Fr. Phillip Bogacki, pastor at Christ King Parish and St. Bernard Parish in Wauwatosa, and Fr. Ricardo Martin, pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Racine, and Vice-Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, are two guys who share their thoughts weekly about the upcoming Sunday Gospel in a way that has resonated with thousands of listeners over the past three months. If you’ve listened in, you know their moms’ names. You know they can have a little fun with each other and always come back to the point. You know they have helped you prepare for Mass on Sunday. Most importantly, you know they are just two guys, conversationally brainstorming together — no script, no notes, no prep — in hopes to help you.
Q Eighteen episodes in and with more than 17,000 listeners, Two Guys and a Gospel began as a 10-minute conversation to brainstorm about the upcoming Sunday Gospel. Do you feel that is still the main intent? Do you think it has evolved into something more?
FR. RICARDO: We have been asked by producers to say something about our lives also. I think people appreciate what you call the “banter.” But, I think the main purpose is just to help people to get ready for Mass with two different ideas about the Gospel.
FR. PHILLIP: Something I haven’t entirely understood, but I have heard often from people — both my parishioners and others — is that they appreciate knowing that we’re real human beings. Which sounds so strange to us, because of course we are, but to some people there’s a little bit of a distance between the priest and the congregation. They like to hear our casual conversation.
Q You are on the Archdiocesan website, Soundcloud, iTunes, and now will be on Relevant Radio starting this Friday, June 2 (100.1 FM / 1640 AM). With all of these audiences, how easy is it to bring the conversation down to a level that all can understand and enjoy? Adding that bit of humor and informal conversation to the Gospel reading seems to be refreshing for every audience. There can be a lot of things to explain within the Gospel to those who may not know it well. Who is the audience you are envisioning when you are on the air?
FR. PHILLIP: Of course we are going to say everybody.
FR. RICARDO: I am talking to Phillip.
FR. PHILLIP: I think why this is fun, and I think why people seem to appreciate it, is because it really is a conversation between the two of us. It’s meant to be a casual, initial reflection. We also do no preparation beforehand. This is not meant to be a deep, thorough, theological reflection on the Scriptures. You might end up with that on Sunday, but the show is an initial look at it, where we’re really sitting down for the first time to look at them and to help people go through the process in the middle of the week with us.
FR. RICARDO: At the same time, for me, this cannot be frivolous either. It cannot be incorrect. I would avoid saying things that are mistaken or that don’t represent what we believe. The conversation opens up a whole world of meaning that I think people can easily engage.
FR. PHILLIP: What I hope is that people find a more positive relationship with Scripture, a more positive relationship with liturgical preaching.
Q You guys are pretty funny.
FR. PHILLIP: Well, one of us is …
Q What sort of prep is involved when you sit down to discuss?
FR. RICARDO: There is no preparation. We don’t tell each other what we’re going to say. I think that’s important. We don’t share off the record what we are going to say.
FR. PHILLIP: We have a rule not to talk between podcasts about what we’re going to say. Authenticity and honesty are so important. I don’t think either of us would feel comfortable doing this if we felt like we were acting. We really try to be ourselves, just to talk, and really just to be our natural personalities. People need to trust the Church, people need to trust priests, and they need to trust us if they’re listening to us. If it is smoke and mirrors, people will see that eventually. That’s not what we want.
Q How did this all start again?
FR. PHILLIP: It was May of 2016, about a year ago, at the Spring Assembly of Priests. Fr. Ricardo approached me and I said, “You know, I wouldn’t be very good at this.” I suggested other names of priests, and he said, “No, you get my sense of humor. You compliment me, and I don’t want to do it with someone else.”
FR. RICARDO: And it was important for me that we come from two different sensitivities. They are not opposed, but I think that we enrich each other. I’m maybe more scriptural, and Phillip is more theological.
FR. PHILLIP: And we’re preaching to two different kinds of communities in different parts of the archdiocese. When we agreed to give it a try, the reaction was so positive, we kept doing it.
Q Do you enjoy it?
FR. PHILLIP: It’s a lot of fun. It enables me to focus more time on my liturgical preaching by preparing in advance.
FR. RICARDO: Which is one of the selling points I used with him. I said, this will help us to preach better because it will force us to look at things way in advance.
FR. PHILLIP: One of my primary goals as a priest is wanting to preach better in my parishes. I saw this as an opportunity to improve on that by having this time to talk, and getting some different opinions. I really do get fresh opinions from Fr. Ricardo.
Q People are thankful for your insights by listening to Two Guys and a Gospel. What are some of the comments you’ve personally received that stand out?
FR. PHILLIP: I have been shocked by the amount and quality of the reaction, both in social media, but also emails and comments from people in my past and many people I’ve never met in person before. I am humbled at what people say; it’s all been very positive. I’m getting comments from people who either aren’t normally into podcasts or who I wouldn’t peg as being very interested in the Gospel. I feel like the style of the podcast might be touching some on the fringes, which is a goal of the Church today.
FR. RICARDO: I have received the same kinds of emails. People are very appreciative.
Q What is your hope for listeners of the show? I know you sort of mentioned that a little. Is there one thing you would like them to take away with them after listening? What would it be?
FR. PHILLIP: I want people to have a positive relationship with Scripture and a positive relationship with the Mass, and a positive relationship with priests who are preaching. Hopefully, this is a little insight in our conversation to help all of that become a little bit more accessible as we do this in a casual way.
FR. RICARDO: I think it may help people to access it, to make it known, and to see it as something more normal.
FR. PHILLIP: I think one last thing that I’d like to say, an important component of this, is the professional level of production that goes into this. I see the archdiocese moving to the next level of high-quality multimedia, which is where people are at. This is all part of evangelization.
FR. RICARDO: The first day I heard the actual production, I was so mesmerized. I didn’t even think … I didn’t have an idea of how this was going to work out.
Q But, in a good way, I hope?
BOTH: Oh, yeah! Of course.
Listen in to Two Guys and a Gospel anytime (all episodes available), with new episodes every Wednesday at 10 a.m. on iTunes, Soundcloud, or by going to archmil.org – or, starting this Friday at 9 a.m., listen to the episode on Relevant Radio (100.1 FM / 1640 AM).