Like most educational institutions in the Philippines, Don Bosco Center of Studies (DBCS) is wrapping up the school year. Here, majority of the schools mark the beginning of the school calendar in June and end in March. This week saw its Institute of Theological Formation students, composed mostly of seminarians from various religious congregations of various nationalities, hurdling up their final exams.
DBCS may be any other school which dishes out final examinations in both oral and written forms, but since it takes care of forming future priests, one type examination is noteworthy to mention. This examination is specific to a subject called Homiletics. In this subject, seminarians learn the art and science of giving homilies.
And precisely the final examination in this subject comes through preaching homilies.
The class brings an end to a semester of learning how to give birth to the fundamental message (the class calls it ‘the pearl’) after synthesizing the Biblical readings of a particular liturgical celebration—and even meditating on the prayers proper of the priest-celebrant (that is, the opening prayer and the preface).
Under the guidance of the professor, Fr. Vic Cervania, SDB, the class has learned to appreciate where Pope Francis is coming from in terms of his emphasis in the quality of homilies prepared and delivered by priests.
Fr. Vic has emphasized that writing homilies is not just about pushing an idea forward, but also must inspire the people to pray. This is only possible if preachers themselves pray.
A month ago, the seminarians drew which liturgical celebration they would prepare homilies for. The past three meetings were spent hearing the seminarians deliver their respective homilies before the class. Two seminarians join Fr. Vic in assessing the quality of the homily of the ‘preacher.’ After which, the class contributes additional positive points—and even points for improvement—on how the seminarian delivered his homily.
Fr. Vic also gave relevant comments: from the proper handling of the microphone to further improving the structure of the homilies.
To carry out their final examinations, the actual preaching was held in the school chapel and the ambiance of a typical Sunday congregation was simulated. Fr. Vic gave strict instructions to the class to help the ‘preacher’ by preventing distractions.
Pope Francis has emphasized the importance of homilies. In his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, he writes: “The homily is the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people. We know that the faithful attach great importance to it, and that both they and their ordained ministers suffer because of homilies: the laity from having to listen to them and the clergy from having to preach them! It is sad that this is the case” (art. 135).
This course is definitely of help to our priests in the making.