Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Toronto priest gets it

For those of you acquainted with Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral, it will come as no surprise that the priest about to be praised is Zambian-born Fr. Lawrence Malama. The tall, soft-spoken diocesan priest often celebrates the noon weekday masses attended by Toronto's downtown working Catholics. What sets Fr. Malama apart is his have-no-fear, pull-no-punches noon hour homilies. Never working from notes, Fr. Malama weaves simple, short homilies into powerful messages of hope and faith - many of which leave the faithful squiriming in the pews. Like St. Mike's Rector, Msgr. Manny Bianco, Fr. Malama aims both barrels at sin, putting on display a priesthood very much in touch with the stresses and temptations of the average working person.

Consider the following two examples of Malama homilies (paraphrased as closely as I can recall):
  • Looking at the assembled noon-hour faithful, Fr. Malama admonishes himself - then us - thus: "Look at me! Do you think because I am a priest that I get to go to heaven? That I am closer to it than you? Nonsense! Wearing fancy vestments and saying mass everyday doesn't get me to heaven! I must earn it - everyday - by living this mass outside these wall. Just like you. It's nice that you're all here at mass today - but it is what you do when you leave that gets you into heaven. Do not think that you come to mass and get to go to heaven. You will be surprised if you get there by who is there and who is not." I recall the anger in his words - and the love - but he had the Cathedral's total attention.
  • Today, the feast of St. Lucy, was another classic Malama homily: "Tomorrow will never arrive. Never. There is only today. And today is when you must confess your sins. Do not delay, do not put it off. Find a priest and tell him to hear your confession right away. This you must do." This was a man - a priest - gravely distressed by the Damoclean Sword of sin hovering over the necks of so many faithful. He didn't make the usual case for the sacrament of reconciliation, or show off his knowedge of sacramental theology; he just stood there and told us to go to a priest and confess. Today. His meaning was clear - we had the right and obligation to demand a priest hear our confession. I wonder how his colleagues feel about that?
Fr. Malama practices what he preaches: he regularly hears confessions, even "opening up a second lane" when the lineups are too long, and I can vouch for his capacity for imparting the sacrament first hand.

If this is the future of the priesthood, things are definitely looking up.

1 comment:

  1. that's true,i know father Malama and he is a person who preaches what he does,he helped me so much in my education,,,i just lost his contacts after he reallocated,,hw can I find him again to say a word of thanx,if possible, my email address is sakalarodgers@gmail.com. pls...GOD BLESS