Good homilies matter – and inspiring preachers need inspiration too.


As congregations begin to celebrate Advent, you will almost certainly hear the hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”. It is an embrace of the liturgical cycle in song, combining a 15th century French chant with an ancient Latin text. First printed in German hymns, the text was later translated into English by James Mason Neale in 1895. His efforts helped start the Oxford movement, a path of spiritual renewal in the Church of England which has enlisted in its ranks John Henry Newman and many others.

How are our religious leaders kicking off this lively season in hopes of spiritual healing in our often conflicted society and in our polarized churches? Above all, Saint Paul advises: “Do not suffocate the spirit! (1 Th 5:19)

How are our religious leaders launching this happy Advent season in hopes of spiritual healing? Above all, Saint Paul advises: “Do not suffocate the spirit!

I saw with my own eyes how a Catholic parish in Santa Monica, California, under the pastoral direction of Msgr. Lloyd Torgerson, embraced the needs of their community and reached out far beyond their borders.

Over the past three years, I have developed a national television series called “Sunday to Sunday,” which focuses on those gifted preachers whose ability in the pulpit can inspire others. Mgr. Lloyd Torgerson is one of those preachers. At 83 years old and over 30 years old as pastor of the Catholic Community of Sainte Monique, this activist inspires and motivates others. Our video profile of Monsignor Torgensen and his parish community came out this summer.

It is a large-scale parish with both a primary and a high school. The parish’s innovative pastoral programs with young adult ministry, live streaming of Masses, and generous financial support to needy parishes in Los Angeles and a maternity hospital in Dandora, Kenya, caught my attention.

Sainte Monique and Mgr. I did not stifle the spirit. Instead, they adopted it.

The hashtag and parish slogan #StillStMonica have become an anchor for so many anxious souls in the face of Covid-19 lockdowns and its perilous uncertainty. Sainte Monique and Mgr. T, as it is called, have not stifled the mind. Instead, they adopted it.

At the start of our documentary project, in a conversation via Zoom, Mgr. Torgerson insisted the project wouldn’t be on its own. Instead, we focused on how his preaching affected the pastoral efforts of parishioners.

At the beginning of the production, by successive interviews, everyone declared that it was Mgr. T who motivated them and the work they embraced. So in my head, I had a working title: “It is not about Mgr. T… but it is about Msgr. T. “

Great preachers can inspire souls, with one caveat: they too must be inspired.

Great preachers can inspire souls, with one caveat: they too must be inspired. In his recent New Yorker article, titled “What American Christians Hear at Church” (10/7/21), Casey Cep delves into the often inexplicable questions about preaching: “When, if, and why does a sermon move a devotee? a new deeper beliefs. Drawing on the great Protestant scholar and pastor, Reinhold Niebuhr, Cep concludes: “The words of sermons matter, even though neither Pew (Pew Research Center) nor the very people who deliver them can know precisely how.

Lloyd Torgerson is the kind of great preacher whose words lead people to deeper and deeper beliefs and actions. His homilies count!

Every Sunday of the last year, I watched the 9:30 am Mass live. In Mgr. T’s words are “the new evangelization”. This online video experience reaches the world as far as Cape Town, South Africa, and Copenhagen, Denmark. His sermons and personality provide a rich experience, and as a fellow priest it is invaluable to listen to such a gifted preacher.

Mgr. T’s voice is behind every frame in our documentary, and his invitation is clear. Often at Mass, he repeats a phrase from Pope Francis: “The Eucharist is not a price for the perfect, but rather food and nourishment for those who need it most.

I’ve heard reactions to our film before such as, “Well, Santa Monica is a wealthy community; you would expect the same. Most parishes do not have these resources. It is true, but I have seen rich parishes wasting their money and resources. It takes a pastoral vision and apostolic zeal, with servant leaders like Felipe Sanchez, the director of administration. He is one of dozens of professional women and men who are good stewards, teachers, and staff at Saint Monica.

What’s in it for me? Well, inspired people inspire me. In fact, going to these vibrant parishes is like making a pilgrimage, this long road to Santiago de Compostela where by chance, I meet new souls whose lives give meaning to mine.

How do you start this Advent season with the hope of spiritual healing?

Perhaps, listening very carefully to these verses from the old Advent hymn: “Come, O Aurora and encourage us by drawing closer. Scatter the dark clouds of the night. And the darkness of death is gone.


Comments are closed.