Ars Praedicandi: Homilists for the Homeless

Over the course of the past three years a group of preachers and writers have come together to produce a series of books grouped together as Homilists for the Homeless. The series is based on the three-year cycle of Sunday lectionary readings and is now complete with the release of the third book.

From the introduction to the series:

…stories about our stories crafted by superb storytellers. Here, we’re invited to engage with Scripture at a deeper level by people of abiding faith whose work and words are grounded in theological education and active ministry.

Some of today’s finest preachers from across Christian denominations come together in this volume of short homilies and sermons for all three liturgical cycles of the Roman Lectionary. All three volumes break open the Sunday readings to provide spiritual sustenance with warmth and humor…and proceeds of all three books benefit charities that are identified in each volume.

The series is edited by Jim Knipper and includes reflections or homilies from Richard Rohr, OFM, James Martin, SJ, Rob Bell, Joan Chittister, Jan Richardson and others.

One such author is Michelle Francl-Donnay, a regular reader and occasional contributor here at Pray Tell. In Sick and You Cared for Me, the third book in the series offering reflections for Cycle B, Michelle offers a reflection for the 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time.

A few excerpts:

In the fourth century, Simeon the Stylite, it is said, spent more than thirty years living on top of a fifty-foot high pillar on the edge of the Syrian desert, confined to a platform three feet on each side. He was driven up the column, not so much by his desire to get closer to God, though that surely played a part, but to get further from the crowds who clamored for his advice, disturbing his prayers. Still they came, from Constantinople and Antioch, emperors, archbishops and farmers alike clambered up a ladder to have a word with the saintly Simeon, until finally his brother monks built a double wall around the pillar to keep the curious at bay. 

There are weeks where my calendar makes a pillar in the desert, guarded by high rock walls and a solid community, seems like a great idea. I imagine the items on my to-do list jumping up and down, yelling for my attention, surrounding me on all sides, scrambling to find a ladder to climb up to the top of the list. It’s tempting to try to quiet the demanding crowd by plunging into the list first thing, crossing off this task, answering that request. But the tasks keep coming up the ladder.


My daily reminder to pray holds my feet to the fire, too, until I can pick up the day’s work and walk. Until I can, as fourth century doctor of the church Gregory Nazianzus advised, remember Christ more often than I draw breath. Of late I’ve started to wonder if I should stop crossing it off and simply let it stand at the head of my list, to be more aware of God’s presence as He “guides the beginning of my work, directs its progress, and brings it to successful completion” as Thomas Aquinas’ prayer before study so beautifully captures. 

Prayer is not inherently productive, however. “Being useless and silent in the presence of our God belongs to the core of all prayer,” wrote Henri Nouwen. Can we waste time with God, even in the face of urgent tasks? Can we practice simply letting God look at us? Saying nothing. Doing nothing. 


Sunday is not the day we flip the week’s calendar over, not merely a day we are obliged to go to Mass, to make a return to Lord for what we have been given. It is not about the rules. The Sabbath is for noticing. For noticing that God is present, for noticing that we have been healed, for noticing that our neighbor has been healed. 

The Sabbath is a reminder to sit unproductively, and be alert to what happens when Light shines forth from darkness and God beholds us. Stretch out your hands, and see that what has been crushed has been made whole in Christ’s dying and rising.

Read Michelle’s full reflection at her blog, Quantum Theology.

More information on the Homilists for the Homeless series, including the ability to purchase a discounted three-volume set can be found here.

Michelle Francl-Donnay is a writer, teacher, wife, and the mother of two college-aged sons. Her regular column, Catholic Spirituality, appears at the Philadelphia Archdiocese’s news site,

One comment

  1. How exciting to see this here. I have the privilege to have been part of Homilists for the Homeless early on, as contributor, and assisting our publisher with some of our marketing. I have watched a one year experiment grow into a success; our good sales numbers mean that we have donated a significant amount of money to our various charities. Speaking for myself, it has been humbling beyond words.

    Thanks for posting this here!

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