Father Richard "Duke" Zajac has authored another volume of his "Life Injections" series. Like the first three, "Life Injections IV" collects sermons that Father Zajac has preached through his 39 years in the priesthood.
Father Zajac is known for his lengthy homilies that seemingly use random anecdotes to draw a common, inspiring theme. He does this as a way to reach all people. An entry on depression involves a story about the world's greatest clown, the "Peanuts" comic strip, his own experience as a chaplain for Sisters of Charity Hospital, self-help author Barbara Johnson and a humorous anecdote. If one story doesn't grab your attention, another surely will.
"One of the reasons I can get away with a 15-minute sermon is I have a lot of stories, and it's pretty tightly drawn. I can tell from the congregation that I haven't lost them," he said.
In Father Zajac's office at Sister's Hospital, bookcases full of tomes line two walls. Rough drafts and notes sit on the floor in boxes so big they could be mistaken for furniture. Most of these words find their way into a sermon. It takes Father Zajac about 24 hours to write one of his sermons, which he uses up to six times during a weekend, celebrating Mass at four places. He'll edit the sermons with a black Magic Marker, after each Mass, to craft the homilies into perfection.
"The worst is my first attempt, my 4 o'clock Mass at St. Ambrose that I do periodically, because it is my first time through the sermon. I don't have a great command of the text, that means I'm not as free in my presentation as I'd like to be," he explained.
When delivering the sermon, he sees how the material works and how he can present the material better.
He'll do one final rewrite before putting the sermons into book form, realizing that some sermons, despite how listenable they might be, can be hard to read.
"You can get away with a lot of things at the pulpit that you can't get away with in a book," he said. "So, the work of the book therefore is taking a sermon I have already preached and try and make sure I can wordsmith it until it fits well as a readable sermon."
In order to get the stories for his sermons, Father Zajac absorbs all the information he can get. He has read every one of the books on his shelves.
"I'm always on the hunt for a story, a thought, an idea," he explained. "I love to learn. I go to every lecture I can ever get to. I spend two weeks in Chautauqua every summer. It has four lectures a day. That excites me when I hear an angle or a though I haven't heard before."
At the present time, he doubts there will be a fifth volume of "Life Injections," but he thinks he has reached people with his work and taught them something.
"Everyone seems to like it. People tell me they gave the book to different people. Apparently my books are in the Christ the King Parish adoration chapel, people have comment that when they go into nocturnal adoration they like ready from my books," he said.
Life Injections IV, by Father Richard E. Zajac, is published by Parson's Porch & Company and is available from the Catholic Union Store.