“Homilies for Weekdays,”
(Solemnities, Feasts and Memorials)
by Don Talafous, OSB
Add to your daily prayer during 2010 by reading and reflecting with Benedictine Father Don Talafous and his pithy, challenging homilies.
The Collegeville priest once more has collected scores of his homilies for weekdays and feasts in a slim but dense 80 pages. You start highlighting cogent thoughts and phrases, and before you know it you’ve highlighted three, four or five sentences. The content is simply that good.
Father Don gives practical, how-to advice, brief church history lessons, and for scores of saints shows how their lives connect with ours today.
The collection starts with January 1 and follows the liturgical calendar then through December. It’s a great start: “The entrance of the son of God into human life . . . tells us that the new is possible. In our world, in our lives, this year! . . . each of us is reminded that this year can be different, that with God’s grace and our openness to it we can make changes, stumbling as they may be, and allow grace to fashion us in the likeness of Jesus Christ.”
Not every day is published here, but plenty of them are, and plenty are gems. Father Don connects the subject of the feast or the saint of the day to at least one of the readings for that day. Here are a handful of examples:
- For Jan. 17, St. Anthony, Abbot — “We may not need to retire to a hermitage in the desert (like Anthony), but we probably would benefit from turning off the television, the radio, the iPod, and giving ourselves a little time for solitude daily. That could help us know ourselves, our real purpose, and God.”
- For Jan. 21, St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr — “Despite all the advances that have been made for their dignity and identity, women in our culture are still overwhelmingly defined in terms of sexuality. They and their bodies continue to be used to sell everything from cars to ketchup.”
- For March 7, Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs — “One thinks that the martyrs are put before us so often to embarrass us in our whining, complaining, our spiritual stinginess.”
We can do better
Throughout these brief lessons readers will notice a call to holiness; in every piece there is a reminder, a challenge, a shove of the conscience that eggs us on to be better followers of Jesus. This is a priest who knows his flock.
He knows what lay people go through in the day-to-day, the sufferings of the real world — the worries about the cost of heating the house, the ache of arthritis, fears about what the teenager in the family is doing out in the evening, the rejection of a job application, etc. And he reminds us that “the Christian life is not some difficult science but a time-tested and proven way of dealing with all that happens and is part of the fabric of daily life for any one of us.”
Readers will find Father Don pro-parent and pro-woman, and somewhat antiestablishment. Take this passage from his homily for June 29, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul:
“The purpose of the church — the structure, sacraments, bishops, popes, etc. — is to provide the place, time and opportunity for its members to become more united with Christ, its head. Compared to this essential, the rest is all so much whipped cream. The purpose, the excuse for the church and all it involves is to make the kingdom of God visible and audible, to let God’s presence and love be evident, to ensure that God’s word is preached and heard.”
Even saints weren’t perfect
Father Don doesn’t shy away from pointing out that at times the saints quarrelled among themselves, that they erred just like us in their humanity, and that some of the things we think we know about the saints is simply myth or legend. But that doesn’t stop him for using their life stories or their legends to point us toward living holier lives.
And he isn’t afraid to note that church policies at times through the centuries did more harm than good, the approval of slavery a prime example. He fingers popes and saints for their human frailties, using those examples too to help our own understanding of our humanity, and therefore our potential to sin.
That may be best captured in his homily for the feast day of St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who was both a man of gentleness and charity yet could be fierce and sarcastic in arguing a point. Here’s what Father Don wrote:
“Most of us have enough variety of gifts to similarly be burdened with, sometimes horrified by, our contradictions and a lack of simple wholeness. The lives of people like Bernard encourage us to realize that the following of Christ does not mean attaining some frozen state of perfection, but persisting in a generous and often hit-and-miss effort to love God and neighbor.”
This Liturgical Press paperback is the third edition of Father Don’s weekday homilies. You’ll find it at religious good stores and through http://www.litpress.org . List price is $8.95. It’s worth three times that. — bz