by Nathaniel Miller
When the Rev. David Garcia (B.A. ’71) was approached to write weekly homilies during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, he initially refused.
After retiring in 2019, Garcia wasn’t planning to write new homilies, which are sermons relating scripture to current events. As a well-known religious leader in San Antonio, Garcia had already made a mark in his hometown for numerous accomplishments, including his role as pastor of San Fernando Cathedral and his contribution to the San Antonio Missions gaining designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
But after a bit of nudging from multiple people, Garcia ended up writing 60 new homilies between March 2020 and March 2021. What started as a weekly email to about 10 people, five of whom were his biological sisters, ended up growing to a national list of about 10,000.
“It was really something that surprised me,” Garcia said. “I didn’t realize it was going to be that big of a thing, and then people said, ‘You know, this can be a book.’”
Those homilies are now in a collection called Pandemic Preaching, covers subjects from front-line workers putting their lives at risk at the beginning of the pandemic to neighbors going above and beyond for each other.
When writing homilies, Garcia said they should encourage not only focus on Scripture, but also how it relates to everyday life.
One of the most important things a priest has to do is help people see the word of God in their lifeThe Rev. David Garcia
Garcia’s time at St. Mary’s University allowed him to witness events like the protests against the Vietnam War, support of the civil rights movement and the lettuce boycott led by Cesar Chavez. It was events like these, he said, that helped him become more socially conscious and envision how weekly readings at Mass apply to current events.
His St. Mary’s University professors and the Marianists also helped form his public identity as a pastor, which he said was helpful when organizing events or learning how to better help his congregation with their concerns.
“I was a leader in the neighborhood because I was the pastor and, because of that, people pay attention to you,” Garcia said. “So I took my place, understanding more what it means to be a pastor. St. Mary’s helped with that.”
Sally T. Gomez-Jung, who wrote an endorsement for the book, met Garcia while working at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio. For her, receiving the homilies provided comfort as church services moved online, isolating parishioners. She was not surprised they were widely shared especially at a time when people were looking for something positive.
“It’s like when you receive good news and want to tell others about the good news,” she said.
Arturo Rodriguez III (B.A. ’71), also a friend of Garcia’s, was among the first to begin receiving the homilies during this difficult time. Taking as many precautions as possible, Rodriguez said the pandemic has been hard and he has only been able to see his 91-year-old mother this Thanksgiving.
With the homilies, Rodriguez knew he was going to get comforting words in his inbox. Having heard Garcia’s sermons when he was pastor at Mission Concepción, Rodriguez said Garcia continues to think deeply and research each piece.
“His homilies are uplifting, encouraging, hopeful, and gave us the ability to realize that we could get through this and weather the storm,” Rodriguez said.
Garcia said some have expressed interest in translating “Pandemic Preaching” into Spanish. He also hopes to assist other priests in crafting and delivering their homilies.
“One of the most important things a priest has to do is help people see the word of God in their life,” Garcia said.
Where to buy:
The book can be purchased at wipfandstock.com, amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, or in person at The Twig Book Shop or the San Fernando Cathedral gift shop.
Upcoming book signings:
- Sunday, Dec. 5: 11 a.m. to noon, and 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. (after Sunday masses); Mission Concepción, 807 Mission Road
- Saturday, Dec. 11: 1 to 3 p.m. ; The Twig Book Shop at The Pearl, 306 Pearl Parkway
- Sunday, Dec. 19: .m. to noon, 1 to 2 p.m.; San Fernando Cathedral, 115 Main Plaza