FATHER MICHAEL FISH
"Prayer is listening to the heart beat of God"
"Prayer is looking for God at the heart of everything"
"Prayer is us inviting God to listen to the beat of our hearts"
1. Father Michael recounted the story of his father’s work in South Africa with the Speaker’s Circle. His father taught him to craft his communications with IPREC:
Think about a recent sermon or an upcoming one:
a. Can you map your sermon to IPREC?
b. Are any of these items missing?
c. What might you want to add to bolster any of these items?
The contemplative life is central to Father Michael’s life as a monk, a preacher, a retreat leader and spiritual director.
Thomas Merton in his work New Seeds of Contemplation writes:
“Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny....To work out our identity in God.”
2. Consider the different ways you, work together with God to create your life and your, “identity in God.”
a. As a preacher, what are the different ways you purposely help others work out their identity in God?
i. What devices and techniques are you conscious of using in a consistent way that you feel help you do this?
ii. Are there things you want to try?
b. As a follower of Christ in lay life, how are you working with the Word of God to create your life and work out your identity in God?
i. What has been working well for you? Can you do more of this?
ii. What other things might you introduce into your life of faith to participate more deeply in creating your life and working out your identity in God?
3. Father Michael shared his experiences as a Redemptoris Priest at the Preacher Academy. He recounted reciting Shakespeare and practicing the bodily techniques of actors. Preacher Academy also included delivering fiery classic Redemptoris sermons…
Father Mike observed that preaching can be a bit like a performance. Performance is not an end in of itself. Performance can be used to serve the goals of connecting people deeper into the Word of God. Think about how you preach:
a. What are you strengths as a performer?
b. What comes natural to you?
c. What did you observe in Father Michael’s performance?
d. What have you observed others do that you found effective?
e. Identify one new thing you will try in your next sermon to increase you effectiveness as a performer.
4. Father Mike observed, “The shortest distance between two people is a story.”
Father Michael is a wonderful storyteller. He talked about bypassing people’s head. He characterized storytelling as a being an excellent way of “hooking the child,” in people. Father Michael said, “If you hit them in the heart you can bypass the head. The story stays with them forever.”
Using stories is a well-known sermon technique. Father Michael uses them in a unique way. His stories invite people to go on a contemplative journey.
a. What’s different about the ways Father Michael uses stories?
b. How can you use stories to incite more reflection?
c. What role does vulnerability and authenticity play in using stories in sermons?
d. Consider your next sermon. What story can you use to promote reflection?
5. Father Michael talks about working in half ideas and symbols as a way of stimulating people’s reflection
a. What do you think he means by half ideas?
b. What might the dangers be of using half ideas?
c. How can you use symbols in your sermons?
6. Father Michael divides his time as a contemplative modern monk living outside of the Camaldolese Hermitage, leading retreats and serving as Spiritual Director.
a. How would you characterize the link Father Michael sees between preaching and spiritual direction? b. What principles of spiritual direction do you use as preacher?
c. What are some new ways you might incorporate more principles of Spiritual direction into how you craft and deliver sermons?
Father Michael says the preacher at some point should become, “redundant,” and get out of the way of people as they find their way.
d. What things do you do as preacher meet people where they are, to get out of people’s way and redirect them?
e. What’s one thing you can do in your next sermon to put this principle to work?
7. Father Michael shared two stories with us in our conversations leading up to the taped interview. He talked about his mother setting the table for a meal one day during a visit home. She had taken great care with all of the details of the meal. When Father Michael remarked it was just going to be his father, mother and himself eating the meal and it wasn’t even Sunday, his mother replied, “I am Sunday.”
Walking is part of Father Michael contemplative life style. He is always on a journey. He has walked the Camino de Santigao five times. Daily walks are part of his rhythm – as is the habit of saying mass for himself at the end of the day before his meal. It is sacred time spent in communion with our Lord and in the Body of Christ.
Father Michael’s mass in the video occurs in the context of a four day silent retreat. Participants have been gathering for talks and then spending time reflecting in silence.
Father Michael begins mass in a beautiful way and this a part of who and how he is as a contemplative. He points out the time of day and invites people to enter into their imaginations. He draws us into the scene in Genesis of Adam and Eve walking with our Lord at dusk every evening in the Garden of Eden. They share with God their adventures in naming and coming into relationship with God’s creations that He has put in their care.
Father Michael bookmarks this story with another walk; the story of the Emmaus (Luke 24:13-53). As Christ is ready to take his leave of the two on their way to Emmaus, they invite him to rest and eat with them.
Father Michael gently opens the mystery of mass with stories, symbols and imagination. He asks participants to bring their personal encounters of Christ’s Word working in their hearts and minds to the Eucharistic meal. For the purposes of this retreat participants’ individual contemplative experiences become the Liturgy of the Word.
a. How might you begin your next mass with stories, symbols and imagination to help people have a more contemplative experience?
b. Think of stories and images that will stimulate the growth of tendons and ligaments to the muscles of the Liturgy of the Word and the Eucharist.