From a reader:
I was just wondering if you, as a priest, would find it offensive if you a received a letter from a parishioner encouraging you to spend more time catechizing from the pulpit?
We have a wonderful, holy, orthodox priest at our parish. He occasionally hosts little talks or educational sessions, and he is clearly well-educated and articulate.
But his homilies are a little…thin. They tend to be somewhat vague and kind of…blandly spiritual. I would like to encourage him to bring these insights to his homilies, so I have considered writing him a letter asking him to discuss “hot topics” like contraception, cohabitation, the sinfulness of missing Mass, the importance of confession, etc.
Would you be offended to receive such a letter? Is there a more appropriate route to talk, or should I just relax and thank God I have a good pastor?
Would I be offended? No. For my part, I wouldn’t be offended were the letter respectful. But then I don’t think I have ever been asked for heavier sermons. Lighter, yes. I have also been set upon by deeply offensive, offending and offended people with red-raging eyes and ears-shooting-steam because I explained what the Church says. I have actually been spat upon in a narthex after a Mass while still wearing my vestments, and not as an accident in the course of spittle-flecked grand-mall liberal pique.
The General Institution of the Roman Missal says:
65. The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.
The needs of the listeners.
I am reminded of Augustine on the sometimes painful process of correction. The doctor doesn’t stop cutting just because his patient is screaming for him to stop.
The homily/sermon can certainly, must certainly, be used also to catechize – a term which is pretty broad. But I think we have to be careful as the Church’s preachers not to make Mass into a didactic exercise. In a sense, all preaching involves repetition of the Church’s doctrines, and explanations of who we are and what we do as a result… and don’t do. But the pulpit isn’t the lecture hall podium.
A preacher does well to make reference to the readings and the feast, but, from there he can really go just about anywhere. The beautiful thing about the Faith is that it is so interconnected and the history of our Church goes back, well… to creation, if you think about it. We have lots of material to work with.
That said, I think it is okay for you to tell the priest that you would like a bit more meat along with the mashed potatoes.
Would you as a father of growing children be offended by, “Please, father, may I have some more of those slightly bitter but nourishing Brussels sprouts?”
Okay, some fathers – priests – are very touchy. But if you are diplomatic, I don’t imagine there should be a problem.
At least he will know you are listening.