No doubt there are many in the speaking or teaching professions that have forgotten what they had prepared to elaborate on and forgot their text. Without notes it leaves the teacher or speaker in an embarrassing situation.
During the years of my preaching ministry I never used notes nor did I even write my homilies. Now I would never advocate anyone to preach without writing their exhortation, it just worked for me. I never would think of preaching without preparation. My method was to mentally prepare on the theme of the Mass for the next week, reading the lectionary and researching other works if necessary. When the Sunday arrived for Mass I was ready, but never wrote my homily.
One Sunday morning, as I usually did, reread the lesson just to clear my thoughts as I prepared to drive to St. Angela Merici Parish. Sounds simple enough as this was my mode of operation. However, this Sunday was different. I couldn’t remember what my homily was. All the way to Church I could only think about the readings hoping that would unlock my mind and something, even one word, would pop in and I wouldn’t look like an idiot in the pulpit. The Pastor came into the Sacristy and as he usually did asked my what my theme was. I answered I didn’t remember. Fr. Steve looked shocked and said he would never dream of going out there not knowing what he was going to say. My response was it would be ok. I wasn’t sure why I said that.
We began the entrance-procession singing the opening hymn and all I could do was ask the Lord to give me something to clear my mind. Nothing. We went through the opening prayer, the Collect, readings and responses. Still nothing. The Alleluia and my getting the blessing from the priest followed by my pronouncing the Holy Gospel. Even then my mind was on what am I going to say.
Moving away from the pulpit to the center of the Sanctuary I removed the microphone from the stand and thought here goes nothing.
The words just flowed and after about seven minutes (the usual time I would preach) I sat down next to the priest who leaned over telling me my homily was good. I never knew what I said.
After driving back home, I went into my house, looked up and said; “what are you doing to me?”
The voice succinctly said; “You’re always talking about faith; today I tested yours."
I have never forgotten that and still did not write my homilies but continued to preach with that knowledge that The Holy Spirit is most definitely in control and guides ministers who preach with the grace to do so.
Ralph B. Hathaway, through the Holy Spirit-2021