Who may preach the homily at Mass

I wanted to ask who is permitted to give the homily at Mass. I may be wrong but I thought it was a clerical function, i.e. a cleric had to give the homily.

I have just read an account of a Mass at which the homily was given by a female minister from a non-Catholic Christian ecclesial community. Can this be allowed under certain circumstances? I was very surprised to read it.

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Did she actually give the homily, or did she just speak at some other point such as during announcement time?

It’s my understanding that only a priest or a deacon can give the homily. Laypeople can speak before or after the Mass or at announcement time.

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CIC (Latin 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.

CCEO (Eastern Canon Law)

Can. 614 §4. The homily is reserved to a priest or, according to norm of particular law, also to a deacon.

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When discussing non-sacramental liturgical worship, the Directory for the Application of Principle and Norms on Ecumenism says:

  1. …In a Catholic liturgical celebration, ministers of other Churches and ecclesial Communities may have the place and liturgical honors proper to their rank and their role, if this is judged desirable…

When discussing Sacramental Sharing during liturgical worship, he Directory restates Canon Law:

  1. In the Catholic Eucharistic Liturgy, the homily which forms part of the liturgy itself is reserved to the priest or deacon, since it is the presentation of the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian living in accordance with Catholic teaching and tradition.

The service you described is a Catholic Eucharistic Liturgy that already has diverged from the Directory by bringing ministers of different communities together. The bishop responsible may have decided that the norm in 119 should apply instead of the explicit norm in 134.

With your brief description, it is hard to understand why the bishop would decide that way. The minister may be a trusted associate of the bishop and the sister of the deceased at a Funeral mass, for example. Or perhaps the preacher was a woman who teaches homiletics at the diocesan seminary, and the mass was a celebration of her work. Without knowing circumstances, it is difficult to judge how the norms should be applied. I would trust that the bishop has done it properly.

I was not present but the monastery newsletter says she gave the homily during Mass.

I am curious as to why you would question something you did not witness.
The Superior of the monastery would be the person to discuss this with.

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Curious as to your thoughts on the many other threads here on this topic, OP. Do you see a distinct variation in this case not already addressed?

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You do not have to witness something first hand to not know something about it. If it did not happen why would a community of monks put it in their newsletter?

I presumed this happened with the abbot’s full knowledge. If this is something the Church allows that is fine. However, if the abbot allowed something to happen that is not permitted then I suspect that he is not going to openly admit he was wrong. I wanted to check the facts first. I would have thought this was a straightforward matter. Either the person in question belongs to a class of persons who can give the homily at Mass or they do not. As it is against Divine Law for women to receive the sacrament of Holy Orders and as I believe lay people cannot give the homily at Mass I wanted confirmation from people who knew the rules whether it was or was not permitted for a woman who is a member of the clergy of a Protestant church to give a homily during the celebration of Holy Mass in a Catholic church.

I have not read any other threads on this ‘topic’.

A Superior or Bishop has a little more leeway than an average pastor.
I cannot imagine that a Superior of a monastery would not have known about this situation and given his approval, especially if it were reported in their newsletter.

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It may have been an error on the part of whoever wrote up the event for the newsletter - for example if the person spoke at Mass during a time when she is permitted to speak, but did not actually give the “homily”. Sometimes newsletters are compiled by volunteers who do not get all the details right.

Alternatively, it’s possible that the lay person did actually give a homily at Mass, in which case it would have been contrary to canon law.

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Indeed, abbots are very similar to bishops (possessing even more authority than other types of heads of religious Orders).

Since you (OP) weren’t there, I wouldn’t concern yourself over it.

The abbot knows way more about canon law, ecumenism, and theology than you do.

It is not the job of the laity to police hierarchs to determine if they are obeying the rules.

Further, if you cannot or will not let this go, contact the abbot himself; rather than soliciting advice from the Internet. None of us know the circumstances fully, including you.

St. Ignatius of Loyola teaches we are to ALWAYS give the best possible explanation to the actions of others,

Deacon Christopher

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At a monastery is a very different situation indeed. The abbot or prior has a deeper knowledge of his community than a bishop does and consequently has more latitude in deciding something like this. It is his decision, though he could be pressured to adhere to the law if his decisions became problemaric.

The example that comes to my mind is Kathleen Norris. She inherited a house in SD, abandoned NY and wrote several insightful memoirs of the experience. Along the way, she decided to be ordained in order to serve some Presbyterian churches near her. She also became involved and active in a Benedictine monastery near her. I have seen her called an “oblate” though that again is a gray area.

So an internationally acclaimed spiritual writer who is deeply involved in the monastic community preaches regularly at nearby churches. It can be difficult to not invite her to preach at the appropriate occasion at the monastery which she “belongs”. Something similar may have happened in the case you cite.

Again, these decisions are made by the superior at the monastery. Respect that he is the administrator responsible for them. Talk to him, or any of the monks, if you have a problem.

While I would agree with this if it is a monastery that the OP doesn’t have anything to do with and just reads about on the Internet, many monasteries do solicit donations, purchases from their shops, and other forms of support from the community. If the OP is involved with donating to this monastery, or visiting it, or supporting it in some other way, his concern is understandable, as he wants to make sure he’s not supporting an organization that is departing from Church practice.

I think Dovekin had the right idea in telling him that if he’s concerned about this he should respectfully reach out to the superior or to one of the monks.

I said that as well, in my response.

Contact the abbot himself . . .

Yes, but you also said things like “it is not the job of the laity to police hierarchs…” etc that made it sound like the person is very much out of line.

As I said, if this is a monastery he supports, it’s reasonable for him to have a concern about a fairly important matter.

Obviously the Abbot will do what he wants in the end, of course.

Which is correct, that is not the job of the laity.

Also, the event already took place.

If he is still concerned, speak to the abbot.

Deacon Christopher

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Thank you, Deacon, for sharing this quote from my beloved Ignatius.
Things would be so much better if we all took this advice.

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You are most welcome.

I love him as well – and just returned from a silent Ignatian retreat last week.

Deacon Christopher

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I agree that is a potential source of error. However, this community does, it states exist, to reach out to Protestants. The abbot has also accepted the post of canon at their local Anglican cathedral.

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