Monday, December 10, 2007

Air for the Tires, Fuel for the Spirit

Few aspects of church life join the rubber to the road more than preaching. And as an advance Christmas gift, one of the pulpit's great artisans has begun beaming his work to a wider stage.

Week after week, not a few have gotten a good deal of nourishment and encouragement from the Sunday homilies of St Louis' Fr John Jay Hughes, the eminent theologian, church historian and, being oft-published across the gamut from America to Crisis (on top of 12 books), a truly Catholic communicator in both senses of the word.

Each honed by 54 years at the craft, Fr Jay's weekly homilies have been, until now, the province of a very lucky e.mail list that spans the globe. Now, thanks to a little help from his friends, they've made their way to a website, where each'll be posted a week in advance. (The four Advent homilies are already up, and the preacher -- whose operating principle is to "never leave the people with flat tires," i.e. discouraged -- promises separate texts for each of the three Masses of Christmas.)

A convert from the Episcopal church -- where, in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, he was first ordained -- Hughes studied under Joseph Ratzinger after crossing the Tiber. Earlier this year in Rome, teacher and student were reunited as, in B16's native tongue, Hughes told the Pope he was a was a priest "nicht aus Liebe" ("not out of love") but "aus Leidenschaft" (out of passion).

Next year, that ministry of passion marks two milestones: Fr Jay's 80th birthday and the 40th anniversary of his conditional ordination to the Catholic priesthood at the hands of the bishop of Munster, the future Cardinal Hoffner of Cologne. The new year will also see the release of Hughes' memoir, titled No Ordinary Fool: A Testimony of Grace.