My First Act of Public Preaching!
This past Saturday evening I performed my official first act of public preaching!
I was invited to the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in my diocese this weekend for their parish novena leading up to the Solemnity of the Assumption. Their novena ended yesterday and it involved a sermon on a Marian topic, singing traditional Marian hymns, a brief exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and benediction.
The pastor of the parish and eight guest preachers where involved. Three of us were seminarians all going into our 3rd Theology year, the end of which we will be ordained deacons. We were invited by the pastor to preach and got the permission from the bishop to do an act of lay preaching outside of the Mass. I went on the eighth day, August 13. Plus, I led in for the bishop who preached the next day.
I have been in kind of preaching situations while giving a talk or giving a class a number of times before, and I took my first homiletic class this past spring and it involved practice preaching for the class. However, what I did this past weekend was more official because it was an act of lay preaching for the People of God preceding a liturgical act outside of Mass with received permission from the bishop. Official preaching in a church involves permission from the bishop even for the priest and deacon when they are ordained because it is the ordinary that gives the faculty to preach for the ordained in his diocese. Lay people cannot preach in context of Mass, but for some circumstances outside of the Eucharistic liturgy they can receive permission of the bishop do so for a particular occasion in a church or oratory.
It was a really awesome experience, and I mean the entire process of developing and delivering the sermon from diving into the word of God by using the Scripture readings the Church gives us for the Solemnity of the Assumption to actually preaching it live for the people at the parish.
My sermon was geared and targeted in every respect for the specific people at Assumption parish who are still restoring their church after having to do major repairs due to a tornado that hit in 2020. They haven’t been able to worship in the actual church building in over two years and it will likely progress into 3 years since though they have been making progress (like putting the steeple back on – as I posted about last year) issues keep arriving to pushing the finish date back. No one is sure when they will be back, and so they have been having Masses in their large building they use for the church office and wedding receptions.
When I was asked to be one of the guest preachers I felt right off the bat on my heart that I must give them a word of encouragement for all of the trouble they have had in the past few years rebuilding and restoring their church. I have been going to this church along with my home parish since 2016 and I owe a big part of my vocation to the priesthood to this parish as well. I have served many Masses and there, TLM and NO. I know the people and the people know me, so this sermon was a little personal for me to make sure I did it right.
I used the novena and the coming of the Solemnity of the Assumption as a way to a great future I envision and hope for the parish that will come soon when they will finish repairing and restoring the church and be back in the church building once again. Just as Mary was assumed into a greater glory, I drove home the point to them that the parish name for her assumption is had it also for an “assumption” into their own greater glory when they finish their restoration, which the plans for are available to see. Assumption parish will be the bomb when it is finished! I included a number of sacred art features that will be a part of the restoration and referenced present parish ministries that they have along with even a shout out to the pastor Fr. Price. (Can you find all the the things that seem like references?) Thus, I repeated four times during the sermon that the Assumption is coming for Assumption. Assumption parish is heading toward a better day that God will bring through Our Lady of the Assumption. Then I challenged them to be the blessing of the Assumption of Mary in their lives and in the lives of others in the world.
Thanks be to God, my sermon was received very well.
I am hungry to preach more!
I have provided the sermon text below in full:
“Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah . . .“ Words taken from the Gospel According to Luke.
In the Name of the Father + the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
What is in the name of a parish?
A celebration. True, but let me propose something much more than just a celebration.
A mission. A mandate to be a namesake.
And this mission is tailored to the patronage of the parish itself.
If the name is a saint, then everyone in that parish is called to be that saint in some way.
If the name is an aspect of our Lord, such as His Sacred Heart, then everyone in that parish is called to mold themselves after that aspect; they too must have sacred hearts.
And if the name is an event in salvation history, like the Cathedral of the Incarnation, then a simple communal commemoration one time each year when the feast day rolls around does not suffice.
Rather, the entire community must become the localized extension of that historical sacred event in the present day.
The community must not merely exist to keep a holy memory alive but also to be fully alive by the divine reality behind the memory. Furthermore, the people in that parish must strive to be personal conduits for an experience with the same divine power and mercy that encountered humanity in that moment of salvation history which gives the parish its name.
By it’s presence in the world it must constantly invite people know that saving encounters with God like in the Bible are not only still possible but are even closer to them than their hairs are to their head. And are not all of those hairs counted like the Gospel tell us?
And what about this parish? What about this Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary? Is this place one in which the people in it strive to be what they commemorate? Has it ever been?
If it is not, then I tell you now that the Assumption is coming for Assumption.
Now, I know as well as you know that the very fact that this novena leading up to the patronal feast day of this parish is taking place here in this hall and still not in the church building itself has been a constant reminder of the tragedy that struck the church in the very unfortunate year that was 2020.
Moreover, it is halfway close to 3 years since the tornado hit the parish and forced everyone out of the church building for an indefinite period of time.
Though there have certainly been some victories along the way
- much of the structural damaged is repaired,
- the steeple back in the sky,
- and the ceiling has been recently been repainted with Our Lady’s color
the timeline for a final splendid return to the sanctuary keeps getting pushed back. No one is sure when the time will come for all of this to finally be over.
Yet, the Assumption is coming for Assumption.
And the sign for this is in the Lady that we are going to celebrate in just a few more days.
Now, the entire significance of Mary is grounded in her role and destiny of being the Mother of God.
She was saved from all sin original and personal through her Immaculate Conception because she was going to be the Mother of God.
She was definitively preserved from any fleshly touch of a man through her Perpetual Virginity because none other than the Holy Spirit was to come near her before or after the Incarnation and birth of Our Lord.
And because she was the spotless ark of the new and everlasting covenant that held God Himself within its enclosure, this holy one, Mary, was not to undergo any corruption, so He assumed her to Himself at the end of her life.
The Assumption, which we are going to celebrate, completes God’s saving action in Mary.
– God saved her from original sin in her Immaculate Conception.
– God saved her from the decay of death before her assumption into heaven.
– God saved her from the sad absence she had to endure while she waited for her reunion with her resurrected and ascended Son when earthly life was over.
Thus, our spirits can rejoice along with hers in God her savior.
Along with the Immaculate Conception and the Incarnation, the Assumption is among some of the greatest acts of favor bestowed upon Mary.
The Assumption capped off the favor shown to Mary while on Earth.
Thus, we can proclaim with her that the Lord “has looked with favor on His lowly servant.”
Mary suffered the end of her earthly course, but she was brought to an even greater glory through her being raised up into heaven by the power of God in her most glorious Assumption.
And if that is the Assumption, given its recent history, this parish named in honor of this great event in salvation history is going through and heading towards its own “assumption.”
Like Mary, there is an “assumption” to an even greater glory awaiting this community just beyond the dark clouds of the 2020 tornado.
Before disaster struck Assumption church was already an immaculate parish
(and it still is).
This parish suffered a kind of “death” because of the tornado and its damage, but it was kept alive in spirit by God through Our Lady.
But let me proclaim for you, my brothers and sisters, that this church is being brought to an even greater glory through being “raised up” from a natural tragedy by the same power of the God of the Assumption manifested through the prayers of her Blessed Patron and the strength of her faithful people.
This “raising” back up of the parish is toward a mightier magnificence than ever before because what’s going on here in your midst is neither a mere repairing nor even a restoration to the former shine of a bygone past.
Rather, the parish is being transformed into an entirely new beauty with new colors, new stars, and stronger bones while keeping all of what made it uniquely Assumption over all these years with its faith, its tradition, and its people, firmly intact.
Intact – like Christ keeping His humanity intact while raising it into the eternal glory of His divinity at His Resurrection.
Intact – like God keeping Mary’s humanity intact while raising her up to a heavenly glory at her Assumption.
It still may not feel like it now, but let me say it once more that the Assumption is coming for Assumption.
Mary was brought to the glorified life of being assumed into heaven after her earthly course was done.
The time is coming for this parish when a choir of angels shall sing the assumed one’s praises in the sanctuary and cherubs will hover in the apse.
Mary’s Assumption is ultimately Christ’s triumph over sin and death as manifested in His Blessed Mother.
The moment shall arise for this people when pews shall overthrow scaffolding and a lighted ceiling shall beat back the darkness of closed doors.
Mary’s Assumption signals her royalty in her Son and led to her subsequent coronation in heaven as a Queen crowned with 12 stars.
The day shall dawn for this community when medallions will line the walls and gold leaf will crown the spaces dedicated to the woman’s whose dignity was raised to greater heights.
The Assumption of Mary’s body and soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord for what He has done for her. The “assumption” of this parish’s walls and spirit proclaims the greatness of the Lord for what He has done for this people under her mantle. And the good news of both shall ring out by a voice of great Price one day high in a new pulpit hanging next to white pillars of heaven.
Then after its own “assumption” the parish must become the Assumption in the lives of its people and in and the lives of others by being the place where:
– Its people are “assumed” to the heights of holiness and crowned with the stars of supernatural virtues arrayed in a Legion of Mary.
– Where souls are saved from the decay of sin by God’s direct action in the sacraments and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass served reverently by the Confraternity of St. Stephen.
– Where the downtrodden are lifted up and “assumed” to God’s loving care through the work of helping hands at the annual Searcy Memorial Thanksgiving Dinner.
– Where hearts and minds soar to contemplate the things above by the assistance of enchanted voices in the schola.
– And where a young man can rise, come to pray, hear a call, and maybe (just maybe) come back to preach for you one day like today.
So let me tell you one more time my friends that the Assumption is coming for Assumption.
So let us all run toward it in haste like Mary ran to Elizabeth in a town in Judah . . .
In the Name of the Father + the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.