Father Michael was a great preacher. Once I returned to St Vincent Ferrer Church for Sunday Mass, I quickly learned to look forward to Father Michael’s homilies. The first thing I noticed was Father’s rapport with the congregation. It often felt like a one-on-one homily, there was always something personal to relate to in it. All present listened attentively. Then there was humor, and many kinds of emotions. Father Michael often detailed his many visits to the sick of the parish. He was moved by so much and often got choked up talking of his experiences. He was sensitive enough to appreciate and convey how an attractive woman undergoing cancer treatment would feel about her altered appearance. He was taken aback by the extraordinarily humbling circumstances of peoples’ lives: Father Michael once visited a parishioner caring for two bedridden family members in her home. He said he could hardly breathe, he was so stirred by the sacrifice and beauty of the love there. Nothing was lost on Father Michael. And he passed on his wise understanding in his preaching. And sometimes Father’s exquisite descriptions of these things took my breath away!
Father Michael was so observant and influenced by all he saw. He commuted to St Vincent’s three or more times per week. He traveled via the Eisenhower and got on it at Ashland Avenue. In one homily, he told of repeatedly seeing one homeless man, who always approached Father’s car near the ramp. Father Michael told us “All he wants from me is a buck. He doesn’t ask anything more of me. So I give him that buck”. The man was like a daily fixture that Father Michael looked for. One day the man was there but didn’t come to the car. Instead, he sat on sidewalk; he had a companion that day and Father Michael saw the man offer his paper bag’s contents to the other fellow. He told us “All I could think was how th
is was a holy man, that it was so important for him to share what he had with another. He was a holy, holy man”. Perspective…surely from the Spirit.
I remember one daily Mass where Father Michael appeared very shaken as he began his preaching. He was so upset. Apparently someone had made a remark to him about ‘real sisters’. The person had implied that sisters out of habit were not real. Well, Father Michael was not so much shaken as angry. He was so indignant and yet so controlled! He just went down the list of all the ways that all sisters were the very visible presence of the Lord in all their activities. I remember in particular Father Michael’s remarking about the sisters’ devotion at Mass and at prayer each day. His voice was a little wobbly, yet so eloquent and loving! Father Michael truly appreciated all sisters.
My favorite homily has a Reconciliation twist. Father Michael had talked beautifully to us about the comfort and grace of that sacrament. Father ended with a story of a little boy who had just completed his First Reconciliation. Father Michael gave absolution and told the little boy, “Well, all of God’s graces and goodness and love are showering down on you right now!” The little boy looked absolutely delighted at this and enthusiastically replied “I can FEEL it!!” Father Michael,himself delighted, told the little one “You know, you have just made my day!”
So many beautiful homilies. I hope that somehow some of them have been recorded. I suppose there are many from weddings, if nothing else. I would like to think that some other events with preaching from Father Michael have been recorded and are ‘out there’. It seems like at least one person should have recognized that Father Michael had a very special gift. I certainly hope so. It is easy to take these gifts for granted and not expect to lose them….
Here is a link to Father Michael’s homily at St Pius on February 26, 2014, a month and a day before he died:
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Also, here is a link to a reflection Father Michael wrote: