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What man of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 02, 2004

Some pointed thoughts on homilies from Donna Bethell:

I just finished some points for a parish plan some of us are working on for the parish council (this is to counter the proposal to have a big, expensive questionnaire to find out what the uncatechised think we should do).

1. All homilies will concentrate on Catholic doctrine, especially as related to the Scripture readings of the day, and our call to be transformed in Christ. Homilists will observe some basic homiletic principles, e.g.: the homily is not about them or any books, TV programs, movies, or funny or moving experiences they have read, seen, heard about, or had; two minutes of solid material is better than twenty minutes of blather; and homilists will do their utmost to avoid saying "perhaps" and "in a special way." Homilists will feel free to plagiarize extensively from their distinguished predecessors: Augustine, Leo the Great, Gregory the Great, Francis de Sales, John Henry Newman, Romano Guardini, et al. They will not be afraid of saying what has been said before. It's called Tradition. Most people haven't heard it.

2. All parishioners will be urged, often, to devote five minutes a day to prayer and to nourish their prayer with five to ten minutes of reading: the Bible, the Catechism, any encyclical or Council document, the great wealth of sound Catholic literature. The Catholic Standard doesn't count.

3. All parishioners will be urged, often, to avail themselves of the Sacrament of Penance and to add a daily examination of conscience to their daily prayer time. To aid them, the parish homilists will undertake a regular program of speaking on sin and its endless varieties as well as God's inexhaustible mercy.

I found the following remarks by commenter Keith Reimer -- offered in response to Amy Welborn's question (12-1-2002) "What makes a great homily?" -- perceptive and moving:

A great homily is one that can be imagined as a second reading in the office of readings in a future breviary 1000 years hence. Think Augustine, John Chrysostom, et al. ...

Don't tell me your thoughts on Harry Potter, your teen years, your first job, or the weather. Speak to the Gospel. Quote and integrate scripture. Plainly speak up for the Truth. You have a church full of people looking at you asking "Father, what must I do to have eternal life?" Tell us. Ask for everything we have. Ask for all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds.

I want to be respected as someone who has read, listened, studied, and remembered past lessons, even as I daily struggle to make them my daily rule of life. I want to unwrap some fraction of a layer of a mystery. I want to move ahead in learning, understanding, contemplating. I want something to remember in the days to follow -- to chew on, something that gnaws at my mind as it forces me to confront the Truth.

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Show 13 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Fr. William - Jun. 08, 2004 3:36 PM ET USA

    Thank you, Diogenes. Also thanks to Donna Bethell & Keith Reimer. For us priests fighting the spiritual warfare in the trenches, we need such holy reminders to give us encouragement. I preach the Truth about Jesus Christ & HIs Church & the Teachings of His Church. God the Father, Son & Holy Spirit, guide me & lead me in this duty. The Blessed Mother also keeps me on the right path with Her Son. Priests must give witness to the Truth, Mercy & Charity of Christ, courageously, boldly, humbly.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2004 9:43 PM ET USA

    For truly CATHOLIC homilies just tune into the Mass on EWTN and listen to Father Angelus and Father Francis. They are true Catholic priests!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 03, 2004 9:48 AM ET USA

    You want to know how to preach? Go listen to some great Protestant preachers like Chuck Swindoll, and then you'll know. I listen to him all the time even though I disagree with some of his theology. Why? Because he preaches with strength and conviction. That's what we need- not this namby-pamby stuff that we get all the time.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 02, 2004 7:55 PM ET USA

    When I conduct a Communion Service, I read what the Fathers of the Church have said about the gospel of the day and I offer their thoughts to those present -not as a sermon but as a few thoughts only - and I invite any comments. I am an instituted Acolyte by the way. I get my readings of the Fathers from Aquinas's "Catena Aurea" which I have in translation. When, for example, St. John Chrisostom talks about Hell, they get those thoughts. As someone said "It's different John!"

  • Posted by: Fatimabeliever - Jun. 02, 2004 4:51 PM ET USA

    I still believe the best thing a Priest can do for his parishioners is to say a Rosary with them and to dedicate his Church and the Parish to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And do everything possible to have a morning Mass on the first Saturday of the month.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 02, 2004 1:48 PM ET USA

    The basics need to be driven home. Priests also need to show through their love of the Church, zeal for souls and ability to explain doctrine that God and His law is not arbitrary. Priests must show that they will fight for Truth and souls. And, yes, the focal point of a priest's ministry is his relationship with Our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. How do you tell somebody about your spouse if you're not close to them? May God Bless our priests with courage and strength to do His will.

  • Posted by: AveMaria580 - Jun. 02, 2004 10:25 AM ET USA

    I was raised protestant where we expected at least a 45 minute sermons. Most homilies are about 5 minutes and mostly warm fuzzies. I've also noticed that many Catholics won't tolerate lengthy homilies. So, take the 5 minutes and give solid Church teaching. Plan the homilies so that a subject is covered in depth over several Sundays. Start with the basics of the faith. And, let them know that sin is real and hell a possibility not as threat but so they know human dignity calls for sanctity.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 02, 2004 10:15 AM ET USA

    Why have homilies that refer to Augustine, revelation, the Summa, or some other ethereal discourse, when it’s obvious that there are many Catholics today who don’t understand the basic tenets of the Faith. Religion classes have all but disappeared. The only place left for this instruction to take place is from the pulpit, at Mass. Teach the Catechism. Teach the Catechism. Teach the Catechism. Catholics need to know more than “Jesus loves everyone.” And, please, no social justice crap!

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Jun. 02, 2004 9:59 AM ET USA

    For homilists I recommend 3 practices: (1) Mandatory time with the Blessed Sacrament as Bishop Fulton Sheen did (2) Parochial and Plain Sermons by Ven John Henry Cardinal Newman (3) After reading Fides et Ratio, begin some real ecumenism by engaging in philosophic dialogue (Plato, Socrates) with a hard bitten group of non-believers. You will be forced to hone and trim the fat from your message as CS Lewis did with the Oxford Socratic Club. You have many non-believers in your parish!

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Jun. 02, 2004 9:55 AM ET USA

    Dedicate an alms collection at your parish to buying every work still in print of Josef Pieper (his books/essays can be read in one or two sittings) and start passing them out. Priests can start prescribing them as penitential reading customized to the sins of their penitents, should they so choose -- in particular, Divine Madness for those with sins against chastity.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 02, 2004 9:07 AM ET USA

    I recently endured a sermon where the deacon preached about the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who will help each one of us sort out all the confusing and contradictory currents in the modern Church. He never mentioned the Magisterium nor Tradition. Catholic! Try to be Catholic. Quit trying to be Protestant. Protestant theology pasted into a Catholic Mass is an abomination.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 02, 2004 2:11 AM ET USA

    Let the people see something utterly astonishing: the priest, impeccably arrayed in the most beautiful vestments money can buy, moving reverently through the Church, genuflecting gravely and kneeling with head bowed for five minutes of silent prayer before and after the Holy Mass. And let that prayer be humble and fervent, begging forgiveness for ALL God's people and the wisdom and strength to go forth boldly into a fallen world to work for God's honor and the salvation of souls!

  • Posted by: - Jun. 02, 2004 12:37 AM ET USA

    I would love to hear some homilies on sin--or did we eradicate that with small pox? If I'm representative of my generation, we suffer from disorders of which we are almost unconscious. Please help us discover them and root them out while there's time! I'd also love to hear something about the trinity beyond the tiresome sentimental pablum. How are the faithful to contemplate this mystery? Apologetic sermons on doctrine and morals couldn't hurt either. We're facing a war out here.

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