I admit it; there have been moments when I have been overly scrupulous about liturgy. I can be "precise," as my mother would say. And I confess that there have even been times when this has gotten in the way of my prayer and God's grace. But God uses everything, and here in Assisi as I try to pick up a new language, my anxiety has done something good for me: it has pushed me to start composing homilies in Italian.
You see, I know that on a feast or a solemnity, the latter including Sundays, those who assist at Mass have a right to a homily. So I'm always looking ahead to make sure I'm ready if it happens that I end up being celebrant at such a moment. Last week I made sure I had something for the nativity of John the Baptist this past Sunday. It was only fifty words, but it was something. As it turned out, I didn't need it because I went with some of the friars to the sanctuary of the stigmata at La Verna and concelebrated at one of the Masses there.
This morning, the feast of Peter and Paul, was a bit of a scare. At Mass yesterday morning I had understood from the conversation in the sacristy that fra Pietro would be presiding at Mass today for his name day. I was looking forward to it, as he seems very learned. So I didn't worry about having a homily ready for the solemnity today. However, in the morning when I took a look at the little book that lists the daily Mass assignments for the various priests, I saw that fra Pietro was assigned to Mass somewhere else. I was thrown into a little homiletic panic as I entered the chapel for Morning Prayer. During the meditation period following, I rushed my Office of Readings a bit and then went to the lectionary, hoping for an inspiration. Fortunately, one arrived. I thought of the connection between the houses built on rock and sand from the end of the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel yesterday (a passage I used to use sometimes for weddings when the couple left the choice up to me) and the Church built on the rock of Peter's confession. That's enough for a homily, I thought, a little connection and a sneaky way to make the point that Scriptures are about God first of all. Basta.
However, I guess fra Pietro hadn't looked at Mass assignment calendar, because he appeared in the sacristy two minutes before Mass. When he was informed of his other assignment--which was alleged to have begun fifteen minutes prior, he ran off. Nevertheless, I guess it was too late or someone else had covered for his absence, because he reappeared in the sacristy a couple of minutes later. I happily removed from myself the lovely red chasuble of the principal celebrant and surrendered it to him, relieved that I wouldn't have to preach after all.
So that's two homilies in Italian that I've prepared but which I haven't had to use, although the latter was only in my head and just a couple of sentences.
This afternoon I've tried to compose my third so as to be ready for this coming Sunday. At sixty-two words, it's my most developed yet in Italian. It's up to God whether it gets delivered or not, but in any case it's good practice and I'm grateful to him for making some good use of my desire to be a faithful custodian of the sacred mysteries.