Prayer and study are always an integral part of preparing to preach or teach. Going to original sources to verify content is important. I want to be sure the message is accurate. Finally, assembling a message that has solid content, while also being full of life and energy in the delivery, is vital for creating an atmosphere where spiritual renewal can take root.
I also like to do research about the parish where I am going. I want to feel like I know the congregation at least a little when I walk in the door. I don't use canned presentations when I preach a parish mission. A rural parish may have different needs than a large metropolitan parish. A parish struggling to overcome a crisis of one kind or another will have different needs than a flourishing congregation. It is my desire to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ and bring His love to the people in the most effective way possible. If I do my part by lifting the people up in prayer long before my arrival, I walk into the parish fully trusting that God is going to move powerfully among his people.
This will be my first parish mission since the pandemic shut everything down. I look back and think of all of the speaking engagements that were wiped off my calendar almost in an instant. Parish missions were scheduled, days of recollection, and even a retreat for the deacons and their wives for the Diocese of Des Moines, Iowa. All of it was cancelled in the blink of an eye.
The urgency of the Gospel message in today's society becomes ever more evident with each passing day. People are in desperate need of the theological virtue of hope.
I am feeling compelled to focus my time and energy on proclaiming the Good News of Salvation wherever I can. In 2023, I will have freed myself from the full-time workforce. Thus, having a more open and flexible schedule will allow me to accept invitations across the country to preach parish missions, lead retreats or days of recollection, and teach at catechetical workshops.
There is a part of me that wants to kick back and relax, but the burden of responsibility that I accepted at ordination tells me it is not yet time. When Archbishop Rigali handed me the Book of the Gospels during the ordination ceremony at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis, he said these words: "Receive the Gospel of Christ whose herald you now are. Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practice what you teach."
Ending 2022 with this parish mission in Marthasville, Missouri will set the stage for gearing up in 2023. It's not too early to start planning for Lent which is only a little over two months away. Ash Wednesday is February 22, 2023. If you would like a parish mission or retreat for your parish or group during Lent, or any other time in 2023, please let me know. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola Parish--it all begins on Saturday evening. I look forward to meeting all of you.