One more question on lay preaching

Is it OK to offer the following in a church on Good Friday afternoon? Very possibly it is, so this is not an attempt to flame or be controversial. I’m just not always sure about the circumstances in which lay preaching is and is not allowed. I read this in a bulletin that is not my own parish, or near me:

Prayer service consists of seven short homilies, each based on one of the traditional Seven Last Words of Christ. We invite lay, religious and ordained people to preach. Each homily is followed by a period of silent mediation and a motet. The service lasts two hours, from 1 pm until 3 pm. Location Church Nave

As part of a prayer service, there is no reason why the non-ordained shouldn’t offer a reflection, providing they are knowledgeable and skilled enough to do so. However, it is probably a mistake to refer to such preaching as ‘homilies’, since a liturgical homily (as in a mass) is reserved to the ordained and this might cause some confusion.

See the 1983 Code of Canon Law:

*Can. 766 Lay persons can be permitted to preach in a church or oratory, if necessity requires it in certain circumstances or it seems advantageous in particular cases, according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops and without prejudice to ⇒ can. 767, §1.

Can. 767 §1. Among the forms of preaching, the homily, which is part of the liturgy itself and is reserved to a priest or deacon, is preeminent; in the homily the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian life are to be explained from the sacred text during the course of the liturgical year.*

Hope this helps.

This is a gray area because the Seven Last Words is more along the lines of a devotional practice.

  1. Devotions, such as the Way of the Cross, processions of the passion, and commemorations of the sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary are not, for pastoral reasons, to be neglected. The texts and songs used, however, should be adapted to the spirit of the liturgy of this day. Such devotions should be assigned to a time of day that makes it quite clear that the liturgical celebration, by its very nature, far surpasses them in importance. [74]

However, I would not use the word “preach” as this may cause confusion among the faithful.

Now, even though the Good Friday liturgy is not a Mass, per se, the prohibition against lay preaching remains in force because this is a public liturgy of the Church. Thus, only a bishop, priest or deacon can preach the homily.

^ Fair enough, BG.

Since the “Good Friday liturgy” (“Passion of the Lord”) follows in the evening, it would seem they have cleared the technical hurdle, here. But I do agree that wording can create confusion (“homilies,” “preaching”). I always feel more comfortable when the laity is clearly informed, thus:

“As you know, preaching the Word during the liturgy is reserved for ordained ministers alone. However, in this special devotional GF service, we invite thoughtful reflection on the 7 Last Words by those, including lay & religious, who feel so inspired.”

(I would also feel better if the reflections were submitted beforehand to the pastor for review, as most people I’ve heard preach – as you kinow, at Mass – do not understand the difference between a spiritual talk and an academic talk.) The biggest problem I have with lay presentations is that a tiny percentage of them fulfill that spiritual function, and are instead “informative,” pretentious, and always – read, in a monotone.

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