Oh no! Not lay preaching once again!

I thought it was a fluke that during Advent, one of my two parishes I frequent had an absolutely abysmal lay preacher sans credentials and with zero direction or style to his “homily” (not a homily, but a name-dropping, spiritually vacant bragathon). Surprise! Yesterday it happened again, and my disappointment was magnified when the priest announced it joyfully as the “once-every-quarter event to look forward to.” Obviously, then lucky me missed the March lay “homily,” and I should stay away in September, because guaranteed there will be one then, too.

I wouldn’t mind if they were good homilies. They’re awful. Preaching is three things: an art, a skill, and a spiritual exercise, and neither general education nor theological education in themselves prepare one for preaching. Preaching is not a “talk,” nor is it a read “speech,” nor is it a paper delivered to an academic group. And even as talks or speeches or papers, the two homilies I’ve heard in the last 6 months have still been horrid even without the spiritual dimension. They were superficial; they lacked insight; and the delivery was appalling.

Gee, father, if you’re going to break the rules, train your lay preachers. Read the “homilies” first, then make these “preachers” rehearse them in front of you. If you’re not inspired, neither will the congregation be.

(No, these are not deacons or nuns – just regular lay people like you and me, but with pretensions and lack of awareness. Yes, a real treat “every quarter.”)

What do they preach on?

The lay man during Advent rambled on about Advent in general, throwing out big words. There was no coherence to his “homily” whatsoever. Nor was it connected with Scripture. Extremely long, extremely boring, very abstract (“head-trippy”), and totally unspiritual. It was “academic” in tone but not even good academics. Could have been equally badly delivered by an atheist, as there was nothing personally connecting in it whatsoever.

Yesterday’s lay woman was equally uninspiring. Cliches about discipleship, delivered in a deadpan manner.

Abosutely under no circumstances should this happen. I am afraid that the pastor should be reported for this serious liturgical abuse. If he does not believe you, here are the appropriate citations:

From Redemptionis Sacramentum:

[64.] The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself,142 “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.143 In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate”.144

[65.] 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 §1.145 This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom.

[66.] 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.146

This is from Ecclesia de Mysterio, the document that predates RS by seven years:

Article 3

The Homily

  1. The homily, being an eminent form of preaching, qua per anni liturgici cursum ex textu sacro fidei mysteria et normae vitae christianae exponuntia [the Mysteries of the Faith and the guiding principles of the Christian life are expounded from the sacred text, during the course of the liturgical year],(68) also forms part of the liturgy.

The homily, therefore, during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, must be reserved to the sacred minister, Priest or Deacon(69) to the exclusion of the non-ordained faithful, even if these should have responsibilities as “pastoral assistants” or catechists in whatever type of community or group. This exclusion is not based on the preaching ability of sacred ministers nor their theological preparation, but on that function which is reserved to them in virtue of having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. For the same reason the diocesan Bishop cannot validly dispense from the canonical norm(70) since this is not merely a disciplinary law but one which touches upon the closely connected functions of teaching and sanctifying.

For the same reason, the practice, on some occasions, of entrusting the preaching of the homily to seminarians or theology students who are not clerics(71) is not permitted. Indeed, the homily should not be regarded as a training for some future ministry.

All previous norms which may have admitted the non-ordained faithful to preaching the homily during the Holy Eucharist are to be considered abrogated by canon 767, 1.(72)

  1. A form of instruction designed to promote a greater understanding of the liturgy, including personal testimonies, or the celebration of eucharistic liturgies on special occasions (e.g. day of the Seminary, day of the sick etc.) is lawful, if in harmony with liturgical norms, should such be considered objectively opportune as a means of explicating the regular homily preached by the celebrant priest. Nonetheless, these testimonies or explanations may not be such so as to assume a character which could be confused with the homily.
  1. As an expositional aide and providing it does not delegate the duty of preaching to others, the celebrant minister may make prudent use of “dialogue” in the homily, in accord with the liturgical norms.(73)
  1. Homilies in non-eucharistic liturgies may be preached by the non-ordained faithful only when expressly permitted by law and when its prescriptions for doing so are observed.
  1. In no instance may the homily be entrusted to priests or deacons who have lost the clerical state or who have abandoned the sacred ministry.(74)

Thus, this should not be happening at all during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Just to clarify, deacons have the faculty to preach because of Holy Orders; nuns and religious brothers (non-ordained) do not.

It’s bad enough when the priest doesn’t know how to preach - this must be ten times worse! :rolleyes:

Yes. And the annoying thing is, all the priests in this parish are good speakers – all with different styles, naturally, but all thoroughly qualified and competent, practiced preachers. I don’t think any sincere, open listener could come away with their homilies not having benefited spiritually in some way. The priests range from young to middle-aged to elderly, and they are all inspiring speakers.

Should I report this to the bishop?

You need to as this is a violation of Redemptionis Sacramentu, the GIRM and Ecclesia de Mysterio. This is a serious abuse.

I would approach the priest first. Show him the citations provided by benedictgal, and ask (as calmly and charitably as possible) why laypeople are giving homilies given the Vatican’s directives.

If he tries to justify the practice, then report the goings-on to the bishop.

I was just going to suggest that you get a “schedule” or a “lineup” of the “guest homilists,” so you know what days to visit another parish. Additionally, this list may come in handy when speaking to the Bishop’s office.

Absolutely report it to the Bishop. Only an ordained minister of the Church may preach a homily. It doesn’t even count if the priest talks for a minute and then introduces a lay-preacher: it’s not allowed.

Actually, that is what happened, and maybe that’s how he was trying to get around the rules. He gave like an abbreviated mini-homily (which I assumed would blossom into one of his many excellent homilies), then gave it over to the very bad lay preacher.

This happens routinely in a diocese in New York State. I’ve written about it on my blog. It comes down to this: the Bishop there is misusing Church documents to permit laymen to preach during the homily and calling it a “dialogue” homily. I’ve written to him about this, back in March I think. I haven’t heard back. I’ll be writing to Rome about it soon.

Lay people can give announcement type speeches at the end of Mass. This happens every once in awhile at our parish. It’s usually someone like a pro-life person or the school principal. But they aren’t giving a talk or homily–more like an extended announcement. The only guest homilists have been priests (our deacon doesn’t even preach). Usually they’ll celebrate the main Sunday Mass, but at the others they come in to give the homily and then help distribute communion.

This just makes me sad. I live one diocese over from Rochester, and there we apparently have mandated “reflections” from diaconate candidates prior to ordination. These occur in place of a homily at the time set aside for a homily. I’m moving over to the Rochester diocese for a job this summer, and I was hoping for greener pastures. Apparently I’ll still be in abuse land.


This certainly did not resemble that. It was a full-on homily, after the 3 readings, within the Mass. No “announcement” or anything like that. It replaced the normal homily from the priest.

Given japhy’s experience, perhaps I will have no more success than he/she when approaching the bishop. There was no “dialogue,” either, btw. No masquerade possible here.

Again, if you’re going to break the rules, at least do it with class: Bring in a winner of a preacher (which of course, is the whole point: not likely to be found among the untrained).

I don’t see why diaconate candidates can give pseudo-homilies in non-liturgical settings… like class. Why must rules be broken so that they can give a (potentially disastrous) homily at Mass? If they want parishioner feedback, arrange homily “test drives” outside of the liturgy and invite parishioners. If the parishioners are genuinely concerned, they’ll show up.

japhy, you’re preaching to the choir (not at mass, though).


:rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl:

Replacing or omitting the homily. **

A priest may omit the homily only on weekdays that are not holy days. On Sundays and holy days he must give a homily (Sacrosanctum Concilium; CIC 767); it should relate the readings to one another and indicate how their message can be applied to the lives of his parishioners (Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntianidi; Inter Oecumenici). No priest can substitute announcements, financial reports, or pleas in place of the homily, nor add such things to it. Of course the Holy See isn’t going to make a fuss if he takes a couple of sentences at the end of the homily to make an announcement, tell how much is in the building fund, or mention a second collection.
Nobody who is not a priest, deacon, or bishop can give the homily at Mass**; nobody who is not ordained can give a “talk” or “reflection” in place of the homily (CIC 766–768). Although some few groups like the Society for the Propagation of the Faith have a dispensation to speak on behalf of an order or mission at the time appointed for the homily, it is never permitted without that dispensation—not even if he (or, worse, she) gives a short homily before launching into the appeal. An ordained minister gives a homily structured on certain guidelines; that’s it.

Incidentally, he may not leave the sanctuary during the homily (GIRM 97).

He did leave it, to sit in the pews.

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