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FATHER MATT PENNINGTON
“You may be called to give that encouraging word, to give someone a nudge, to be the right person at the right time to help someone come closer to God's grace. Be ready! “

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1.      Father Mike quotes Wallace Stevens who wrote, “God and the imagination are one.” He asked Father Matt what are his sources of imagination. As you prepare to preach…

a.      What are some of the ways you activate your imagination?
           i.      Are there new sources you want to try?

b.      Thinking about the next homily you need to prepare what do you think will help you stimulate your imagination?

c.       What are some different ways you will help people enter your imagination?

 2.      Father Matt talks about the importance of trusting his instincts.

a.      How do your instincts guide you in your homily preparations?

b.      Can you recall times when you followed your instincts while preaching? What happened? Are there any ways you might increase the likelihood of this sort of experience occurring more often?

3.      In talking about preparing to preach Father Matt said he starts by reading the scripture with no agenda. Then as the week unfolds he sees what ideas and themes surfaces. “What I have learned is that if it’s puzzling me, if it’s interesting me, if it’s something that is exciting to me, then it’s probably going to be of interest for my listeners.”

a.      Thinking about a few of your most recent sermons did you incorporate things that were puzzling to you? Are these things you normally bring to your listeners?

b.      Consider your next homily: What do you find most perplexing about the readings you will be preaching on? How might you bring forward these “puzzling” themes in your sermon in a way that is both personal and relatable to your listeners?

4.      How are your currently using media?

a.      Are there media related things you’d like to try in your church?  What are the major obstacles?

b. What are three things you might do to get started?

 5.      Father Matt and Deacon Tom O’Brien are very purposeful with their liturgy team in creating a seamless and well integrated mass. What are the things you do synergize your homily with all dimensions of the liturgy. Are there things you might do differently?

6.      Father Matt tells a wonderful story about Martha Steward Living magazine Christmas edition.

a.      What makes the story effective?

b.      What are some of the techniques he uses to bring the story alive? Are these techniques you use? Can you picture yourself using any of these techniques? What might that look like embracing and honoring your unique style of communicating?

c.       How does he tie the story to the gospel? What are the specific words he uses to anchor the story with the homily?

d.      How does he end the homily? How does it make you feel? Thinking about your next homily what feeling do you want to impart at the end your homily?

A Few Tips from Father Matt’s Toolbox

Father Matt shared with us a few detailed tips on the process he follows in developing his homilies…

STEP 1:

Unstructured look at scripture on my own, sometimes at a meeting I might invite others to share. Mostly what I’m trying to do at this stage is let the scripture land in my head – getting a sense of how it resonates with me – what strikes me right now, What interests me, What speaks to me…Then I ask myself if this interesting and engaging, or perplexing to me will it be for others as well… so this is my initial look (allowing the Spirit to compel me)…

STEP 2:

Formal research phase – I look at other sources, try to understand the context, and background of the scriptural story.

STEP 3:

Looking for a central idea, one concept and a story, analogy, image or metaphor to anchor the homily that will draw listeners – this also leads me to a structure for the homily.

 My homilies have an architecture made from the following building blocks:

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Key to this architecture are the bridges between each piece. I concentrate hard on the bridges – how to tie and join things together and lead people – I want to leave people with a question – I want them to look at a piece of the vast mystery of God encountered in the scripture… I seek to connect with the broadest… I want people to ponder.

 Timing is key to homily. I don’t think a Sunday homily should be more than 10 minutes and I like to think of the whole Mass and its beautiful Liturgy as a seamless garment – like Christ’s tunic.

The key to mass is making sure it’s not like an automatic car shift gears so quickly and roughly that people are jostled in the process… I like to think of the liturgy as a manual car.

PRAYER

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ my Rabbi and teacher, and beautiful Spirit of God we praise and thank you for all of the varied gifts and talents of preachers. Please ready my heart and mind to embrace new ways I might break your Word for others. Work with all the raw materials of my experiences, communication style, and imagination to uncover surprising rich, storied ways to bring all my brothers and sisters in Christ closer to you. Grant me every grace I need to rely more and more on you to guide my preaching. I ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior. AMEN