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Adapted Homilies & Talks

Irish Family Mass Homily

From the homily for the Irish Family Mass in Honor of Saint Patrick, 3/14/2019

 The theme of this year's St. Patrick's Day Mass, Irish literature, is most fitting.  We cannot think of St. Patrick and the Emerald Isle apart from books.  Two of the greatest writers from the last two hundred years were Irish and Catholic: James Joyce and Oscar Wilde.  Joyce's own sister was a nun—Sister Gertrude Mary Joyce—and Thomas Merton said he owed his conversion to Catholicism from reading Joyce.

The roots of Irish literature begin with Saint Patrick himself.  When Patrick escaped from slavery in Ireland and returned to his native Britain, he had a dream in which a man named Victorinus appeared.  Victorinus gave Patrick letters to read, letters that would inspire Patrick to return to the place of his captivity and evangelize it.  But before he could do this, Patrick had to prepare.  He crossed the channel to France and there trained under St. Martin of Tours, the Roman soldier-turned monk.  Schooled in prayer and theology, Patrick was given a spiritual discipline that would serve him and his companions well.  The great Irish saints—Brendan, Kevin, Columba, Columbanus, Columbkille, Killian—would travel around Ireland, founding monasteries and instilling in the people a life of prayer and study.


School Mass Homily

From a homily at a school Mass on Friday of the 2nd Week of Easter, 4/13/2018

Boys and girls, do we remember who Jesus appeared to after he rose from the dead? Mary Magdalen, another Mary, Peter and John, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, the disciples in the upper room. Very good. Someone guessed Mary, Jesus' mother. Is this true? Well, we do not hear about in the Gospels, but I find it hard to believe that Jesus would not have visited his mother after this great news. Aren't our mothers some of the first people to whom we tell good news? I don't think I'm speculating too much by guessing Jesus would have appeared to Mary. Remember John at the end of his Gospel writes, "There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written" (Jn 21:25).


Easter is Cool

From a homily on Easter Sunday, 4/1/2018

Catholicism is not boring. Easter Sunday captures the exhilaration of the faith. There is a great earthquake (cf. Matt 28:2). When Mary and the women see the empty tomb, and the angel inside, they are terrified (cf. Lk 24:5) and utterly amazed (cf.Mk 16:5). Mary, upon seeing the empty tomb, runs to tell Peter. She is overjoyed (cf. Matt 26:8). Peter and John, in turn, run to see it themselves (cf. Jn 20:4). When the two disciples on the road to Emmaus recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread, their hearts burn (cf. Lk 24:32). Earthquakes, terror, amazement, joy, running, and burning—all things inimical to boredom.


Good Friday Moonlight Sonata

From the Homily on Good Friday 2018

Behold a beautifully tragic proposition of our Catholic faith: in suffering and even evil, beauty and good are to be found. “At noon darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon (Mk 15:33).” This Friday is ugly: mankind at our worst. And yet this Friday is beautiful. God died for love of us and mankind was restored.


Abe's Ash Wednesday

From a Homily on Ash Wednesday

Abraham Lincoln never took himself or his faith too seriously. He once told the story about how he slept during a sermon. The pastor, seeing Lincoln asleep, asked the congregation to stand if they desired to go to heaven. Everyone rose except Lincoln. The pastor then asked those who wanted to go to hell to stand. Lincoln awoke at the very moment the pastor yelled ‘stand up!’ When the pastor asked Lincoln what he had to say for himself, the future president responded, “Preacher, I don't know what you're voting on, but you and I seem to be the only two for it.”


Swaddling Clothes

From a homily on Christmas 2017

There are five actions that help comfort a crying newborn: swing, shush, suck, side, and swaddle. The 5 S's are meant to replicate the womb. For example, swinging the baby gently mimics the swaying in the amniotic fluid, which also made a shushing sound like waves. Wrapping a baby in swaddling clothes so that she cannot flay her arms makes the baby feel contained and embraced, as she was prenatally.


Immaculate Conception

From a homily on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.

My parents, when I was a child, emphasized manners. One improper enterprise of mine, for which I was often called to task, was drinking milk or Gatorade straight out of the bottle. Having a requisite glass to a drink is a courteous gesture. The rest of my family suffered from my inelegant action. It reminds me of Hilaire Belloc's limerick:

Of Courtesy, it is much less
Than Courage of Heart or Holiness,
Yet in my walks it seems to me
That the Grace of God is Courtesy.


Christ the King

From a Homily on the Feast of Christ the King

Father Aloysius Schmitt was just finishing the 7am Mass aboard the USS Oklahoma docked at Pearl Harbor when eight torpedoes slammed into the ship's side. Within minutes the ship rolled over and began to sink. The 32-year old Catholic priest immediately began to direct frenzied men through a small porthole to escape the capsizing ship. Bob Burns, who had served at Mass that morning, was one of those sailors who escaped. Burns recalls: “[Father Schmitt] recognized my voice and said, ‘Over here!’ There were two gentleman topside pulling, and he was pushing people through — he pushed me out. He was one of the finest men I had ever known. It was an honor knowing him.”


Thanksgiving Homily

From a Thanksgiving Day Homily

The giving of a gift is a prerequisite to gratitude. We cannot be thankful if nothing has been given to us. To be a thankful person, therefore, means we understand there to be a source behind all good things. For good things do not merely happen. Good things are given by someone. A thankful person recognizes this, which, by the way, makes the virtue of thankfulness the antidote to the dangerous vice of entitlement. Entitlement destroys the concept of gift. Everything, to the entitled person, is owed, not graciously bestowed.


Daily Mass Homily

From a daily Mass homily.

We hear this morning a wrenching account of martyrdom in the second book of Maccabees. “Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day, yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord” (2 Mc 7:20). The mother would not let her sons apostatize, but rather encouraged them to bravery.



From a Homily on Pentecost

Chicago reinvented itself in the latter half of the 20th century. The city went from an agro-industrial to a "knowledge" economy. Whereas cities like Detroit and Pittsburgh, based on the automobile or steal industry, were unable to recreate themselves when those industries declined, Chicago was able to do so. Gone were the meat-packing plants and warehouses, replaced by skyscrapers offering financial and legal services. Chicago has continued to renew itself, becoming a global economy, and hopefully will continue to do so.


Memorial Day

From a Homily on Memorial Day

At last the woman who had been sobbing outside of the president's office was granted entrance. She explained that her husband, fighting in the war, had gone missing and with it the money he had been sending home. She begged the president to discharge one of her two enlisted sons, as she had no means of support. Abraham Lincoln, staring at the fire, hands behind his back and head bowed low, simply said, as if speaking to himself, “I have two you, you have none.” The president walked over to the desk and wrote a note of discharge.


Good Friday in Nuremberg

From a Homily on Good Friday

Befehl ist Befehl. Translated: ‘I was only following orders.’ That is the plea known as the "Nuremberg Defense," used by the Nazi officers convicted of crimes during the Nuremberg Trials of 1945-1946. Hermann Goering and others claimed they were only following orders; they did not know of the atrocities that were occurring within the Reich. The Final Solution was all the work of Hitler, Himmler, and Goebbels, they argued. The judgment of the International Tribunal upon the ex-Nazis? Guilty.


Irish Mass

From a Homily on the Saint Juliana Irish Mass

William Francis Meagher (pronounced "Mar") was born in Waterford, Ireland in the 1820s. Identified by the British as a threat early into his adulthood, he was arrested and exiled to the penal colony in Tasmania. Meagher would escape, sail to New York City, and rise through the political ranks, eventually ending his career as the governor of Montana. His political success was owed to his leadership of the Irish Brigade in the Civil War, of which Robert E. Lee said “I have never seen men so brave.” The unit of Irishman performed admirably in many battles–Bull Run, The Peninsula Campaign, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville—so much so that President Lincoln elevated Meagher to Brigadier General. From this position of authority, Meagher had the War Department create green Irish flags with a harp symbol. The men carried this flag into battle, and in the event that the men were separated from the flag, or the flag was destroyed, the Irish soldiers could be identified by a green sprig in their cap, for which Meagher also gained permission. Two other allowances Meagher provided that endeared him to his men: the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day and the presence of a Catholic priest for every regiment.