Bellinger Keynotes the Dallas Deacon Congress

On March 4, 2023, more than a hundred deacons and their wives gathered for the annual Deacon Congress for the diocese of Dallas, TX. Dr. Karla Bellinger, executive director of the Institute for Homiletics presented “Practicing and Preaching the Presence of God.”

In keeping with the institute’s focus, “renewing preachers to renew preaching,” Bellinger gave two ninety-minute presentations. The first addressed the deacon’s personal connection with God. In the second, the deacons and their wives worked with the upcoing Sunday’s readings to determine, how do we “preach Presence”? How can we put that closeness that we experience into words that inspire others?

The conundrum that Bellinger brought up arises from the disconnect between preaching Real Presence in the Eucharistic Revival and the denuminization of the current world. Numinous means a sense of the Spirit, the spiritual. De-numinous is an absense of the sense of the Spirit, a loss of the sense of the Divine as surrounding us, enfolding us, and supporting us. How do we preach Presence in the midst of a pervading emptiness? In the United Staes and western Europe, we are not speaking the same language. (In some parts of the world, the sense of the Divine is much more real.) People hearing of Real Presence have no underlying sense of Presence, therefore, what we are saying makes no sense; what difference does it make? God calls preachers to be full of the Spirit and learn to be translators from one language to the other. Bernard of Clairveaux, in Song of Songs says,

The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives. The reservoir retains the water until it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself. Today there are many in the Church who act like canals; the reservoirs are fare too rare.

Can the liturgical homily lead to a more robust understanding of the Table? Deacons are to practice the Presence of God until it oozes out of their pores, then preach the Presence of God because they cannot hold it in. God is here. God is with us.

Their hearts were burning within them as they headed to lunch together.

One of the deacons shared this experience about preaching his homily differently: “I took a step back tonight and realized…..God, through me, brought people to encounter Him today!! So COOL and so humbling!! I never had that sense or reaction before until today.”