Favorite music to write to?
Soft meditation music
What are you reading now?
Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan
Father Dan Ruff
SJU Writes: What kinds of things do you write day-to-day?
DR: I suppose something I do regularly that’s closer to the heart of my career is writing homilies. I often do preach from a full text, and even if I don’t, I tend to write a full text version before I kind of boil it down. And then, when I was pastor at Old Saint Joe’s, I used to also write a weekly column for the bulletin.
SJU Writes: When you have a writing task, what is the process that gets you your first draft?
DR: I start “writing” my homilies on Monday morning, and that just starts with reading over and praying with the scriptures. So I carry those scriptures around with me in my head and my heart for the whole week, and I keep thinking about “Alright, where does this connect?” or “How do I make this communicate to people like the college student audience?” or “Are there stories I can think of that will introduce or illustrate this subject?” By the time I sit down to actually write, I usually have a pretty solid outline in my head of what I’m planning, so it usually goes fairly easily.
SJU Writes: Did you have a teacher who was the most influential to you in your writing?
DR: I’d say my fifth grade teacher when I was in public grade school because she strongly urged us to read at least a book a week and to write about the book. I think it was the first time that I had a pattern or a rhythm or a habit of writing. She’s actually also the teacher who taught us how to break down and diagram sentences, so I think it probably illuminated my understanding of grammar and prose and how it’s put together.
SJU Writes: Do you have any advice for a seminarian who is learning how to write his homilies, or for someone who is learning to write like you?
DR: I teach preaching at St. Charles. The first thing I tell them is always that it starts with prayer. Prayer is where you get the inspiration. I also strongly recommend that they start a week ahead, as I try to do, because if you don’t give yourself that time, you don’t have the time for the second thought. When I write a homily, often my second inspiration, a couple days in, will be different than the one I started with. And often the second one is the better one.
—Grace Schairer ’22