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Sunday, August 31, 2008

How to Preach Like a Deacon

The first in a series of arguments supporting my contention that


It has been a while since I heard a deacon give a homily(thank God!), but our recent trip up North brought the whole genre of deacon homilies crashing back into my brain. They are so easy to deliver that I shall end this tirade by formulating one which I could have given today, August 31, if I were a deacon.

The outline of the homily, just like most military plans, consists of three parts. No, I don't mean the introduction, body, and the conclusion. Instead we must remember we are speaking to a group where the majority of them really don't want to be there in the first place. One must grab and hold onto the audience's or congregation's attention. The effective deacon builds his homily on these three parts:

1. The real-world experience anecdote. This is far more than just an attention-grabber. This little nugget of secular life solidifies the deacon's position as one of the people, one who has actually had to work for a living - unlike the priest, who only works weekends. This first part of the homily will bring back a few men who were preparing to meditate on their golf game or mowing the lawn, especially if the story shows how someone at the deacon's work looked really stupid.

It is important to have a segue to connect the first part of the homily with the next one.

2. A brief reference to the readings or the Gospel. There is no need to mention all three, although it suggests that the deacon gave more than passing thought to the homily. At least one of the readings should be discussed, and re-reading part of the text may result in a few people remembering at least one of the readings.

There is no need for a bridge to the final part of the homily.

3. A long, detailed reference to a movie which everyone has seen. One favorite is 'The Scarlet and the Black,' but few have seen that movie, so the better choice is to describe a scene from any movie directed by Steven Spielberg. Extra points are given if one can describe a scene from 'Schindler's List.'

Now that we have the ground rules set up, let me demonstrate 'how to preach like a deacon' using today's Gospel as a reference. As you recall, today's Gospel is when St. Peter got his comeuppance for trying to correct Jesus. Jesus utters those words which none of us would want to hear spoken to us: 'get behind me, Satan.'

Here goes:

"When I was a first year medical student, one of our courses was 'gross anatomy,' where we spent a semester dissecting a cadaver."

Anybody NOT listening to this homily so far?

"One of the members of our 'dissecting group,' was a total klutz, and so we limited his time actually working on the cadaver. I think he went into psychiatry(this will stimulate laughter from those who are listening). Anyway, one day he cut apart a very important structure which we needed to keep intact for our studies. After that, we never let this clumsy medical student touch the cadaver. If we saw him near the table, we would tell him to 'get behind me' so we could work on the cadaver instead."

Here comes the segue:

"In the same way, the Gospel relates how Jesus orders Peter to 'get out of the way' of what is to be the culmination of His mission; namely, His death and resurrection and opening up the Gates of Heaven for us. We have to be followers of God, not stumbling blocks for those who are trying to do His Will."

Consider that the last movie I saw was 'Into Great Silence' when reading this last part. The last Steven Spielberg movie I think I saw was E.T. or maybe one of those Indiana Jones movies.

"Just as Philip Groning sometimes got in the way of the Carthusian monks in the Grand Chartreuse while filming them in the movie Into Great Silence, we too must learn to stand aside and follow the Will of God. If Philip had never learned to do this, we would never have had the scene where the old monk feeds the barn cats."

"Please stand for the Creed."


truthfinder said...

Please enlighten me, as our parish church does not have a deacon. When I was an Episcopalian, it was my understanding that Episcopal Deacons were never to formulate their own homilies, but had to read one from the "Homily Book". (I'm sure it had another name, but I don't know what it was.) From what you are saying, it seems Catholic Deacons have no such restrictions? If true, does this apply to both classes of Deacons; [i.e. those who are on their way to the priesthod, and those who are "permanent deacons"]?

semperficatholic said...

The Deacon at Mass

Joee Blogs said...

Superb!!! Have you considered a vocation to the permanent diaconate - I think you'd fit right in!

Anonymous said...

Ouch! Instead of heaping scorn on a whole category of clergy, how 'bout sparing them your sarcasm out of respect for their office? It's true that SOME deacons preach poorly, but it's not the fault of their being deacons per se--but of teachers & pastors & bishops in some diocese who have not insisted they receive better training or continuing education.

dadwithnoisykids said...

Point well taken, Anonymous! We have two Permanent Deacons at our parish, and they do not preach during Mass. Their work in the parish is their sermon.

I would still argue that every deacon is responsible for presenting a good sermon; giving a great or inspirational sermon would be even better. 'Truthfinder' has a good idea from our Separated Brethren: a book. One doesn't have to go to that extreme when other resources such as Homiletic and Pastoral Review, The Wanderer, or even the Navarre Bible have ideas for any reading of the Gospel.

Semperficatholic has a great resource for the Deacon's role at Mass.

Joee blogs, I shall always live my vocation to the married life as long there is a child of mine alive. My role will always be to provide for my children, and becoming a Deacon would be at the expense of my family.

Thank you all for your comments! God bless y'all!

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