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Homilies at home

First slide

For the past month I’ve been living back in my hometown of Front Royal and attending seminary on Zoom, a familiar turn of events in COVID-19 times. This is the most significant length of time I’ve spent at home since beginning seminary seven years ago.

I am serving as deacon at the same altar I served at as an altar boy when I was seven; it was here that I knew I wanted to be a priest when I grew up. I’m serving with a few of the boys I used to serve with back then, who are now also seminarians.

Just last week, I finished proclaiming the Gospel and, after reverencing it with a kiss and short prayer, looked out at the congregation. I saw my family, childhood friends, my coach and a hundred other faces I’ve always known. It gets me every time: I’m at home when I’m at my home parish.

Some ask me if preaching back home is difficult or awkward. No, it’s not, but I can see why someone might think that. The folks back home are a significant reason I entered the seminary in the first place. Our community of faith here has fostered and inspired boys to discern the priesthood, so it’s not odd for them to see it happen; it’s natural. There’s hardly a more natural setting to proclaim the Word than where the Word was proclaimed to me.

Jesus got to preach in his hometown, too. I guess he probably got to see family, childhood friends, old clients and so forth as well. He also got to proclaim the Scriptures in the same synagogue he had attended as a child.

The story of salvation is one of a homecoming, an eternal home of a community of faith. I have a lot of confidence and hope that our place there will feel just as undeserved as standing at a home parish pulpit — but also, just as natural.

Deacon Heisler, from St. John the Baptist Church in Front Royal, is in his fourth year of theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pa.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020