Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Time to land

by Father Michael Savelesky, for the Inland Register

(From the June 18, 2015 edition of the Inland Register)

Father Michael Savelesky In a variety of statements made since assuming the papacy, Pope Francis has offered comment and instruction to us priests about the need to address our preaching opportunities with devotion and concentrated skill. He even devoted a major section of his apostolic exhortation, Joy of the Gospel, to the matter. There are many tasks which engage us priests in the course of our ministry – fixing broken sprinkler pipes, setting up tables and chairs, shoveling snow, chairing meetings and often playing finance wizard – for which the seminary did not prepare us. One would think, however, that homiletics – the art of preaching – would have been the one to receive a concentration of attention.

Actually, I remember little about my homiletics classes in the seminary (please don’t say that you can tell!). I do remember, however, the shrill voice of the instructor who with some measure of frequency used to coach the seminarian who was practicing his loquacious skills at the makeshift classroom pulpit to “Land it!”

His impatient instruction pressed the speaker to bring his homily to a conclusion instead of allowing increasingly ineffective eloquence to warm the room. After all, how many times have the faithful sensed a homily was coming to an end – even with an announced promise, “…and finally…” – only to have it zip back into several more paragraphs or three more applications of God’s Word?

Well, I have been trying to “land it” for nearly a year now – that is, to bring to a quiet end my writing of this column for our monthly diocesan publication, the Inland Register. The column began in 1985 when, after I moved on from editing the paper, my successor, Eric Meisfjord (who continues in that capacity to this day), asked me to start writing a column on spirituality for each issue. Somehow I have managed to be faithful to the task for the past 30 years, and it is indeed time to land. The grace of the Spirit remains strong in my personal life, but there is a certain ineffectiveness of the pen which sets in after the passage of time. There are other writers out there.

Like teaching theology, learning bankruptcy law, mentoring seminarians, and overseeing church construction – and similar ministry engagements for which the seminary did not prepare me – I hardly ever expected during seminary formation to write a regular spirituality column for a newspaper. But like these other areas of engagement, I feel uniquely honored and privileged to have done so. A year ago I started telling folks that I was planning on retiring the pen, as it were. In response to such comments – or often just out of the blue – people would push my efforts back into the sky with their words of encouragement to continue writing, or with their kind comments about the assistance my rambling concoction of reflection and commentary had given to their spiritual lives. Such thoughtful words warm the heart and turn it to grateful prayer.

At the same time, there is indeed a time to pass on this opportunity and responsibility to another source of spiritual wisdom. It is time to land.

Father Mark Pautler, a seminary companion for many years, will write the next column to appear in this place in the Inland Register. I have remembered more from his homilies – just from the few that I have heard – than from any other priest. His insights and depth of spirituality will bring new life and luster to this place of holy reflection in the months to come.

An Andrew Greely I have never tried to be. Yet, I do hope that my words (often a version of a homily given here or there) have bolstered the reader’s faith, provided a different perspective on God’s amazing love, or produced greater understanding of the challenges encountered on the journey we share together as disciples of Jesus Christ.

(Father Savelesky is pastor of the parishes in Rosalia and St. John, pastoral administrator of St. Rose in Cheney, and the diocese’s Moderator of the Curia.)

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