"MANY A MEANDERING SERMON ONE HEARS, IN WHICH THE PREACHER AIMS AT NOTHING - AND HITS IT." Richard Whately
I promise this isn't "Nark on the Clergy" week, but something happened last night that just begs to be shared, principally because it seems to me part of the reason the Church - at least here in Los Angeles - is in such a slumber.
"The world looks at ministers out of the pulpit to know what they mean when in it." Richard Cecil
So, I was at a meeting of Catholics in Media Associates (CIMA) which is, ostensibly, the official outreach of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to the entertainment industry. We got to preliminary discussions about our annual entertainment industry retreat, and before long I was volunteering to coordinate it (for reasons of being a control freak who just can't stand to take the chance of going to a retreat that I might hate..okay, I said it!).
"I love a serious preacher, who speaks for my own sake, and not for his own; who seeks my salvation and not his own vainglory." Bp. Jean Baptiste Masillion
So, I asked the assembled CIMA members, "Can anybody recommend a priest to be our retreatmaster who is a really good preacher?" I wasn't being facetious. It just occurred to me that in six years in living in Los Angeles, I had yet to hear a very good homily, and it seemed to me that maybe I have just been going to the wrong parishes.
"That is not the best sermon which makes the hearers go away talking about the preacher, but which makes them go away thoughtfully - hastening to be alone." Gilbert Burnet
Twenty people looked back at me blankly. I looked up from my notebook. "A really good preacher. Does anybody know one here in L.A.?"
"If the Scriptures had small-pox, his sermon would never catch it." Tryon Edwards
Deafening silence. Everybody sat there staring and brooding and scratching their heads. There was a collective "Hmmmmmm..." I - half incredulous, but with desperation tinged voice - laughed out loud. "Come on. There has to be one -- in this whole archdiocese! Some priest who people love to see walking up the aisle on Sunday because of his preaching? They knew what I meant: Somebody who can expound on the Scriptures and stir hearts at the same time?
"There are certain things in which mediocrity is not to be endured: poetry, music, painting and public speaking." Bryuere
A few names were thrown out without much conviction. After the meeting, one of my friends at the meeting, who happens to be a producer, recommended one priest to me with the shrug "sometimes he can really be good in his homilies." To which I responded, "If you were casting a project, and this priest was auditioning, would you give him the job?" My friend laughed and then shrugged, "No, probably not. Not if my livelihood depended on it!"
It is very easy to preach, but very hard to preach well. No other profession demands half so much mental labor as the clerical." Nathaniel Emmons
Now, granted, everybody at the meeting is in some sense a professional storyteller, so maybe our standards are higher than the average sheep? But it would seem to behoove the pastorally minded shpeherd to such a flock as this to be at least as good in his preaching, as his sheep are in their nine-to-five activities.
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:34