A good homily is a child conceived in the expectant womb of curiosity by the sperm of original thinking. It involves two kinds of preparation: (a) Remote Preparation extending over many years, involving personal mentors, lived experiences and dedicated study time, and (b) Proximate Preparation involving meditating deeply on the specific topic of the talk to be given.
My mentors were, firstly, a mystic Catholic great-grandmother who, if she had been born into a Sufi family, would have fully understood, “La illaha. Il’ Allahu.” (which Coleman Barks suggests is best rendered in the West as, “The ‘I’ is an illusion. Only God is real.”) Secondly, a druid grandfather who immersed me in the folklore and music of ancient Ireland. And, thirdly, a lieutenant colonel in the Irish Army (Con O’Sullivan), our public-speaking instructor in the seminary, who insisted, “the key to a great homily is to never preach anything you don’t believe!”
My remote preparation also consisted of a fascination with science (leading to a BSc in Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Physics), with psychology (leading to a PhD) and with spirituality (which was fostered during eight years in the seminary.) Fourteen years living in Kenya gave me a love for mythology and proverbs, and a realization that all the Wisdom Traditions of the planet (oral or written) are “The Word of God.” The icing on the cake has been a 49-year-long practice of meditation.
And my proximate preparation, in the days before creating a homily, is to spend hours trekking in the mountain-forest near my home in Tír na nÓg, Healdsburg, with a wad of paper and a pen stuffed into my jacket pocket.
Whether we look through the eyes of deep science, mystical theology, soaring poetry, creative stories, insightful psychology or endorphin-releasing humor, we will discover that the ultimate truth is there is only God.
I invite you to share the journey, to set out on safari, to jump dimensions, to pierce the veil.
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Fr. Seán ÓLaoire, PhD