what you know not.

And a piece of advice - perhaps you should consider moving towards the authenticity Father showed in his sermon. Living your life all in one piece has to be a lot easier than projecting an exterior that you think will garner God's approval.

Because if I can see through it and read your emotional subtext as easily as if it were a Mr Men book, how much more easily He?