Homily vs Sermon

One aspect of the Catholic faith that I very much appreciate is the Homily over the Protestant style sermon.

  1. The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.

The homily is a commentary on the scripture offered for the day. I love the Catholic liturgical calendar, that flows with the seasons and examines and celebrates the Bible and the seasons in such a lovely fashion.

I’ve been to Protestant Churches and the pastor will choose a subject and put together a sometimes inspiring message, and pull scriptures from various places in the Bible to illustrate his point. It’s an entirely different format, and I don’t like it as much. It seems too much based on the personality and interests of one man or woman, and it’s less disciplined. Often the speaker goes on too long.

The priest is the servant of the liturgy. His tastes, personality, and style come through in his homilies, no doubt, but the topic is generally determined by the readings (not necessarily, but normally).

While the homily is now considered part of the liturgy, it hasn’t always been so. Before Vatican II, the priest’s homily was considered separate from the liturgy. This was symbolized by his taking off the chasuble (or if not that, the maniple on his sleeve) to indicate that the homily was simply this poor soul’s attempt to expound on the scripture readings and not divinely instituted like the Mass. So even his persona was “checked out” of the liturgy as he rose up to preach. Yet another example of how the church put Holy Scripture above mere human attempts at commentary.

I, too, like the ebb and flow of the liturgical seasons. It’s much like the seasons of the year (Winter, Autumn, etc…). Feasts and fasts. Much like life.

I have been very happy with my parishes homilies. I wouldn’t mind listening longer, but with that you run the risk of going off-topic and or turning it into a diatribe. The succinctness of the homily helps keep the priest on tract, and allows the focus of the Mass to be on the Eucharist and not a guy talking.

Catholic and most mainline protestant churches follow the same lectionary.

I like the homily because it gives you a better understanding of the text and is backed up by examples the priest might use such as quotes from saints, a parable, other parts of scripture etc. It also shows how well read the priest is sometimes.

By “mainline” you mean “liturgical”?

On the flip side, I have sat through homilies that went on too long and literally put me to sleep. :eek:

While I won’t deny that Lutheran pastors go on too long :weary:, they do usually speak to the lectionary readings, or on topic of the church year.


I’ve heard some inspirational sermons and homilies also. I’ve also heard terrible which were a struggle to listen to.

I suppose it should be mentioned that great orators don’t always equate to a great sermon or homily either.

Its a little different in the Catholic Church also. Could well be you are listening to a Priest who’s first language isn’t English.

I listened a Polish priest on a homily with the real presence, he was difficult to understand, yet the message was so penetrating it couldn’t be ignored. He managed to have me move from the rear of the church to the front in the future so I could actually hear him better. Then I actually began looking forward to hearing his homilies.

Our new priest is from India (having served 15 years in Germany before coming here), and if not for the fact that his homilies are typed and passed out to the congregants, no one would have a clue what he is saying.

But to question of thread. I like both.

Explain what the readings mean and how they relate to our present lives.

Speaking about very long sermon/homily, many priests/celebrants are guilty of this during the mass. It is suggested that a person’s attention span is about eight minutes (during mass) and anything longer than that, people would start thinking about their lunch.

So true!

I was a bit generalizing there, Country Gal, and in deference to the holy Catholics who can absorb anything thrown at them, my apology. Admittedly there are many good speakers and preachers among the clergies, and their sermons are always a pleasure to the ears, yes, even during mass and the lunch can always take the back seat! Perhaps there must be a balance somewhere and in the context of the mass, long homily is not always appreciated simply because it is not the time and the place (like a seminar or retreat for example) yet we demand (at least unspoken) that a quality sermon be given nevertheless.

In practice, there seems to be grey area between a homily and a sermon. Many a times I don’t know which is which. That’s why it is always preferable for the celebrant to stick to break the words (readings) with perhaps practical examples of current happenings in the parish. This maybe the reason why a homily should not be too long, not just in consideration for the time (especially if the next mass that’s about to begin) but also not to dilute the take home message for the congregation.

Shortest homily ever. It took place in a very old Church in St. Augustine, Florida in the middle of August with the air conditioning out. The priest stood and said “If you think its hotter than hell in here, you’re wrong”, and then sat down.



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