How A Campus Minister Writes

Quick Facts

Favorite word?


Favorite music to write to?

Soft meditation music

What are you reading now?

Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan


Father Dan Ruff
Campus Minister


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