How’s the preaching where you are?

I was informed that recently His Eminence Daniel Card. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston delivered the annual Carl J. Peter Lecture at the Pontifical North American College. His topic: “Preaching With The Fathers Of The Church”.

This, of course, is of great interest to me, for that is my field and His Eminence obtained an STL from my school, the Augustinianum.

He makes a good point at the onset:

The Fathers of the Church are significant. We should read them. Let us be candid. We read more about them than actually read and study them and their writings. The weight of seminary curricula and requirements among those studying for the priesthood sometimes truncate a more prolonged study or leisurely reading of these ancient Christian authors.

Amen.

Did you know that there is a document from the Congregation for Catholic Education (which governed seminaries) requiring that major seminaries must have a in its curriculum  classes in Patristic Theology? Yes! And they must be separate from history, etc.  Alas, in the Vatican’s website the document is only in Italian.  HERE.  I think it has been ignored.

If, as I claim, no effort in the New Evangelization (when did the Old one end, again?) will succeed unless we revitalize our liturgical worship of God, close behind must be a renewal of preaching. We need sound preaching.

That is one reason why I invite you each week to post a comment with good points from the sermon you heard on Sunday. Many people are inflicted with really lousy preaching. Getting a good point even second hand is better than nothing. Furthermore, I am also trying to establish a patter of listening carefully and trying to remember what was in the homily so that you can post something here. But I digress.

  • Dignified, vertically oriented liturgical worship
  • More confessions
  • Better preaching

These three would take us a long way.

Thus, I hope all seminarians and priests out there will take a moment to read Card. DiNardo’s talk.

Also, I hope you will chime in and talk about the quality of preaching where you are, but in general terms. I urge you NOT to bash priests or deacons by name or identify them by parish or role. I suppose if you want to compliment them you can identify them, but don’t vilify. I will be tempted, if you defy this caveat, to block you from ever posting again.

So, how’s the preaching? Has it started to improve with a new generation of priests? Do you hear references to the Fathers? Is it based always on the Sunday readings? Do you get the red-meat of the Church’s moral teachings on key issues?

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115 Responses to How’s the preaching where you are?

  1. Supertradmum says:

    Spotty. The priests in the Westminster Diocese in London seem to be well-trained in Patristics and are not afraid of referring to Augustine, etc. Some of the sermons have been sublime.

    In other dioceses, sadly, one is happy when one gets a substantial sermon. Some of the Ordinariates are very good indeed. A and B are mostly good, but the farther north one goes in England, the less intellectual and the more homey sermons seem to be popular, in my experience. There still is a lack of substance regarding Scriptural exegesis in some areas. I mean, who wants to hear, “A funny thing happened to me on the way to the Forum” type sermons or homilies.

    What I do not want to hear is a list of events coming up in a parish, which takes away from the homily time, but some parishes are just too poor to have weekly bulletins to hand out.

    As to generational improvements, I would say age is not the dividing line, but whether the priest is more traditional and conservative. The trads are the BEST homilists in my mind.

    Especially good are the priests at St. Kevin’s in Dublin. Worth a visit for the TLM there. One can actually discuss the homilies. Same is true for the Brompton Oratory….

  2. Titus says:

    How’s the preaching? Well, where I hear Mass, it’s usually quite excellent. But it’s an unusual situation. Of the four priests I hear preach on a regular basis, two are not Americans, one is semi-retired, and fourth is not from the “new generation of priests.” The best preaching comes from the latter and one of the foreign priests. I don’t think we have weekly reference to the fathers, but they pop up from time to time. We certainly have the red meat of the Church’s moral teachings on key issues and a basis on the readings (or sometimes more so on the liturgical day itself).

    At the same time, I know that if you wandered about to other parishes in the area, this would not be the case. There’s a reason I go to hear Mass where I do.

  3. mschu528 says:

    Being at a diocesan TLM, we don’t have a “normal” priest, but we have a few who usually take turns celebrating the Mass. It works out very well because each of them has a very different preaching style. All are good, and all refer constantly to the Saints and the Magisterium.

    One is very in-your-face. He wants to convict us of our sins. He wants to convince us just how much we should hate sin. His goal is to get as many people to make good confessions as possible, so he is always careful to remind us of how much the Lord wants to forgive our sins if we come before Him in humilty.

    One is a younger priest. He is more calm and soothing. His goal is to convince us to live out a good example of Faith, Hope and Charity that will magnetically draw in those around us and convert them to the True Faith. He is very dedicated to confession (hears confessions before every Mass he has ever said), but doesn’t preach on it all that much, perhaps because he knows we are hearing it from the other priest.

    One is a dear old Monsignor. He knows practically every fact about the Faith by memory. He has seen just about everything possible in his many decades as a priest. He is one of my favorite homilists, and throughout his entire priestly life (hint: Pius XII was pope when Msgr was ordained) he has never used any notes.

    These complement each other wonderfully. Without hatred of sin and contrition for our own past wickedness, we cannot learn to live a holy life. Without living a virtuous life, we cannot develop a true hatred of sin. Without the knowledge and wisdom of Msgr, we cannot learn how to apply the Faith to the circumstances of our everyday lives.

  4. wmeyer says:

    The preaching here is also spotty, but my favorite local priest was ordained in 2011, after spending 2-1/2 years in a seminary discerning his vocation. He routinely prays about 2-1/2 hours before celebrating Mass, and his homilies are always filled with strong teaching. He has also tried to limit the number of EMHCs, though they raised a noisy protest with the pastor. He also chants much of the Mass, and has told me he is working on his Latin, though he is not ready to celebrate the EF. I make it a point to encourage him after each Mass.

  5. NoTambourines says:

    I approach this with the attitude that I can learn something from any homily, and that God has His reasons for putting me in earshot of that homily on that day. Even the occasional visiting priest whom I consider the most “experimental” in his approach (preaching with props and beaucoup congregational participation) has made points that have stuck with me for years.

    That said, I miss the quality of the preaching we had in the Jesuit parish I grew up in — we had some great older priests who continued saying Mass into their 90s, and some excellent younger ones as well. As much as I don’t want to be a “Mass-critic” or a mini Waldorf or Statler in the pews, I’d love more from the Church Fathers and less analogies to sports and movies I almost always haven’t seen.

    I think every priest has his particular strengths, though; on social / religious freedom issues, our current pastor hits ‘em out of the park. But what I would consider our most theologically “beefy” preaching comes from our deacon. Our younger associate pastors (who almost always go on to be pastor somewhere else after a year) do tend to be more direct about issues related to sin, for example, but I think it’s a pervasive malady in our society that people are afraid of being too “cerebral.”

    I, for one, would like that, bearing in mind all of the wonderful points Pope Benedict XVI has made about faith and reason.

  6. e.e. says:

    At our geographical parish, we frequently hear “interesting” homilies. We haven’t heard any mention of patristics or any of the Doctors of the Church here. We hear a lot about social justice and following Christ, which is fine. But we’ve also heard the pastor say that holy days of obligation aren’t really obligations anymore, that baptism of babies isn’t a big deal or really necessary, and that in a few decades the Church is going to wonder why it once made such a big deal about birth control and women’s ordination. (This same parish also skips the Gloria every single Sunday, which I’ve never been able to figure out…)

    After the holy-days-are-not-really-obligations homily, we began traveling more often to a small mission that is a fair distance from us. There, the African-born pastor gives strong homilies in Spanish and English. Several times we’ve heard him mention the need for confession, and this little mission arranged significant extra confession times during Advent. He mentioned St. Augustine’s Confessions in one homily — paraphrasing the passage about our hearts always being restless until they find rest in God. He also has several times preached on the Church’s teachings on various important moral issues, this week the topic being marriage and the Church’s process for convalidation if one married outside the Church. His homilies are usually pretty hard-hitting, and he doesn’t mince words.
    Also interesting to note is that this little mission parish is the first Catholic parish that I have ever been to that regularly includes intentions in the prayers of the faithful for infertile couples and adoptive families. (I’m sure there are other parishes out there that include these intentions, but I just hadn’t heard any until we began attending this little mission.)

  7. mamajen says:

    It’s rather hit or miss around here, but in general our priests and deacons are good and I haven’t heard a sermon that was actually bad. There is one in particular who has a real talent for public speaking and connecting with people.

    Something that always sticks out to me and that I greatly dislike is when they use canned “feel good” stories or entire sermons that come from some publication or other. I like to know that the priest or deacon has thought about the readings himself and is delivering his own thoughts. I try to be patient about it, though, because with the mergers we’ve had, many priests have quite a lot to deal with.

  8. Rich Leonardi says:

    Fr. Martin Fox, the still fairly new parochial vicar for Cincinnati’s St. Rose church, delivered a typically … marvelous homily on grace and marriage (see below). He also prays the Mass with a dignified ars celebrandi and has expanded hours for Confession. I’d say he’s gone 3-for-3. ;-)

    http://frmartinfox.blogspot.com/2013/01/god-came-to-wedding-what-marvel-sunday.html

  9. fvhale says:

    There is also a nice link to the “reference materials,” the patristic texts discussed in the lecture.
    https://www.pnac.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Carl-J.-Peter-Lecture-Reference-Materials.pdf

    A ready source for daily exposure to the writings of the Fathers is the Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings, Second Reading, available in Latin and a variety of modern languages. I pray that more seminarians, priests and religious would avail themselves of this treasure trove. I am always filled with joy when I see photos or videos of seminarians with their Liturgy of the Hours in hand.

    The first observation the Cardinal makes about Patristic Preaching is: “Patristic preaching is biblical. The homilies are suffused and infused with biblical quotes, allusions and narratives.”
    His second observation is that “the Patristic way of preaching is theological. It is God-talk. But the theological is an integrated whole where Christology, Soteriology, Trinity Doctrine, Doctrine of God and the divine compassion towards humanity representing a theological anthropology all work together and are at home with one another.”

    Access to Biblical and Patristic materials is, of course, greatly facilitated by the linguistic tools of a working knowledge of Greek and Latin (and Biblical Hebrew is also often quite handy). For a seminarian who only has access to modern languages, this sort of preaching can present a daunting challenge. Perhaps there is some connection with the loss of skills in ancient languages with the growth of homilies which focus on current events (from the newspapers), politics, sports, or psychology and sociology, all areas which require little proficiency in ancient languages.

    One of the best preachers I knew was a priest from New York now gone to his rest. It seemed he had the entire Patrologia Graeca and Latina in his heart, and he could preach on Scripture weaving in the fathers for a very, very long time. He was never boring, and had the dynamics of a boxer even when he was quite old. He was probably trained in rhetoric, languages, Scripture and patristics when he was younger–a beautiful example from an earlier generation.

    I think the pendulum might be swinging back toward that, Deo Gratias! From younger homilists I hear more Scripture and solid Magisterial teaching in homilies, and less of local sports or Jungian psychology. I still think the low point of my homily experience was hearing a Good Friday homily all about baseball (who wants to talk about all that icky crucifixion stuff?). But things are looking brighter for the future!

  10. Dr. K says:

    Wide-spread lay preaching is still common in my part of the woods. Brief priest introduction followed by a shallow lay homily called a “dialogue homily.”

  11. LisaP. says:

    We wander.
    One parish, the young priest really makes an effort. He often has good things to say, sometimes just missing the mark, but he tries to say something.

    His pastor we are pretty good with, he just hits the simple basics every time — love, mostly. I could be happy with this, even though I’m inclined to want drama, if you talk love you encompass it all. Gentle and constant reminders to move in the right direction.

    One has good stuff to say, very much hitting on the points of orthodoxy, but has something of a speech impediment that I guess could get in the way. I actually think it’s a good thing, because delivering grand messages with too much sonorousness might create a personality cult or provoke pride.

    For the rest, many whose sermons are very empty, stringing safe phrase after safe phrase together until the time allotted has been filled. I wouldn’t mind these guys if they recognized they weren’t actually saying anything so they took less time to say it, but it often trends the other way.

    I do get distressed with the occasional true rottenness in a sermon. Often we get very orthodox sounding words (“body, blood, soul, and divinity”) right next to nearly heretical subtext (“and so God is truly present, as he is also truly present in the word and in all of us when we gather together” — very close to equating the Eucharistic presence to the “we are one body” drek of modernism). Rarely does a priest outright teach error, but often he seems to teach the truth with a twist, which of course is the way to go if you want to discredit the straight truth. I’ve also heard a priest take the name of God in vain (it was again just left of an “oh my G__”, something like “honest to G__”) in his sermon and it seemed to be written in, not accidentally and extemporaneous. Some priests seem to get a bee in their bonnet about something parochial — like criticism of the pastor or coming late to church — and harp on that over and over.

    I have only ever heard the big specific topics — abortion, gay marriage — talked about in maybe 5% of the sermons. I’ve probably heard the word “hell” 10 times from the pulpit in my entire life. There are general calls to improve yourself, kind of a self-help DIY vibe, but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a priest at Mass tell me that if I don’t repent of mortal sin I’m damned. Confession has been talked of more lately, so lately I’ve heard the word ten to fifteen times, which is probably more than I’ve heard it in all the years previous to 2012, with the exception of references to Advent or Lent communal services. There’s a Polish priest nearby that will address actual theology — for example, the question of whether a person could be truly happy in heaven if someone he loved and prayed for freely chose hell instead. That was interesting.

  12. catholictrad says:

    “May God strike me dead here and now rather than allow me to commit a mortal sin.” – cassock and biretta in North Alabama.

  13. JohnW says:

    The pastor of the FSSP parish is an excellent preacher at Mass. He often preaches on the teachings of St.Augustine and St.Thomas Aquintas. Father will take the Gospel and the teaching of the church fathers and make it all fit together for our every day life. A very holy priest!!!

  14. Choirmaster says:

    The priest at my community has been steadily improving since he arrived. The preaching is not very “good” in a technical sense, i.e. he’s not going to win any awards in Homiletics any time soon. However, he doesn’t shy away from the “hot topics” of today, nor does he ever seem to be soft on doctrine. The message is true and relevant even if the style is found lacking.

    Topics include:
    1. Sacrificial character of the Mass and somehow relating that to living a spiritual life, depending on the scripture of the day.
    2. Political considerations of “religious liberty” as it is desired in the USA and beneficial to the Church.
    3. Virtues of Catholic family life, especially as it relates to diabolical cultural currents in marriage philosophy.

  15. Jason Keener says:

    I live in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and attend Mass at different parishes and shrines around the Archdiocese. I would say that overall the preaching is fair to good; however, I would like homilies to be a bit more meaty, spiritual, and doctrinal. For example, I rarely hear homilies about the evils of contraception, the dire need for frequent confession, the reality of Hell, the meaning of the Church’s basic doctrines, the evil of receiving Communion in a state of mortal sin, or about how even lay people are called to reach the heights of the transforming union. I sometimes wish that priests would shorten their homilies by cutting out the long and often inane storytelling and get right to the heart of the matter with a brief 5 to 8 minute homily. Priests, I think, should be lions in the pulpit and lambs in the confessional.

  16. OrthodoxChick says:

    I agree with Supertradmum that age does not seem to be the dividing line. At our OF parish, the pastor is just about 40. His homilies are not “bad”. I would say that they are over-simplified and repetative, but knowing the make-up of some of the laity, there may be good reason for that.

    At our EF parish, the pastor is in his 50′s and had a late vocation. He endeavored on his own to get himself to St. John Cantius for EF training post-ordination. His homilies are consistently enlightening and thought-provoking. I always learn something new from him or think of something in a way I hadn’t thought of before.

  17. Knittycat says:

    The preaching I get is so-so. It isn’t bad, it doesn’t contradict church teachings, but it isn’t very deep, and he never talks about the realities of hell. It could be worse I suppose.

  18. PhilipNeri says:

    The key to good preaching is preparation. And I don’t mean just the amount of time the preacher spends researching and writing a homily. “Preparation” includes his prayer life, his community life, his ministry, education, etc. A truly excellent homily pulls in everything the preacher knows and everything he is as a priest. Too often I think preachers fear negative feedback so they tailor homilies to be as inoffensive as possible. And while being deliberately offensive is a no-no, there are ways to be challenging w/o upsetting folks. The best way: preach the text in front of you! Let the Word speak through the homily and never apologize for what’s being said there.

    One final exhortation to preacher: get rid of the homily helps! They are a dangerous temptation and often written by people with skulking agendas.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP
    http://www.hancaquam.blogspot.com

  19. gloriainexcelsis says:

    Our FSSP priest is a gem and spot on. Yes, he quotes the Fathers (and various saints), and, if there is something that has exorcised him about something current, he will wind up actually giving what amounts to two sermons. The first will be what has touched or bothered him, before he reads the Epistle and Gospel, then the pertinent homily after the Gospel. Sin, conversion, confession, liturgy, how we must observe the duty of our state of life, and particularly as Catholics. He feels his responsibility as a priest, for everyone he shepherds, and says openly that his own salvation depends upon how he performs that duty. His knowledge of history and of history of the Church adds another dimension. I haven’t had the privilege of attending one of his retreats, but a relative and friend who did attend one were blown away. Our parish feels truly blessed, and the lines for frequent confession are a testament.

  20. BenFischer says:

    I’d say the preaching here is non existent. We hear a lot about how the people listening to Jesus would have understood Him but nothing about what it means to us today. Id like to hear, once in a while, some concrete applications to modern life. We are left to draw the connection ourselves. The homilies tend to be workmanlike in tone and compare poorly with what I’d hear on EWTN’s tv Mass

    Our Bishop is also of the workmanlike variety. What I hear from him is OK, but not inspiring. When we have an ecumenical activity, like the march for life, his talk sounds dull compared to the Prots on hand.

    I’ve noticed no difference between young and old priests. The new crop of orthodox young guns is strangely absent from this diocese, or at least my parish.

  21. hicwat says:

    A Norbertine priest from St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County celebrates Mass every Sunday at our parish, and the preaching is excellent. The homilies are always well prepared, well researched, and well delivered.

  22. NBW says:

    The older priests preach very well. The younger,visiting priest is a bit hit or miss. We really do need more confession times though. We are a big parish.

  23. acardnal says:

    Regarding patristics and the Church Fathers, I would like suggest a new book published by Ignatius Press entitled, Witness of the Saints: Patristic Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours by Milton Walsh.

    For those who do not own or cannot afford the four volume Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office), Mr. Walsh has collected the patristic readings (writings) from the Office into a single volume. The readings are indexed by topic, author, and Proper names.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1586176625/ref=oh_details_o02_s03_i00

    The Office is also available online. Today’s reading is from St. Ambrose and speaks of St. Agnes on this her Memorial: http://divineoffice.org/?date=20130121

    OR

    If you prefer the Office pre-Vatican 2, the reading is also by St. Ambrose regarding St. Agnes: http://divinumofficium.com/cgi-bin/horas/officium.pl

  24. asperges says:

    A good sermon is a joy: it lifts the heart and feeds the intellect. They are sparks of the Divine and they are memorable. I love to hear a good sermon and am lucky to be able to attend the Dominican rite fairly often here in the UK Midlands and, as one would expect, the OPs are capable of producing all these qualities. Otherwise priests who celebrate our EF rite Masses in the diocese are generally good and sermons well prepared, structured and interesting. On the rare occasions I go elsewhere, my personal experience is that themes are often more vague questions than statements, or overlaid with social aspects with very little doctrinal content. Sermons may or may not refer to the readings of the day.

    As to style, the worst are those who tiptoe around the theme, rather than get stuck in with facts and doctrine. One also has to bear in mind that concentration of the man in the pew in this age of often geared only to sit through about 10 minutes. After that, they seem to drift off.

    As an aside, I do believe that the use of microphones, though not a new thing, considerably impacts on the preaching style: I have heard the same priest preaching in an old-style pulpit and his delivery and impact were remarkably improved over the usual arrangement with microphone by needing to make his voice travel further.

    One thing I really dislike is the modern tendency where ‘Father’ sits down after the homily in dyspeptic silence and looks ill, to inject some (unwelcome) pause in to the present, noisy liturgy. You can feel the congregation, saying to themselves, “How much longer?” and positively leap to their feet with enthusiasm for the Credo! But perhaps that’s what it’s for….

  25. Joseph-Mary says:

    Went to the March for Life in Denver and to the Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception that preceded it. Archbishop Aquila gave a powerful pro-life homily and brought in the topic of contraception as well.

  26. brotherjuniper says:

    When I was living on the East Coast, I regularly attended an OF Mass at a parish run by the Dominicans. Their preaching was the best that I had ever heard. It was simple and to the point. No canned stories, no harangues from the pulpit. It was very Thomistic preaching even if they never did mention St. Thomas Aquinas by name.

  27. L. says:

    Our pastor obviously spends a great deal of time preparing his Sunday and his weekday homilies, which he presents, for the most part, without notes. I have teased him that when he quotes scripture, he cites chapter and verse because he knows no one has a Bible handy in church to make sure he’s accurate. He frequently talks about abortion and the actions the federal government has taken against the church and its teaching which make some complain he’s “too political.”

    I don’t know how he has time to do this since he is always attending meetings, teaching classes, and visiting the sick. Did I mention he has two parishes?

    He is criticized by some in the chancery because he works “too hard.” “How will that make the next guy look?” they ask. Our pastor’s predecessor, of equivalent age but a Priest for more years, used to give the most insipid, dull, boring homilies I have ever heard, but he was always careful to take his allotted time off with only one parish to take care of, which suggests that having available time does not result in good homilies.

  28. Ellen says:

    Our pastor and assistant are both excellent and I always am left with food for thought. I sometimes go to the Fathers of Mercy in Auburn Kentucky and they have some truly outstanding speakers. I’d like to mention Father Bill Casey in particular.

  29. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    At St. John Cantius Parish in Chicago, it is almost invariably an excellent exposition of doctrine.

    I had read that HH the Pope believes that the three year cycle of readings is an improvement since it exposes people to a greater selection of Holy Scripture. This assumes that exposing people to more scripture is always good, and it’s hard to argue against that. Perhaps Father will be able to correct me if I am wrong, but for the old cycle of readings are more aids used by preachers of the Gospel in writing their homilies: Haydock’s, the Caetena, the Catechism for Pastors from the Council of Trent. Some or all, may still be usable. But they don’t seem to be used.

    It doesn’t matter how much scripture is read, if the sermon is always about being nice to people and trusting God, it might as always be the same passage that’s read.

  30. Elodie says:

    More than age of the man, I think it is ordination date that makes the difference. Priests ordained a very long time ago AND priests and deacons more recently ordained seem to give the best homilies where one hears mention of actual doctrine, direct quotes of Church Fathers and various saints. There are exceptions, but that seems to be my general experience.

  31. The Egyptian says:

    abysmal, haven’t heard a mention of “church fathers” etc very often ,usually some “relevant” author no ones ever heard of and about how to love one another, week after week, still i go
    offer it up as they say

  32. Wayward Lamb says:

    The NO parish where I live is blessed with a good homilist and an excellent homilist. Our pastor is always solid. His homilies are usually based on the week’s Gospel teaching, though he rarely misses an opportunity to weave in the Church’s teachings on life issues and any other relevant topics affecting the parish in a given week. Our associate pastor has only been ordained in the last year, but you wouldn’t know it by his homilies. He is a gifted homilist and is unafraid to tackle the tough Church teachings and to encourage parishioners to step outside their comfort zones to meet our call to holiness.

    If only the rest of the liturgy reflected the reverence and substance of the homilies…

  33. ejcmartin says:

    The sermons in our diocese are mediocre at best. I never hear thought provoking or heart changing sermons. I seldom hear the likes of the Church Fathers quoted except at our OF Mass, thanks to our (Jesuit!) priest. (I do recall Sandra Schneider quoted recently and Buddha as well though.) The two that have rose above either went back to his home country or was slapped on the wrist for being “too divisive” and sent to the hinterlands. Thank goodness for the odd podcast, where I can be lifted up.

  34. Lucas says:

    Hit or miss. Both the paster and vicar can deliver outstanding sermons, but other times.. not so good. They’ll use props, signs, movies, ugh.

  35. Bill Foley says:

    I think that the following from Dignity and Duties of the Priest by St. Alphonsus is most appropriate on the subject of preaching.

  36. Joy says:

    We have had some excellent visiting priests, who are not afraid to tackle topics such as abortion, SSMarrriage, sin, hell, and encourage confession. Unfortunately our usual priest, while he does usually speak on the readings, talks in generalities and platitudes. I have not heard him speak on any of the big topics I mentioned above. He tends to encourage a more horizontal worship, does not offer any scheduled confession times, does not speak on the Church Fathers nor does he speak on morality or Church teachings. His homilies are typically wandering and hard to follow, occasionally containing incorrect or incomplete theology.

    I eagerly read the “Good Points” each week, and frequent a few blogs where priests post their homilies.

  37. priests wife says:

    I would say that the preaching is solid.

    A suggestion for deacons and priests- Can your homily begin with “In this Sunday’s readings….” and then connect to the catechetical/theological/historical/moral point you are trying to make? If not…back to the drawing board (?)

  38. Strong, Father. Strong as train smoke.

  39. ncstevem says:

    Go to several parishes. The pastor at the diocesean church where I live gives the best sermon I’ve heard preached. Often speaks of the saint on their feast day, sin, and H*ll. Doesn’t shy away from any hot topic but does it in a way that is ‘pastoral’ – as much as I dislike that word and what it generally implies in today’s Catholic parlance.

    The parish I go to when visiting my wife on the weekends (she’s on a 3 year work assignment on the other side of the state) generally gives very good sermons also. No nonsense. Covers all the important topics.

    Both of these priests were the first in their respective dioceses to celebrate a weekly TLM. Both are converts.

    Go to a chapel staffed by the SSPX about 50% of the time. Get what one would expect there also. Unfortunately the priest’s first language is French and he can be hard to understand at times.

  40. kevinmclarke says:

    The O.Praem. fathers make for excellent praechers! The preaching is superior where my wife and I go every other week, St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, Calif. (the same abbey the Oakland A’s prospect Grant Desme has joined). There really is no parallel to the priests there. It seems like no matter who is preaching, we are given a homily that is orthodox and spiritually challenging, one that we are able to reflect upon during the hour-long drive home. Strongly recommend!

  41. Jenice says:

    Mediocre on average. In my parish, our 2 deacons generally give better homilies than the priests. An occasional really good sermon is given. I wish that we would get more homilies on the state of the culture. Usually the points are all about applying the Scriptures to our personal lives, but not so much about wider applications. I like good homilies, but I can pull many books off my bookshelves with better and deeper Catholic thought in them. I can live with mediocre homilies. I can’t live with liturgical abuse.

  42. Gratias says:

    At my OF parish the main problem is that most homilies do not address the readings at all. In 27 years never heard a reference to Hell or the poor. Learned much about the childhood of the priests and movies.

    Our EF mass has much better sermons but one of the priests has a low voice. A number of priests have learned to offer the EF mass there and give great homilies. We have turnover because these holy men are ostracized to the boonies after their service to our traditional Diocesan mass. One of the new priests keeps a blog where he posts all his sermons, a very inspiring priest.

  43. Darren says:

    Homilies at my parish (3 priests and 8 deacons) are mediocre to “not that bad”. Sometimes you get hit with a really good one, sometimes you sit there and wonder what protestant church I am, but most of the time it is “okay”. I often hear the homily going in a potentially excellent direction, but then it tends to fall short. I will not forget one of our deacons, a couple years ago, giving an excellent homily on the reality of hell.

    Our pastor of four years who left this past summer often quoted the church fathers. In fact, it was a rare homily when he did not! He is now on sabbatical in Rome (I think he is still there).

  44. mysticalrose says:

    I honestly have to say that my Pastor is the best homilist I have ever heard. It is one of the main reasons that my husband chose this parish for our family. In general he preaches from the breadth of the Christian tradition, including patristic sources, Scripture, and Christian poetry and art. He is solidly orthodox and he never gives a 5-minutes-and-out-homily. And really, for the most part he has the undivided attention of his parishioners when he is preaching. You could hear a pin drop. Particularly for the year of faith, he has instituted a sermon series where he is preaching from the Catechism, with an emphasis on the articles of the creed. And this is a suburban/small-town-ish, Northeastern, all-OF parish. Our Pastor, I think, is a regular parish priest, but he preaches like a theologian.

  45. lucy says:

    We in the Central Valley of Cali have a very interesting situation. We have the FSSP twice monthly. We have a diocesan priest twice monthly (he’s solid). And we have a Carmelite priest if there’s a fifth Sunday. All traditional Mass in a regular parish.

    I haven’t heard a bad sermon in a few years!

    Yesterday’s sermon was all about the Wedding Feast at Cana….and how Christ calling His Mother “Woman” wasn’t snippy like we might think of it today, but was a reference to her being The Woman who would crush the head of the serpent….how the theme of marriage is woven all throughout his life, and how performing a miracle at the wedding feast shows us how important marriage is….how the old law was good, but the new law is better…..I wish it wasn’t rude to take notes, because I could benefit from reading/hearing it again! And that was our diocesan priest! Solid as a rock. I could listen for a long time.

  46. amsjj1002 says:

    Our old Father in his 80s is a great preacher with some difficult homilies. Unsurprisingly he’s been in for his share of complaints from people who didn’t want to hear it. I’ve written several times over the years telling his superiors how much I appreciate the challenge his sermons give me; not always pleasant to hear but it’s truth.

    Our new Father is younger; he’s been with us a little over a month. His sermons open up new prospectives and ideas for me. A very calm style but he’s uttered some things that stunned me b/c they’ve rarely (if ever) been said in all my years. It’s good to hear them, but sometimes I wonder when he’s going to get his complaints b/c of truth.

    When Archbishop Chaput spoke at Bishop Persico’s consecration, he said something that stayed with me — well actually he said a lot that day that stayed with me! — but I think it’s a good foundation for all sermons:
    +++
    Truth without love is harsh and brittle sometimes. Love without truth can be sentimental, indulgent and false.

  47. The Masked Chicken says:

    I can’t tell you all that our priests do, because, if I described it in detail, not only would everyone get envious (yes, they routinely quote the Fathers, by name, as well as Papal documents, and cite the Office of Readings), but I am sure someone would figure out what parish I attend, since these guys are pretty well-known, if not by name, at least by what they do. It doesn’t hurt that we have some pretty well-known orthodox Catholic figures in the congregation.

    The Chicken

  48. The Masked Chicken says:

    If you want to hear some good preaching, read the works of St. John Chrysostom. They are online.

    The Chicken

  49. The Egyptian says:

    Gratias says:
    At my OF parish the main problem is that most homilies do not address the readings at all. In 27 years never heard a reference to Hell or the poor
    ———————–
    Friend of mine quoted their elderly priest, who after hearing the complaint from several parishioners, “why don’t you do uplifting sermons, all you talk about is birth control and abortion and sin”, his reply “when I stop hearing it in confession I’ll stop talking about”. The look on the parishioners face was priceless

  50. ndmom says:

    In my experience, solid priests who take their own prayer lives seriously will deliver solid preaching, though some men are clearly more gifted than others in writing and delivery. Our former parish in the Arlington diocese was blessed with an abundance of these priests. The priests from the Congregation of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame, where we now attend Sunday Mass, are a far more mixed bag. There is a lamentable tendency among some, especially those of a certain age, to begin EVERY single homily with a rather lengthy personal anecdote, sometimes related to the readings only by the most tenuous of threads. The tendency is so common that it must have been drummed into their heads during the formation process. Fortunately, on those days, one can compensate by a surreptitious reading of the meditations in the Magnificat or the homilies in In Conversation with God. And the younger CSC priests are far more likely to give us some meat in the homily rather than yet another glass of warm milk.

    In general, the prevalence of the words “I” and “me” is negatively correlated to the quality of the homily. When the homilist begins with “When I was in the fourth grade,” or “One of the things I love about Notre Dame is” I know I can safely tune out.

  51. Margaret says:

    It’s a mixed bag. I’d say the younger priests are overall more pious men, and more sincere in their desire to explain the truths of the faith. Unfortunately, many of them, good intentions aside, don’t seem to have gotten any of the needed formation in seminary to carry out their intended purpose. Our seminarians are almost exclusively recent immigrants from Asia, the Philippines, and Central America. My sense is that they were raised in good, very devout families, but again, perhaps an upbringing that was a little thin on the doctrinal end of things.

    Exceptions: we also have several African priests in the diocese, I’m guessing largely from Kenya and Nigeria. Their accents are a little tough to penetrate, but generally speaking, they have LOTS of good stuff to say. I’ve been told that the African congregations routinely expect 30+ minute homilies (disappointed if they don’t get them) and they don’t want fluff, they want to be fed, so these priests continue that here in their adopted countries. We also have two parishes staffed by priests of the IVE order . They are, to a man, very solid doctrinally, quote the fathers, dive into the meaning of Scripture, talk about confession and the virtues, etc. Good good. Only issue I’ve seen is that the homiletic side of it varies wildly– it is still entirely possible to ramble aimlessly while referencing Church teaching in passing, or to simply attempt to address far too many topics in far too short of a time. But these are well-formed, devout priests, and I’m grateful to have them around.

  52. ocleirbj says:

    I have difficulty thinking of “Catholic” and “preaching” in the same mental breath. I grew up Anglican, where the sermons lasted 20-30 minutes and were usually structured, scriptural, and theologically interesting, and later, I spent time in Baptist and Pentecostal churches where the sermons were at least 45-60 minutes long and always emotionally, if not theologically, compelling. Therefore, I don’t really consider the 10-15 minute “homily” that our Catholic priests provide to be “preaching”. In fact for the first 15 or 20 years of my Catholic life, I felt that I was being called to the voluntary renunciation of any hope of intelligent exposition of the Bible or Catholic theology in the course of a Sunday Mass. We often heard tedious bad jokes, anecdotes about television and movies, advertising, celebrities, and “when I was in the seminary”, and precious little about the readings of the day, never mind the doctrines of the Church. If there was a bishop present, it was even money that it would be just the same, only longer.

    Of course it wasn’t always this bad, and in fairness I will say that our priests have always mentioned the Gospel reading in their homilies, even if briefly, and have never replaced the homily with announcements, annual reports, etc. but kept these for the end of Mass. I have also never seen a layperson reading the Gospel or giving the homily, as some of you have talked about, or heard the sacraments disparaged and church teaching contradicted, or suffered through props and dialogues. So it could have been a lot worse! – It’s been orthodox but empty.

    Thankfully, things have begun to improve, and I was so thrilled about 15 years ago when for the first time I didn’t hear “there was a man/mother/small child/seminarian who…” or “in the movie “X” there’s a scene…” but “Brother and Sisters in Christ, the Word of God says this…”. Over time I have noticed a growing depth of spiritual content in what we hear from the pulpit, in all five churches of our city. At first it was just a few of them, but now I would say that I can listen with gladness to any of our priests. It feels like they are spending time in prayer and meditation with the Mass readings, and sharing with us something of what God has shared with them. We also now hear occasional quotes from the Fathers, or a discussion of a point of theology – I think they are making a particular effort for the Year of Faith. Another new thing in the last year or two is that we are hearing more about the saints than we ever used to, especially in weekday Masses. Today the priest read to us about St Agnes from his own breviary before commenting on the Gospel, and used some of its prayers as the prayers of the faithful. I liked that.

    I have come to the conclusion after 30 years of observation, that the purpose of the homily in the Mass is not to “preach” – exhort with vigour, stir up religious passions, teach doctrine at length and with enthusiasm – but to be what my old Protestant self would call a “devotional”, a short meditation on biblical texts, meant to prepare our hearts to receive Christ in the Eucharist. To me this is one of the major differences between the Protestant and Catholic liturgies. It may be that I am completely mistaken in this view, but it reflects what I have experienced. And I am very grateful that things have improved to this point! – much less sacrifice is being asked of me now when I attend Mass :-) [if only they would get a better organist ... but that's a subject for another day]

  53. Comme ci comme ca.

    Usually have to filter the fluff to get to the substance. Requires a lot of knowledge of today’s cultural and moral issues that affect the life of the practicing Catholic and the issues pertaining to the church today.

  54. VexillaRegis says:

    Our young pastor is a good preacher, always well prepared, to the point, humorous and traddie-orthodox. He does have a concept, but hardly ever looks down. I should add, that he has learnt our difficult langauge, to near perfection, as an adult. Very impressive indeed! He often talks about confession, sometimes the Church fathers are mentioned, hell now and then, heaven every Sunday and he always uses the readings of the day. I have never heard him say anything about contraception and abortion has only been mentioned in general terms “right to life from conception”. However, he asks his penitents in confession (nicely) about these things.

    Another priest I get to hear when visiting relatives, always has an interesting and sometimes surprizing point. He is a native, one of the extremely few, BTW. BUT – he has problems with the breakes – no sermon under 15 min. Dear pastor at home never talks for more than eight minutes. I can’t stand long sermons, a disposition aquired after many years on the organ bench.

  55. lucindatcm says:

    I am rather critical of homilies as a general rule. As a convert from the Baptist church, I’m used to well-researched and well-delivered sermons. As of late, I have been favorably impressed with my pastor’s sermons. His sermons manage to interest me, and my 11 year old and 8 year old. This may be because if they can tell me what the gospel was about they get a quarter, and if they can tell me three things that the priest said in the sermon they get another quarter (must be different things!). Therefore they manage to listen. Father’s sermons may not always reference the Fathers of the church, but he most assuredly does not shy away from hot-button topics, and his homilies are concise, intelligent and well-thought out. I enjoy his sermons. The Anglican use parish
    (yes they are Catholic) priest gives fabulous sermons. Also I like St. Benedict Abbey – no matter who’s preaching, you’ll get a good sermon. Which makes it all the more annoying when your toddler requires that you miss it! This happens frequently.

  56. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Pretty good at our NO parish. Since staff changes in 2010, homilies are always rooted in the readings for the day.

    Please remember, reverend fathers, that even the best homily can be easily and widely ignored if it isn’t delivered with some skill. No one’s asking you to be Demosthenes or Johnny Carson, but if you merely drone on, the message will zip by many in the pews.

    The pastor: masterful delivery and usually very good content. Negligible overt patristics, but expert at contextualizing the Gospels as to their historical setting and their application in the present day, so I think he’s been in the books even if he doesn’t quote or mention them. Has the best articulation of Scripture that I’ve heard from any parish priest. He’s old enough that I’d not expect him to learn too many new tricks.

    Parochial vicar: excellent content, but poor organization (too much repetition) and inconsistent speaking skills. Has mentioned various of the Fathers, especially St. Augustine. Has also read excerpts of the CCC verbatim in homilies.

    Permanent deacon: excellent content and, unless he’s overtired, very good low-key presentation. Greatest strength is in tying the truths of the Faith into our daily lives.

    We also have a transitional deacon who had one magnificent homily among the three of his that I’ve heard, but I haven’t heard enough from him to give a broad assessment. I think he’ll do very well once he hits his stride.

    On 1/13 my better half wasn’t feeling well, so I was unable to attend Mass at our usual parish. Instead I attended a later Mass at the Cathedral. In his homily the deacon quoted multiple of the Fathers, including St. Leo the Great.

  57. Phil_NL says:

    Tolerably decent in my own parish, but also a bit of ‘in the land of the blind….’. Other parishes have, with few exceptions, very poor homilies.

    To give an indication of the preaching here in the Netherlands:
    red-meat? No, not present. The closest was an FSSP run parish, which definitely preached meat, but in diocesan parishes, it’s vegetables only. With that I mean that there’s usually some vague reference to the readings, and then some unstructured rambling, without any conclusions – or conclusions the congregation could draw. No mention of the Fathers. Certainly no mention of moral teachings if avoidable, unless consistent with left-of-center economic policies. One has the distinct feeling that all seminaries, till this day, threaten all priests with fire and brimstone if the bishop ever would hear a parishioner to be offended by a sermon. and frankly, it doesn’t matter if the priest is young or old, of solid or questionable orthodoxy. In this respect, they’re all the same 9hence my suspicion that there is fierce conditioning at the few seminaries we have).

    Which brings me back to my own parish. We’re blessed with a solid priest, and contrary to most of his fellow-priests, ours is not going to advance a leftist agenda (he leaves politics well alone), nor tolerate sloppy thinking. His sermons are sound and intellectually engaging. He has a doctorate and teaches exegesis at a major seminary, so one wouldn’t expect any less, and uses his knowledge wisely. But they do suffer from the general no-meat-is-preached curse. At best Father gets to fish – and if the alternative is stamped carrots, you’re mightily glad to have that fish a few times each month.

  58. Phil_NL says:

    Oops. That should of course have been “unless left-of-center economic policies can be made to appear consistent with them.” midway. I’m not going to concede that any moral teaching is objectively consistent with leftist politics.

  59. Dominicanes says:

    We have Dominicans so the homilies are never dull, always well prepared, solidly theological and very Incarnational. They always preach on the sacred text. Yesterday’s homily on the new wine, the 1st reading, the superabundance of grace and its transformation of the person was beautiful..like dry white wine!
    And Fr. Philip Neri Powell is an excellent preacher and teacher.

  60. Mary Jane says:

    Excellent homilies here at my FSSP parish.

  61. Fuquay Steve says:

    From the mouth of our sole priest in this small parish in NC come words and wisdom the move the heart and strengthen the weak. I am so blessed to hear the sermons of our priest – I just pray for a better memory to retain them longer.

  62. Massachusetts Catholic says:

    Horrible, no good and very bad! I most often go to an abbey to hear the N.O. Mass in Latin (reverent and well-done) with an excellent sermon. But when I’m pressed for time I go to a nearby parish. Last weekend the pastor began with a long joke, then jumped into an obviously canned sermon off the internet (he seemed unsure of what he was reading in places). How I missed my monks! Off topic: In the archdiocese of Boston we’re not supposed to drink from “the cup” now because of the flu. In the nearby church, the pastor kept using hand sanitizer — and hissing at the ladies handing out communion — to be sure to clean their hands! It came over the mic loud and clear. Very depressing.

  63. Johnny Domer says:

    There’s a sharp divide in the preaching I hear at Notre Dame. With a few noteworthy exceptions, the priests here are very heavy on personal stories, and very weak on specific points of Catholic doctrine or dogma, or specific moral guidance or counsel. The worst example of this was on All Souls Day at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, where the celebrant-preacher managed to go a whole homily without mentioning Purgatory or the Souls in Purgatory. Reference to the Fathers is rare.

    The other priests from whom I hear homilies are priests from the FSSP. Their older priests tend to be the best homilists, ably mixing in personal experience with sound doctrine and pastoral advice. They frequently will mention the writings from the Church Fathers contained in the Roman Breviary for that day.

    The younger FSSP priests, I find, have a tendency to turn their homilies into theology lectures. While this is obviously much more substantial than tales of the exploits of the priest’s Aunt Suzy, the dryness and length of these homilies tend to obscure the very good message. I ascribe this more to them being young and just beginning to learn their craft of preaching.

  64. APX says:

    I think it highly depends on the priest. Over the past almost two years I’ve heard the sermons of nine different priests from the FSSP, all ranging in years experience as a priest preaching, one started out as a diocesan priest, all of different temperaments, etc. There is no doubt in my mind that all of them had sufficient education and formation, but all, with the exception of two of them (both were ordained at the same time, which might have something to do with it), had notably different ways of preaching.

    Not all of them mentioned the Church fathers, nor did they all preach the same way. For example, some priests went through the readings translating it into laymen terms (Kinda like Cliff Notes does Shakespeare in Ever day English), some would give more of a history lesson for 10-15 minutes of how things were back in those days in order to give context followed by a couple sentences admonishing us to do something (I confess, I couldn’t tell you what, as such sermons cause me to zone out and count the burnt out lights and try to determine the ratio of burnt out lights to working lights, etc), and some, which I find to be the most effective, would have a fine balance of using scripture, referencing the Fathers of the Church and saints, applying it to us, and giving examples, etc.

    I think it’s a skill that needs to be honed and tweaked over the years, with the constructive criticism of priests who are particularly gifted in this area.

    Our priest (FSSP) who left a little over a month ago gave really good solid sermons that were very practical and encouraged us to strive for holiness. They left you feeling slightly uncomfortable because despite what you thought about how spiritually well-off you were when you went in to church, you quickly learned that those habitually sins that you didn’t think were so bad because you did them all the time, were actually going to be the cause of your spiritual ruin. Oh, and by the way, you know not the day nor the hour when you’re going to die and you could get killed in a car crash any day (on more festive Sundays, he’d say it in a way that made it sound happier).

    He always quoted the saints and the Church Fathers (for someone who really didn’t know anything substantial about Catholicism, this was quite helpful, as it gave me a starting point for making up for what no one bothered to teach me during my Catholic education or at home). He usually would come up with either a virtue, vice, or something like Hell, Confession, Mass- What it is/isn’t and why we go, etc that tied in with the readings. He would explain it in clear terms and give good concrete realistic ways to avoid sin or to practice certain virtues in really difficult/delicate situations, etc. He wasn’t exactly the most dynamic speaker, but everything he said was substantial, even if he did sometimes go off on tangents and over-used “etc, etc”, his preaching definitely made a significant difference in my spiritual life (FWIW, I walked into that church on a Saturday night two years ago after being away for 10 years or so only planning to be one of those bare minimum Catholics to avoid going to Hell, and now I’m actively discerning a religious vocation. I credit it to the three important things Fr. Z mentioned).

    He was also a very penitential priest with long confession lines and spent several hours in the confessional each week.

    Now, in my home diocese at my home parish, that’s another story. The priest there, I’m pretty sure he makes it up as he goes along. He never preaches from the pulpit, nor from anything written down. As a result, his homilies lack substance, and aside from mentioning God and Jesus a few times and about how much he luvs us, especially the more sinful we are, they’re pretty secular in nature. (What’s even more mind-blowing is his brother is a priest in the diocese I’m in now and is the complete opposite of him.)

    When the deacon preaches he often will use his guitar to lead the congregation in a sing-a-long of a song he wrote or popular secular song that he changed the lyrics. I’ve been informed by a reliable source recently that they have caught on that when people see his guitar and amp in the sanctuary, they go to the other church nearby, so they now try to hide it from view (You’d think they’d take the hint and get rid of it.)

  65. St. Louis IX says:

    My Parish has the finest of homilies! This Sunday I heard the best prolife Homily I have ever heard in my life. I am 49 and have been to the prolife rally in Waschington DC .If 1/10 of our nation`s Bishops and religious would act in the manner directed by our Holy priest….God could Bless this country again! Abortion and Gay marriage would crumble like the rat infested structures that they are.

  66. APX, one of these days I’m going to se you browsing WDTPRS in the hall before Mass or something, and figure out who you are. :)

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. I agree with everything you just said. Especially the part about being left feeling uncomfortable. Those homilies pushed me to frequent confessions, which was a big hurdle for me to overcome. I have always had trouble with that.

  67. Sue says:

    Ours is a sincere and humble priest who tries hard to educate us from the pulpit, and then awaits the criticisms as he stands at the door after Mass shaking hands. We’ve actually lost parishioners because he talks about modesty, artificial contraception, abortion and shacking up. Because people regularly complained about the length of his homilies he started writing them…and reading them so that he’d stay within a time frame better suited for those adamant about giving God 45 minutes and not a minute more. But every now and then he doesn’t have time to write it and he gives the most thoughtful, heartfelt, educational and inspiring homily and you know it’s the Holy Spirit speaking through him because you’ve been elevated to a new level and you just want more. He even gives informative, shorter, homilies at the daily Masses. There’s no doubt, to anyone that would wonder, that this holy man really cares about our souls.

  68. APX says:

    Irenaeus G. Saintonge
    There are several people from our parish that browse here, and my iPhone gets put on airplane mode before I even get out of my car. I keep a low profile.

  69. Ah well. I’ll figure something out. ^_^ Or feel free to email me- I think my gmail address is public.

  70. acardnal says:

    APX, I gotta ask ya . . . . what is a deacon with a guitar and amp doing in an FSSP parish? Or did I miss something?

  71. Anne M. says:

    Our Msgr. gives excellent homilies, frequently quoting from the Church Fathers and the Liturgy of the Hours. He does not hesitate to discuss the “hard” topics and frequently reminds us to go to confession. Our diocesan vocations director sometimes fills in for our pastor and he gives the best homilies I have ever heard. They are consistently thought-provoking and he makes it easy to relate the subject matter to present-day life.

    During the course of a week I may go to Mass at four different parishes. Asides from my parish I work near a Jesuit run parish and their homilies vary depending on the priest. One of them gives very good homilies, but they are a bit short. The other one rambles quite a bit and is difficult to follow.

    The new priests in our diocese are all very interested in the TLM. One of them has a weekly TLM and another one wants to but his pastor is resistant to the idea. There is definitely hope where our new priests are concerned. They all give very good traditional homilies.

  72. raitchi2 says:

    In my area the biggest issue is trying to cram too much into one sermon. The first factor is the time constraints. Most homilies I’ve observed last around 10 minutes or less. There is nothing wrong with this, but if you only preach for ten minutes don’t even attempt to cover all the mass readings (OT, psalm, Epistle, Gospel). Most of the time it feels like a strained whirlwind of scripture. At my girlfriend’s church (a non-denominational) the preaching is usually around 45 minutes and they tackle no more than 10-15 lines of a single Bible passage. I think priests in my area would do best if they kept the current homily time and focused on 2-4 lines of the readings.

  73. EXCHIEF says:

    Actually the preaching at our mission parish is one of the few bright spots in our liturgical experience. The Pastor is the sole priest serving 4 parishes in a large and remote area and he is not a native English speaker. Having said that, he focuses on the real issues always relating his comments to the readings of the day. He does not shy away from discussing issues such as abortion, same sex “marriage”, contraception, sin, mortal sin, hell etc as so many priests shy away today.

    This particular Priest is well educated with a Doctorate in Canon Law. He is frequently summoned to Rome though the reasons for such travels remain between him and the Vatican. Rumor has it that he is a very serious contender for appointment as a Bishop, though I fear that if that happens it will mean a return to his native country of Nigeria.

    To his credit Father tried, for over a year, to offer the TLM but the press of his many duties, coupled with a lack of attendance caused that to at least be put on “hold”….but there is some hope it will be re-instituted. In spite of a total lack of effort on the part of the Diocese to foster vocations this Pastor along with one from a parish 50 miles away have instituted their own vocations program. That includes a monthly collection to financially support young men and women who are discerning a vocation by sending them to visit orthodox semanaries and convents across the USA.

    He has made consistent efforts, often with complaints being made to the Chancery Office, to restore reverence to the liturgy through NO Masses that conform to the “rules”.Frankly how he does all he does is exemplary. A lesser man would collapse from exhaustion.

    In my view it is not only the excellent homilies he preaches but the preaching he does by action and example that I admire so much.

  74. APX says:

    ACardnal
    I was referring to my territorial parish in my terrtorial diocese, which is just diocesan. I’m a student living away from home.

  75. Clinton R. says:

    I would say the homilies at my parish range from good to mediocre. The associate pastor is fairly orthodox, while the pastor still feels a need to warm us up with jokes. When, by the way, did joke telling become a focal part of the homily? Anyway, I have yet to hear the importance of confession and the ills of contraception. Any talk of hell or mortal sin is not present at my parish. We do skew on the elderly side, so I guess the homilies have to please the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II crowd. A priest visits every summer from Nigeria and his homilies are quite edifying. Conversely, this past Sunday, a monsignor gave the homily and said about the wedding at Cana: “Mary had to tell Jesus they were out of wine, because you know how men have to have a woman tell them what to do.” And his homily was a dialogue homily, a question and answer session. Sigh. This being said, I do thank priests for being priests. And especially those men who care so deeply for the good of our souls. May Our Lord Bless His Bride by calling more faithful men to the priesthood. +JMJ+

  76. everett says:

    Our parish priest is African, and has extensive scriptural training. When his homilies are scriptural, they’re excellent. Also, last week, for the Baptism of Jesus, he went through the catechism on Baptism, actually reading us verbatim a paragraph or two, and then also discussing the Baltimore Catechism. At other times his homilies can get a bit rambly and less focused when they’re about more general topics that you might find in a random, generic homily.

  77. Rachel K says:

    I find the preaching very good overall; over the past 10 years. I think it has improved greatly. Our PP expounds the readings and usually draws in connections between the OT and Gospel readings . He is also not afraid to take about things like the “same sex marriage” issue, although he uses delicacy of language so that the adults know what he is saying but the children are not robbed of their innocence. Other priests I hear regularly are good too. I am in the north of England but also hear sermons elsewhere when we travel and they ar good too. The one or two exceptions are outrageously bad, sometimes verging on heterodoxy! So it’s two extremes.
    Dr K, I thought that only priests and deacons were permitted to preach? Are laypeople preaching wher you are?

  78. I am grateful for the kind words offered about me, above. I’m even more grateful to hear good reports from many. I’m sorry for those who don’t have good reports to offer.

    The question occurs to me: what can an ordinary person in the pew do about the preaching of ones priest?

    Several things occur to me:

    1. Pray for your priests in this regard. I know lots of people do pray for their priests; but perhaps pray for his preaching.

    2. Give feedback. Give feedback! Give feedback! I’m grateful to have people tell me they like my homilies; but many times I wonder, why did you like it? What was good? Yes; I know it’s hard to give to someone, to his face, a candid reaction; but it would be a huge service nonetheless. I don’t mean something nasty or cutting; but something constructive: “when you said this, I didn’t really understand that; but when you said that, that made sense to me.”

    3. Related to above: if you want to hear something, ask for it. If even one person said to me, “I’d like to hear a homily about, say, ecumenism, or social justice, I would take notice of that. No one ever asks me to talk about any particular subject. If I got such requests, I would certainly consider it. After all, why shouldn’t I be willing to talk about any subject, pertaining to the Faith? But understand: I’m not saying to tell the priest, you want him to confirm your beliefs–what’s the value of that? But you want him to explain something you don’t understand well.

    4. Get to know your priest. Invite him for dinner. Spend time working with him. You will gain credibility with him if you aren’t just someone complaining–but someone who has a genuine interest in him, and in the parish.

    5. Realize that priests often have so many things distracting them, that it’s hard to focus on preaching, including the preparation. Give some thought to anything that could help them in this regard.

    6. Encourage your priests. You cannot imagine how promptly people will punish a priest who dares to say the wrong thing.

  79. mysticalrose says:

    “As a convert from the Baptist church, I’m used to well-researched and well-delivered sermons.”

    Honestly, I’ll take badly-researched and poorly delivered orthodoxy over well-researched and well-delivered heterodoxy any day. But luckily, we’ve got a good homilist at my parish (as I already noted above).

  80. AMDeiG says:

    Stunningly beautiful and only growing better…. We have 2 FSSP priests, one in his eighth year and one closing in on year 3. Just yesterday my spouse and I were discussing the homily with friends over brunch and how completely rich and newly insightful the homily was regarding the wedding @ Cana and Mary’s role as the new Eve in righting the wrong of the “old man “. Mary put back the fruit plucked from the tree by placing the Fruit on the tree of the Cross. There were 6 other insights as well all as a contemplation on that wedding scene.

    There was some humor also as the penultimate discourse recorded in Scripture between Christ and his mother was about wine to which our Italian heritage priest could only conclude “proved that Mary and Jesus were Italian….

    Having experienced both horrible abuses on the altar and things said in homilies past bordering on heresy we are humbled deeply and blessed weekly (and sometimes daily) with incredible and beautifully challenging preaching from these two holy priests.

  81. Jacob says:

    At my FSSP parish in Omaha, we have a couple of excellent preachers… good in the confessional too if I might say.

  82. Fern says:

    Father Z, this has the makings of an excellent poll.
    How many have long ago learned to pray for whom ever is preaching and then turn off?
    Do you take advantage of the internet for good solid preaching and teaching?
    Fern

  83. Catholictothecore says:

    Father Martin, you’ve raised some good points. Giving feedback to the priest is absolutely important, in a compassionate way of course, and not just a one-liner on the way out, “that was a good sermon, Father, you didn’t make me fall asleep.” Something concrete always helps. One time I remarked to a visiting priest, a retired priest, that he did a wonderful job enunciating each syllable during Mass, and not rushing through it, for example he would say, “Blessedddd, ” ” Jesus Christtt.” He took his time with each word which made listening to the Eucharistic prayer more meaningful. When I said that to him he was quite pleased that someone noticed after all these years.

    All you priests out there, slow down. There is no need to rush through the words. I have a nephew in the priesthood who has learned over the years to do just that. His homilies are remarkably good. You get better as you go along. God Bless all our priests!

  84. Dave N. says:

    We are fortunate to have a Pastor, a Parochial Vicar and a Transitional Deacon. I would say preaching is a mixed bag here. About 2/3 of the time, the Pastor does a passable to good job and the other 1/3 of the time, I think his homilies might be coming from Chicken Soup for the Soul #45. And I hate to say it but the Chicken Soup homilies appeal to a huge swath of the parish. So, could be better, but given others’ experiences above I’d say not too bad. The Parochial Vicar is maybe 2 or 3 years out of seminary and I would say that, although orthodox enough (sometimes I think he is cutting and pasting from the Catechism), for him homiletics is a sort of academic exercise without much if any connection to a lived life. He also loves to bring in “Jewish connections” but the things he comes up with are just historically inaccurate and/or unsupportable–I have no idea where he gets his information or if this was from some poorly-taught class in seminary. The Transitional Deacon is not good at all, but he has to learn somewhere, so I feel like we are performing a valuable service for the Church down the road. I’m guessing someone told him that if he delivered his homilies “off the cuff” and didn’t write them out, they would seem more authentic. This is almost always a bad idea.

    ALL of our preachers could use a lot more education on the Bible–it’s so sad really. Do dioceses provide such a thing as “continuing ed” for our priests? If not, why not?

    How can we as lay people help make preaching in our parishes better? I try to encourage good preaching and the more interesting bits, but I honestly don’t know how to tell the pastor that his homily was poor. So I just don’t say anything.

  85. jameeka says:

    No matter what the skills of any priest or deacon, it is always evident if they are praying. If they are praying the liturgy of the hours they will naturally contemplate the saints and fathers, and it will be evident in even a short homily.
    And when the priest shows his love for God this way, it draws the listeners in and is contagious.

    I can always tell when a priest has stopped praying. You can’t fake it.

  86. Mamma B says:

    The pastor at our Byzantine Catholic Church gives excellent homilies. They are always related to the day’s Gospel, Epistle or both (we don’t have Old Testament reading except on some feast days.) You can tell that he has prepared what he plans to say. He has been our pastor for over 20 years and yet he always comes up with something insightful. When my daughter was about 6 years old, his preaching must have hit close to home for her, because after Liturgy, she asked me in a worried tone, “Does Fr. [...] SPY on me to figure out what he is going to say?”

  87. ByzCath08 says:

    My priest gives excellent homilies. I was so tired of the watered down, luke warm Catholic teaching that is so prevalent in the Diocese of Tucson. I was convinced that the Catholic Church was a lost cause and had decided to investigate the Orthodox Church. It was at that point I found the Eastern Catholic church and the excellent, conservative preaching and piety of my pastor kept me in the Church. Five years later and I’m about to complete the change of rite to become an Eastern Catholic. Glory to Jesus Christ!

  88. St. Epaphras says:

    The content of homilies where I attend Mass (at least on Sundays and Holy Days) has improved dramatically of late, as in from darkness to light. I left one parish for another with a very orthodox and godly pastor. It seems as though he preaches what he believes and lives (authentically Catholic, all of it). He loves God and does not fear man and doesn’t shy away from birth control, abortion, or mortal sin. He prays. I only mention these characteristics because they are determining factors in the content of a priest’s or deacon’s homilies.

    Yes, we need to pray for all of them a whole lot more. And encourage them a whole lot more. I am ultimately grateful to God for good homilies and orthodox teaching but still need to remember to thank the one who delivered them.

  89. fvhale says:

    While most of the commentary through the day has regarded the homilist, I would like to say something about those he faces.

    I have found some real ways that I can make homilies better, as a mere person seated in a pew—
    1) Pay attention to the homily and homilist, actively, with eye contact, with occasional body language. It is discouraging to preach to people who are clearly elsewhere, or nodding off asleep, or reading the bulletin or something else, or fiddling with their smart phone. (Kids under first communion age get a pass.)
    2) Sit up close. If you are going to pay attention, you might as well sit near the front. It is hard to preach to ten empty rows in front of you, with people hugging the outer edges of the space. Do not be afraid to let the homilist see without binoculars.
    3) Pray for the homilist before, during, and after the homily, to be effective; and pray for yourself, to be affected.
    4) If the homilist makes a joke, laugh. If he makes a mistake, do not laugh. Let your laughter be supportive and in love, and not to embarrass the person. Do not laugh if he drops his notes, or gets tangled up in something, or forgets what he was saying. Hold him up in prayer. And laugh at the jokes, even if they are not funny to you. At least smile.
    5) Do all this for six months or a year, and see if the preaching does not improve.

    Perhaps one factor in the quality of the preaching is the quality of those being preached to! If the homilist gets the message from the community that “I have no interest in your homily; please keep it short as possible nd get on with the Eucharist,” well, you get what you ask for.

  90. Cecily says:

    MysticalRose: I’ve heard some very orthodox Baptist sermons, and some very heterodox Catholic ones. Just because the sermon is done by a Baptist doesn’t mean the content is heterodox.

  91. pj_houston says:

    On a side note, I went to a talk given by Cardinal DiNardo on the early Church Fathers. He recommended the book “Beginning to Read the Fathers” by Boniface Ramsey (Paulist Press) as a good introduction.

  92. VexillaRegis says:

    Dear fvhale,

    you bring up some really important points. The priest should feel support and interest from the congregation! A lutheran minister-friend of mine, had several parishoners complaining that he didn’t look happy in church and that it was boring to be there because of that. He then replied:
    “I’m sorry, but you should see a Lutheran congregation from the front. *That’s* boring!”

  93. Precentrix says:

    #1- Used to be a bit dodgy, now increasingly orthodox but still too much fluff and not enough content for me. Still, the recent improvement has been striking. Also the most likely to be talking to a ‘general’ audience and the unchurched, which may explain some of it.

    #2- Same generation, a bit more depth but still more ‘practical’ than doctrinal. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Always theologically sound and doesn’t shy away from things like Humanae Vitae though he’ll present them gently.

    #3- Younger, more directly catechetical sermons; talks about the saints on their feast days etc. largely using the breviary readings as references. Sunday homilies usually researched quite well.

    #4 – Younger generation again, Polish. Frankly, a) knows his stuff and b) has a gift for preaching. Doesn’t hesitate to use plentiful references to Scripture or the Fathers. He preaches in Polish and I still understand a fair bit (NB I don’t know Polish or any Slavic language) and isn’t afraid to, e.g., use Latin or Biblical Greek if it helps him make a point (e.g. the reality of the Incarnation). Which is good, coz then I know what he’s talking about! But he manages not to reduce things to a lecture because there is… fire. [I secretly wonder if he's actually a Dominican tertiary or something!]

  94. feargalmac says:

    Improving!! Our parish is in recovery after years of bad, even false teaching. Our new P.P. is taking baby steps in the right direction. Thank God.

  95. Cath says:

    Father’s past two sermons were first, on marriage being a sacrament instituted by Christ between one man and one woman (at least one person walked out) and second, on the evils of abortion and artificial contraception. Working on getting perpetual Adoration and in the meantime having all day or 24 hour Adoration at least once a month. Lots of smells and bells and some Latin here and there. The only big changes I would like to see soon are fewer EMHCs and Father celebrating Ad Orientem. Very happy for the direction in which our parish is moving. Deo Gratias!

  96. Kirk says:

    My parish, St. Bernadette, has a great young Pastor and his homilies are always spot on. You can tell that he has a good prayer life by his homilies because they seem to be more Holy Spirit driven then not. I will even see him in our adoration chapel before Mass.

  97. PA mom says:

    Several years ago, our oldest priest died. He had been elderly, his delivery was a bit monotone, (my oldest was also a lot squirmy and noisy) but I came to realize that he was covering doctrine. I was learning something, or at least hearing enough to go look up more. One Ascension, he even spoke on the glorified body we could hope for in heaven, based on the evidence within Scripture!
    Currently, our youngest is our “best” in terms of substance. He speaks on abortion, has mentioned NFP, the Catechism, literature from the Church library and occasion timely topics.
    Msr has sharpened his game, during the time I have been at the parish. Almost like taking the “personal love” homilies and adding a paragraph of doctrine near the beginning and somewhere near the end, and yet it has such a different effect. Like I have something for my brain to stick to.
    The others are kind of new.

  98. Kirk says:

    I wanted to add that, most of the parishes here in Phoenix are excellent or at least are moving towards it. Most, if not all of the credit goes to our Bishop, Bishop Olmsted. Thanks be to God for bringing him here.

  99. Michaeleus says:

    I attended, as a guest, a very nice mass. Nice, in the fact that the theme of it was racial harmony…which we should all enjoy.

    However, it was more like a multi-cultural revival that had broken out into a mass. I don’t mind celebrating multi-culturalism and diversity, but can’t Mass be Mass, and then afterwards celebrate multi-culty?

  100. pmullane says:

    Is the preaching in our area perfect, no, but compared to what it was when I moved to the area (not too long ago) its much better. Generally speaking 5 years ago you were luckyif you got away with a sermon that didn’t enrage you. Now, the generational shift (biological solution) has definately taken hold and whilst there is one or two priests that will veer of into crazyland, they are easily avoidable. I also think that there is a ‘gravitational pull’ effect with the clergy in general, taking their queue from the bishop himself. Our Bishop has been very visable in the fight against our (the UK) governments plans to redefine marriage, and this gives cover to the priests to speak out on issues such as this. Furthermore, it seems that the more orthodox and serious the priests in the area, the more likely the priests who are off kilter are to dial back the strangeness. Better preaching I think begets better preaching. Younger priests are more orthodox, more Catholic, and more likely to challenge the status quo than new.

    I must also comment on out Parish Priest. He replaced a much loved priest of some 30 years in the parish, and therefore had to be careful not to alienate his parishoners, however he is unashamedly Catholic in his preeching. He has preached on sin, abortion, hell, the redefinition of marriage and the like. He said in a sermon that America currently has ‘The most pro-abortion president in history’ (bare in mind that in the UK Mr Obama is fawned on with unending deference by our media, and unless one seeks out ‘fact based’ news sources you wouldnt know that he is an enemy of the Church). Finally he said at a funeral (after speaking warmly about the deceased, a valued member of the parish) ‘I’m not here to canonise (Name)’ and then went onto speak about how we need to pray for the deceased etc etc. Wonderful man.

  101. AnAmericanMother says:

    Our pastor was very ill a little while ago, and he seems to have used his convalescence to reinvigorate his preaching (one of those silver linings I guess). He had kind of been in a rut, preaching a more or less cookie-cutter homily with a few historical observations but very little application of the text to amending our individual lives. Now he’s come roaring out of the box with specific points for “living the Gospel” as the old-timey Methodists used to say.
    We have two young priests who are rather different in personality but both very orthodox and conscientious preachers. The younger of them is recently ordained and still finding his feet preaching before a very large congregation — the older is a “take no prisoners” orthodox Catholic who is not at all shy about preaching on difficult issues.
    All in all, good preaching here. No heterodox nonsense, ever.

  102. JonPatrick says:

    I usually attend a TLM on Sunday and all of the TLM’s in our area have excellent homilies which are not afraid to delve into the hot button issues such as same sex marriage, hell, etc.

    We also occasionally are in Maine. The priest that celebrates the TLM there is also an excellent homilist. Before Maine had its same-sex “Marriage” vote in November he gave a very powerful sermon on this subject.

    I haven’t been lately to our territorial parish for Sunday Mass which is strictly Ordinary Form but my wife has to at least one a month when she has to work Sunday and she reports the homilies (and the liturgy) have improved since the 2 priests that were there retired and were replaced by a younger pastor and associate, who now also handle a second parish.

  103. Bea says:

    WOW 99 comments already.

    You touched a sensitive area with us all, Fr. Z.

    We have 3 priests:
    1) Speaks too low and when he gets to the “punch line” he even lowers his voice further.
    People look at each other sometimes wondering what he said.
    His sermons are generally good, spiritual, if they could be heard.
    2) Excellent speaker not afraid to tell it like it is.
    They are usually all in Spanish so the English congregation doesn’t get to benefit from them.
    3) Mumbles his speech even when you speak face-to-face with him.
    He’s hard to understand.
    He occasionally makes some excellent points at which time he raises his voice so we do benefit from
    some of his sermons, usually it’s about embellishing the readings of the day.
    He speaks too long however, and we start do some mind-wandering.
    Our pastor has spoken to him about it because people from the following Mass start wandering in
    during communion time.
    Nothing to do with sermons but HE wears a Biretta!

  104. Kathy C says:

    My good priest preached on St. Agnes. He talked about our youth and what is needed to instill into them that kind of faith. He attacked television, magazines and books, and internet culture as being poison for our children and destruction for all of us. This was a typical sermon. He never lets up on the need for confession, the need to reject wordliness, and the love of Jesus. He is very passionate. Our liberal little rural parish hates him passionately.

  105. cl00bie says:

    Our priest generally has excellent homilies. Hard hitting, and to the point. He’s not afraid to discuss sensitive issues.

    Our deacon, on the other hand, is a child of the age of Aquarius who rambles on about peace, justice and how God loves us just as we are. We also get the occasional sprinkling of heresy in our homilies from him. He’s a wonderful man. Cares deeply for the material needs of his fellow man.

  106. We had a short but pointy sermon on the nature of traditional marriage, from our brusque, determined and orthodox parish priest, who has been soldiering on for years, and has kept his communion rail and never permitted altar girls. God bless him!

  107. So, how’s the preaching?
    Excellent!

    Do you hear references to the Fathers?
    Absolutely!

    Is it based always on the Sunday readings?
    Absolutely!

    Do you get the red-meat of the Church’s moral teachings on key issues?
    You betcha!

    Our Pastor is most excellent in his preaching & teaching, in the Confessional, while offering Holy Mass, and is very humorous to boot. He is no long-faced saint. He is no coward.

  108. AnnAsher says:

    My regular Sunday Mass has stellar preaching. However this past Sunday … At the 5pm : V2 was invoked twice as supporting things it didn’t, in light of the wedding at Cana a wine mixer was announced, in light of the Year of Faith we were invited to come up and touch a vacant cross with an “X” on it and have our picture taken for a collage ( anytime this year we have a religious experience were invited to touch it), and in light of a recent ordination we were reminded that we are all priestly people. Followed by a choreographed parade of hand sanitizing emhc. Thank you Diocese of Springfield/Cape !

  109. joan ellen says:

    Just an observation:
    The TLM raises my thoughts and heart to God. Takes me out of time and space…transcends my soul. The priests who offer the TLM are able to do that in their homilies as well, so it seems.
    The OF and the homilies only rarely raise my soul to God.
    Priests who offer both forms seem to deliver those soul raising homilies no matter the form.
    Is there a connection between the form of Mass offered and the homily/sermon?
    Does the TLM offer…priests and laity…an intellectual and spiritual advantage…that carries over into the homilies delivered and received?
    Would it be good for all of us to pray the LOH? (Do I remember correctly that the Holy Fr. asked all of us to do them? If so, sorry, can’t cite when/where he said that?). Is it good for all of us to read the Patristic Fathers to help develop truly Catholic intellects, Catholic minds.
    “Truth without love is harsh and brittle sometimes. Love without truth can be sentimental, indulgent and false.” Archb. Chaput quote posted by amsjj1002 21 January 2013 at 1:22 pm
    This quote, for me, seems to say: read the Patristic Fathers, increase your prayer life with the LOH, petition, as in beg, God for more TLMs and for the homilies in them.

  110. joan ellen says:

    acardnal – 21 January 2013 at 11:04 am – Thank you for posting the LOH links. I started reading them from divinumofficium.com on my cell phone…a regular one at that…less than 2 weeks ago. Especially try to do the midnite hour. I was asked by my spiritual director priest to do them about 2 years ago. Got a grace on the Feast of the Epiphany that forced me to begin them. What a blessing they are.

  111. Gratias says:

    For excellent homilies on the traditional mass calendar go to Fr. Illo’s blog:

    http://www.frilloblog.com/

  112. Bea says:

    Hi Joan Ellen

    Yes, on November 16, 2011 Wednesday Audience
    the Pope exhorted people to do the Liturgy of the Hours with the whole Church.
    Right here on Fr. Z’s blog is the link from over a year ago.
    I’ve had a hard time learning to follow it but here is this link that I try to follow that makes it easy.

    http://divinumofficium.com/cgi-bin/horas/officium.pl

    Fr. Z’s Link:

    http://wdtprs.com/blog/2011/11/pope-benedict-everyone-should-pray-the-psalms-liturgy-of-the-hours/

  113. joan ellen says:

    Bea, Thank you so very much for the links. I have a hard time saying the hour at/on the hour. Right now I just finished the 6:00 am hour (1:30 p.m.) and will do the 9:00 now and the noon hour also during my lunch hour. Am determined to do as the Holy Father asks us to do, even to learn to talk in Latin. (Don’t know where/when he said that either.

    Our Holy Father is working so hard to make us into Catholics with an identity…and to include others. Am sending your links to family/friends that are adamant Sola Scriptura people. Perhaps they will think about following scripture according to the Church calendar.

    I will put your name in my prayer basket that you will persevere with the LOH. And again, thanks.

    I commend you for your bookmark filing system. Perhaps Fr. Z will give us some pointers on how and where to organize his links, topics, etc. so that when we hear good Sunday preaching we can write note it for when he has us comment next. And, many of this blog’s topics/comments/links should be catalogued for the future to help develop the preaching/teaching/reaching for/to/of the Catholic mind. And we get the best Catholic preaching right here…not just on Sundays either…with an emphasis on the most important elements…the Holy Sacrifice, the Sacraments, especially Confession, the one that concerns our morality and our future, prayer, and the faith in general. Not to forget the Saints and other important Catholic mind building for good Catholic thinking.

  114. Shonkin says:

    Our parish is in a small city in the northern Rockies. As you may know, there is a severe priest shortage in our part of the country. Our parish has two missions in outlying towns. For these three churches we have one priest and three deacons. A retired priest says Mass at one of the mission churches sometimes.
    Our pastor is old and in poor health. He is very good at speaking to children (as at first Holy Communion Masses). The rest of the time he reads his sermons from printed sheets of letter-sized paper. Some of the sermons are good, some are merely okay, and some are snoozers. I’d guess he has a library of CD-ROM sermon collections and prints out whichever sermon he wants to read on a given Sunday. The deacons also mostly use the canned sermons.
    The sermons frequently (but not always) are based on that Sunday’s scriptural readings. I have never heard Saint Jerome or any other Church Father mentioned in a sermon at our parish.
    I am not criticizing our pastor, who has a very heavy load to carry. I will say, though, that I don’t await the canned sermons with bated breath.
    There is another sort of “preaching” done at our parish and some others I have attended. Before the entry of the priest, the altar servers, and the line of EMHC’s, a lector walks up to the pulpit and reads a thirty-second sermonette. I don’t know who writes those things, but some of them play fast and loose with the truth. Boy, I could do without those things.

  115. Overall, I think that preaching is improving, but still has lots of room for improvement. There’s still too much “feel good” stuff, like the priest on Sunday who told at least half a dozen jokes. One or two gives spice, but too many makes it look like a standup routine.

    I will take this opportunity to comment on one of my personal gripes with preaching in general, which is relevant this week as in the readings Jesus takes on the Pharisees again on account of their approach to the Sabbath. We live in a Sabbath-desecrating age, and preachers definitely need to address this. Oddly enough, every one of these readings can be an opportunity for a preacher to uphold the sanctity of the Sabbath– but what is more likely to happen is that the priest will take the easy way out and just pile on the Pharisees, leaving the congregation feeling justified because we are so much more enlightened and we don’t do the things the scribes and Pharisees do. Tuesday, for example, the homily began with a reference to the Sabbath elevator in the hospital (it stops at every floor on the Sabbath so that no one has to do work by pushing a button). Oh, yes– the horrors of scrupulosity! These homilies usually end with admonitions not to be scrupulous, and not to go overboard about our own Sabbath, and everyone leaves happy and still in sin. This, of course, misses the main point– that the Pharisees thought that they could earn salvation by observing the Law. That is why Jesus was angry in yesterday’s Gospel– the Pharisees thought that they did not need a Saviour to reopen the gates of heaven, closed since the sin of Adam and Eve. They didn’t need Jesus! Therein lies the real challenge– not to avoid scupulosity in a time when it is truly rare, but to remember that we too are sinners in need of redemption. The challenge for the preacher is to reinforce the necessity of observing the Sabbath in a time when almost no one does so even as the readings on the surface seem to say that the Sabbath is obsolete and modern society is a-okay.

    I suspect that many of the other Gospel readings could be examined in this light– not that we modern folks are more enlightened and already have it right, but rather that Jesus has something to say to us today through those Gospels.