Can a layperson give a catechesis during Mass that replaces the priest's homily?


#1

Our Director of Religious Education (DRE) presents a catechesis once a month at one of the Sunday Masses, always the family or childrens’ Mass, that takes the place of the priest’s homily.

Is this permitted by the Catholic church?

Does this happen at your parish?

Thanks for reading.


#2

The recent instruction “Redemptionis Sacramentum” has dealt with this point quite clearly and in several places. ** No. 64** states: “The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself, ‘should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson.’”
** No. 65** continues: “It should be borne in mind that any previous norm that may have admitted non-ordained faithful to give the homily during the eucharistic celebration is to be considered abrogated by the norm of canon 767 §§1. This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom.”
** No. 66** adds: "The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as ‘pastoral assistants’; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association."
This theme is taken up once more in No. 74: "If the need arises for the gathered faithful to be given instruction or testimony by a layperson in a Church concerning the Christian life, it is altogether preferable that this be done outside Mass. Nevertheless, for serious reasons it is permissible that this type of instruction or testimony be given after the Priest has proclaimed the Prayer after Communion. This should not become a regular practice, however. Furthermore, these instructions and testimony should not be of such a nature that they could be confused with the homily, nor is it permissible to dispense with the homily on their account."
And finally in No. 161: “As was already noted above, the homily on account of its importance and its nature is reserved to the Priest or Deacon during Mass. As regards other forms of preaching, if necessity demands it in particular circumstances, or if usefulness suggests it in special cases, lay members of Christ’s faithful may be allowed to preach in a church or in an oratory outside Mass in accordance with the norm of law. This may be done only on account of a scarcity of sacred ministers in certain places, in order to meet the need, and it may not be transformed from an exceptional measure into an ordinary practice, nor may it be understood as an authentic form of the advancement of the laity. All must remember besides that the faculty for giving such permission belongs to the local Ordinary and this as regards individual instances; this permission is not the competence of anyone else, even if they are Priests or Deacons.”

Source


#3

Wow. That’s a lot of great information. Thank you for responding so quickly and thoroughly.

Now, do you have any suggestions for correcting this action at my parish?

When I questioned our DRE about it once before the “escape clause” I was given was that it wasn’t a homily but a catechesis.

Obviously, what you’ve given me to read shoots down that defense.


#4

Having a lay person deliver the homily was attempted at my parish many, many years ago. This was seen as a way of “getting back” at the Church for not have female priests. Someone in the parish reported it to the diocese (don’t know what exactly that involves) and the practice was eliminated immediately.

If the concern is about having the homily be family and child friendly, perhaps the DRE could work with the priest or deacon on the content of the homily ahead of time.

And thanks, kell0618 for that information!

Gert


#5

In this case I think there is something to what you say about “getting back” at the church. While I don’t think it’s done with any mean spirit, I do think the effort is there to circumvent the norms.

Also, our DRE is a woman.

Thanks for your response.


#6

If it were me, I would get the document in print that was referred to and make an appointment to discuss my concerns with the priest. I would approach it with the mindset that he wouldn’t allow it if he knew it was wrong. This should be all that it would take. If nothing changes or if he does not receive the information graciously, I would call your Diocesan Chancery. When I attend Mass, I don’t want to hear a layperson’s commentary about the Gospel reading. I want a good homily from a priest or deacon relating the Gospel to my life.

Don’t give me peanuts when I asked for a meal! :smiley:


#7

Thanks for the advice, kell0618.

Our DRE invites all the children to come up and sit at the foot or the steps of the altar while she speaks. She often uses props and involves the children. It really seems directed at them while the message is usually good enough to sink in with many adults. The priest remains seated behind throughout the presentation.


#8

What a nice little protestant-like special feel-good time. Not. :mad:


#9

LOL.

kell0618 - that’s why I’m here asking about it.

I’m new to the church. I joined at Easter in 2005. I’m not always sure what is “legal” and what is not. I’m learning.


#10

I am with you kell :thumbsup: This just is not right :mad:

But what are we to do?


#11

So, is it correct to say, then, that the address or speech directed to the assembly after the Gospel reading is a homily in every case?

No matter by which other name you choose to call it (“catechesis”) it’s still a homily?

I’m just trying to cut down on the wiggle room and nail down the issue and the justification that has been given in the past to allow it.

“It’s not a homily, it’s a catechesis. So, it’s allowed.”

Thanks.


#12

I am curious that since this happens at a children’s mass, whether there might be additional guidelines. I know there are sometimes different instructions permitted for children’s mass, including (I think) a Children’s Liturgy of the Word.


#13

A homily is a homily.

Catechesis is a lesson.

The liturgy of the mass calls for a homily not catechesis.

The homily as noted in the RS is to be given by a priest or deacon, not lay persons, and it’s express purpose is to tie the day’s readings into our everyday lives.

Catechesis is instruction and can cover a variety of topics. If the DRE is teaching a lesson to the children during the mass and it has nothing to do with the day’s readings that’s especially not correct.

If the DRE is using the day’s readings to teach the children a catechesis lesson then I can see where it would be applicable but it still is not correct to have it replace the homily which is required to be given by the priest or a deacon.

A compromise, if the priest believes in this process so much, would be for him to give the homily and then allow the DRE to teach the children the corresponding lesson but not from the pulpit or altar.

This could be one of those areas where one won’t find any written instructions against the practice, not because it is allowed but because who would’ve thunk anyone would have the nerve to even presume it was ok.

In my opinion, this DRE and priest are not doing the right thing. Good intentions perhaps, but not correct and the practice should stop. Perhaps invite everyone to the hall after mass to get that catechesis lesson the congregation has gotten used to…they’ll find out soon enough if the lesson is valued as much as they think.


#14

Thank you, YinYangMom. Your comments are very helpful.


#15

The Directory for Masses with Children includes in n. 24: “With the consent of the pastor or rector of the church, nothing forbids one of the adults who is participating in a Mass with children from speaking to the children after the gospel reading, especially if the priest finds it difficult to adapt himself to the mentality of children. In this matter the norms issued by the Congregation for the Clergy should be observed.”

This was approved by Pope Paul VI on 22 October 1973 and written by the Congregation for Divine Worship. It is in chapter 3 “Masses with Children in Which Only a Few Adults Participate”. Chapter 2 is “Masses with Adults in Which Children Also Participate” and includes in n. 19 “Wherever the bishop permits, in addition to the adaptations already provided in the Order of Mass, one or other of the particular adaptations described later in the Directory may be employed in a Mass celebrated with adults in which children also participate.”

It has in the 2002 General Introduction to the Roman Missal (GIRM) approved for the USA, which can be accessed from romanrite.com/girm.html :
“32. Special celebrations of Mass should observe the guidelines established for them: For Masses with special groups, cf. Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Instruction Actio pastoralis, on Masses with special groups, 15 May 1969: AAS 61 (1969), pp. 806-811; for Masses with children, cf. Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for Masses with Children, 1 November 1973: AAS 66 (1974), pp. 30-46; …”.

It is also referred to in 2002 GIRM: “21. This Instruction aims both to offer general guidelines for properly arranging the Celebration of the Eucharist and to set forth rules for ordering the various forms of celebration. [footnote 32: Special celebrations of Mass should observe the guidelines established for them: For Masses with special groups, cf. Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Instruction Actio pastoralis, on Masses with special groups, 15 May 1969: AAS 61 (1969), pp. 806-811; for Masses with children, cf. Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Directory for Masses with Children, 1 November 1973: AAS 66 (1974), pp. 30-46; …”

The Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum also refers to it in a similar footnote, although I do not understand why. It has:
"**4. On the Joining of Various Rites with the Celebration of Mass
[75.] On account of the theological significance inherent in a particular rite and the Eucharistic Celebration, the liturgical books sometimes prescribe or permit the celebration of Holy Mass to be joined with another rite, especially one of those pertaining to the Sacraments.[footnote 157: Cf. especially the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, nn. 93-98; Roman Ritual, revised by decree of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council and published by authority of Pope John Paul II: Book of Blessings, editio typica, 31 May 1984, General Introduction, n. 28; Order of Crowning an Image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, editio typica, 25 March 1981, nn. 10 and 14; S. Congregation for Divine Worship, Instruction, on Masses with Particular Groups, Actio pastoralis, 15 May 1969: AAS 61 (1969) pp. 806-811; **Directory for Masses with Children, Pueros baptizatos, 1 November 1973:AAS 66 (1974) pp. 30-46; Missale Romanum, Institutio Generalis, n. 21.]"

So does the Directory for Masses with Children, n. 24 still apply? It has in the Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum:
"[65.] It should be borne in mind that any previous norm that may have admitted nonordained faithful to give the homily during the eucharistic celebration is to be considered abrogated by the norm of canon 767 §1.[footnote 145: Cf. Congregation for the Clergy et al., Instruction, Ecclesiae de mysterio, Practical Provisions, art. 3 §1: AAS 89 (1997) p. 865; cf. also the Code of Canon Law, can. 6 §1, 2; Pontifical Commission for the Authentic Interpretation of the Code of Canon Law, Response to dubium, 20 June 1987: AAS 79 (1987) p. 1249. ] This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom."

I think the answer is “No, Directory for Masses with Children n. 24 no longer applies”. But I am not certain and think confusion that people have about this issue is understandable.


#16

John Lilburne, thanks for your comments. Your thoughts are very nicely explained.

The issue is more complex than I first imagined.


#17

John,

Thanks for this. Sometimes, in my opinion, posters here are so concerned with uncovering abuses that they forget that priests may actually be acting in accordance with valid variations, or at least that issues may not be cut and dry. I was reasonably sure that children’s masses allowed for someone other than the priest to speak for the exact reason given- that some priests may not be the best at relating to children and recognize that others may have more gifts in that area.

Patrick


#18

Further, I think the fact that the priest ONLY does this at a family or children’s Mass indicates that he is very likely aware of the rule, and has a good reason why he wants the DRE to do the catechesis.


#19

bluehen, I don’t think we have a clear-cut answer on this question yet.

In fact, John Lilburne’s conclusion is that, while he’s uncertain, he tends toward thinking that the provision that allowed for it in the first place has been superseded by Redemptionis Sacramentum.


#20

there is a provision, only for Masses with Children, where most of those participating are children (young, not teens) and the Children’s lectionary is used, for someone other than the priest to give a teaching if he is unable to adapt his remarks for children. I can’t think of a situation where a priest could not do this, except perhaps in case of illness, language barrier etc., but theoretically it could be done. I would guess there are a lot of DREs who would use this loophole to drive a truck through.


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