the liturgy of the word

By Diogenes (articles ) | Feb 02, 2005

Barbara Nicolosi calls attention to Amy Welborn's "gist of the sermon" thread and makes some well-aimed observations of her own.

I remember, as a child, my Mother would, every now and then, ask us in the car on the way home from Mass, what Father had said in his homily. Generally, her request would generate an agonized silence, while me and my three sisters, and Dad, would rack our brains to try and remember something that we had just been witnesses to less than an hour before. Mom meant the exercise, no doubt, to shame us all into better attentiveness. In defense of my 12 year old self, the ones who should have been shamed were the preachers.

Most Catholic preaching is so bad that the biggest challenge for most Open Book readers will be to remember anything that they heard in a homily, never mind recollecting some kind of coherent theme. This point can be made even more starkly by asking people to recall something memorable that was said in the homily two or three weeks ago. I bet you one in a hundred will be able to recall anything. And yet, I bet people can remember the gist of episodes of Alias or Buffy the Vampire Slayer from three years ago. ...

There was one point, a couple year ago, when I would actually bring a spiritual book to Mass, in case the homily was so inane that I would have some healthy place to take my brain, instead of the unhealthy place of simmering resentment. Now, I just keep the weekly missal open on my lap, so that if Father's comments meander off onto the planet Zondor, I can, at least, re-read the day's readings over and over to myself. I haven't put a lot of thought into whether this is right or wrong behavior for a sheep in this post-Conciliar weirdness time. It's my way of surviving. "Lord, to whom else shall we go? You alone have the words..."

On target. The only caution Diogenes would offer is that -- should the homilist take it into his head that it's his duty to say something memorable, instead of something true -- we'll be treated to shock therapy ("Ha! They won't forget THIS anecdote ...!").

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  • Posted by: - Feb. 05, 2005 2:58 AM ET USA

    While "preaching is not a sacrament", it is part of the Church's commission, and a gift of the Spirit available for those who need it (e.g., priests). Putting preaching & teaching outside the Mass doesn't consider reality, because Sunday Liturgy is the extent of the average modern RC's participation. The Apostolic-era Christians certainly didn't think this way (see 1 Cor), nor did Jesus - His Discourse at the Last Supper/1st Eucharist takes up 4 chapters in John.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 03, 2005 3:51 PM ET USA

    Barbara: Ordination isn’t some kind of magic bullet; it gives nothing to priests except the power to confect the sacraments, and preaching is not a sacrament. Some Catholic priests and, sadly so, some of the Church’s prelates, preach heresy. Catechesis, theological learning and Bible study should occur, for the most part, outside the Mass. And what of those who have not heard and have not seen, are they not capable of faith?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 03, 2005 11:38 AM ET USA

    The purpose of our lives is to know, love and serve God in this life and be happy with Him in the next. How do we know Him? Through faith. How do we grow in faith? Through preaching. Faith comes through hearing. This was made clear all through Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. So preaching is extremely important for us to grow in faith and live our lives according to the Will of God. Ordination gives priests special, permanent powers to preach. Some are better than others...beg God for better.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 03, 2005 10:07 AM ET USA

    Courage, D, courage. After going thru about 1/2 of the comments Amy received, I noticed most appear to have remembered quite a bit, and in fact were quite positive in their opinions. While the rotten apples may get the most press, they haven't succeeded in spoiling the entire barrel.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 03, 2005 9:42 AM ET USA

    Hey, folks, we’re Catholics—remember? Attendance at Mass was never about the priest, or the preaching; it was always about the Holy Sacrifice. What the Church ought to do is give us back the good old Low Mass. Twenty minutes (25 if there are lots of people receiving Holy Communion) and it was over. If you guys want speechifying, go to a Protestant church. My apostate brother recommends the Baptists.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 03, 2005 7:56 AM ET USA

    I can clearly remember Father's last sermon. It was that Jesus is like a BAR OF SOAP. Soap cleanses the world by sacrificing itself little by little until nothing is left. We are to imitate a bar of soap. (What young man wants to give up his life to be a bar of soap?) Then there was the Winnie the Pooh and Rabbit homily, a homily about a yellow chicken running down the road, and several movie themes where the characters display "good qualities." What kind of soap will I imitate? Dove? Cheer?

  • Posted by: - Feb. 02, 2005 10:50 PM ET USA

    There are three, possible four things, that bring people back to church: 1. Good solid preaching (nothing banal, please!) 2. Good solid music (no hootenanny stuff) 3. Friendly people (make friends before/after Mass, not at the peace) 4. Orthodox liturgy (recognizing Christ present on the altar). Take away one of the legs from this four-legged stool and you begin losing people.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 02, 2005 7:22 PM ET USA

    Amy's commentary is exactly where I have been for many years. I used to listen till anger rose and then i'd stick my nose in the missal or find something orthodox in the hymnal. In more recent years, I use ear plugs. Put them in before Mass then you can also muffle the awful organ blasts that overwhelm the congregation's poor efforts at singing. If someone asks, I will say "I have an auditory problem." I spend the time thanking God for the priest saying the Mass and asking for relief.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 02, 2005 6:41 PM ET USA

    I too use either the Mass readings or devotional readings. Actually I have a pocket edition of Aquinas I take along. I have so far resisted the temptation to ear plugs. The Diocese has gone for the "Gather Hymnal" which has to be one of the worst collections of junk music on the market. Recently I went to a Saturday evening Mass because of bad weather. The organist actually played classical preludes and his Ordinaries were excellent. Now I have to resist the temptation to go to Mass Saturdays

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Feb. 02, 2005 4:38 PM ET USA

    Where do you go to Mass, sparch? Far from me, I'm sure. My favorite preacher, currently, is a superannuated Holy Ghost Father who does stream-of-consciousness homilies. He starts usually somewhere apart from the day's readings and then meanders. My wife and I make a game of listening for the word he speaks that sends him off in a new direction. And at length. Once he said somebody in the back of the church should raise his hand when he'd talked too long, so he would know to quit.

  • Posted by: sparch - Feb. 02, 2005 1:42 PM ET USA

    I must be blessed with good homilists in my Catholic history because I pull out of their homilies something for the rest of the day or week. I can always reflect on what I heard. I try to be an active listener and come to mass expecting to hear something worth while.

  • Posted by: - Feb. 02, 2005 9:37 AM ET USA

    As a Catholic who graduated high school just after Vatican II, I can still recollect the theme of almost every sermon except Christmas and Easter. It was money, collections, progress towards the newest goal. We learned our Faith from the sisters. After Vatican II, the sisters left, leaving the laity, who had never really shouldered the task of teaching the faith, to do so; the priests "meandered off onto the planet Zondor"; and the youth - now nearly two generations - were left to the winds.