QUAERITUR: priest roams around to preach

From a reader:

We have a new pastor, and I am trying desperately to acclimatize myself to his liturgical style.  I’m wondering which things I should be concerned about and which I should just deal with.

1. When he give his homily, he comes out of the sanctuary and wanders back and forth across the front pews and down the main aisle, dramatically delivering his homily.  My wife is hard of hearing (she wears two hearing
aids) and she relies on being able to read lips on the one portion of the Mass which is not printed in the missalette.  She cannot hear him or read his lips for the approximately half time his back is turned toward her.  I also notice the Deacon has begun this practice (I’d imagine at the direction of the pastor).

I am not aware that there is any legislation which specifically forbids a bishop, priest or deacon to remain in the sanctuary to preach.  In fact, sometimes it is necessary to exit the sanctuary in order to reach the pulpit.  In the ancient basilicas the ambo was outside the sanctuary.  Before microphones and sound systems, pulpits and ambos were often situated in the nave in help people the better to hear.  I have preached in churches where I had to leave the sanctuary to get to the pulpit. 

In fact, the GIRM says, I believe:

136. Sacerdos, stans ad sedem vel in ipso ambone, vel, pro opportunitate, in alio loco idoneo, profert homiliam; qua finita, spatium silentii servari potest. … The priest, standing at the chair or at the ambo, or, when appropriate, in another suitable place, gives the homily; when the homily is completed, a period of silence as the occasion allows may be observed.

Sacerdos, stans… The priest, standing.  Not Erraticus circumvaganssuas profert nugas.

That said, it is clearly not part of the Catholic experience from the earliest centuries that a preacher should walk around. 

In the ancient Church the preacher, usually the bishop, would sit.  A while back I posted a PODCAzT about a sermon of St. Augustine who describes a serious disturbance in the cathedral of Carthage where he was supposed to preach and he went down out of the sanctuary/apse to an unaccustomed place in the nave.

For centuries in the pre-Conciliar form of the Roman Rite the preacher is accompanied to the pulpit by the master of ceremonies who stands nearby.  The celebrant and preacher are not to be left alone. I am summoning to my imagination’s inward eye what a roving preacher and shadowing m.c. would look like.  Stupid, I’m thinking.

I suppose the roving preacher in the Catholic Church comes from the imposition of the man’s own personal quirk on the people of God.  This may be in imitation of Protestants, who almost by the very nature of much Protestant preaching need to impose their own personality on the sermon. 

In  my opinion and experience, the Catholic preacher who does this is a narcissist.  He is drawing attention to himself.  He imposes himself, overlays himself, for his own needs, on the rite, the Word of God, and the people.  His needs first… every else? Forget it.

Are there exceptions?  Of course.  But not many.

Perhaps we can learn something about the idea of preaching outside the sanctuary, and strutting about like a peacock, from the Church’s rubrics for the sign of peace.  This is another occasion in which priests will jack-in-the-box out of the sanctuary where they belong and, sometimes, go to absurd lengths to see and be seen, to demonstrate how caring, warm and matey they are.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states that funerals are one of the rare occasions when the priest is permitted to leave the sanctuary for the sign of peace.

Sometimes there are exceptions, such as processions with the Eucharist.  There is also the beginning and end of the funeral.  If there is a person of note present, the celebrant can leave the sanctuary to give the sign of peace. These are exceptions to the general rule that the priest belongs in the sanctuary.  Period.

The sanctuary is the place of the priest, symbolically and liturgically the head of the Body the Church gathered in the sacred space of the church.  The head of the assembly has his place.  The Body, assembled in the nave, have their particular place.  The priest moves into the sanctuary, as into the holy of holies, the even more sacred space within the sacred space, as if into the bridal chamber.  He should stay there for the whole sacred action.

In the older form of Mass, the priest would remove his maniple before preaching.  This was a symbolic gesture to show that he was, as it were, stepping out of Mass for the sake of the sermon.  He began and ended with the sign of the Cross.  Returning to the altar, he replaced the maniple.   After the Council great effort has been made to connect preaching to the liturgical action itself.   The sermon is generally preached from the place the Gospel is proclaimed.  The sermon is supposed to be part of the liturgical action, connected to the proclamation of the Word of God.  

Darting about with a microphone is at striking variance with the post-Conciliar vision of the homily.

So, there are some liturgical directives that suggest something about this.  There are some theological and liturgical points that suggest something about this.  There is common sense, which clinches the deal.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Desertfalcon says:

    Those invisible fence/shock collar thingies worked well for my retriever. Just a thought…

  2. bkerns07 says:

    I wonder what WDTPRSers would make of this particular phenomenon: a situation in which the ambo is behind the altar and offset and the priest celebrant steps in front of the altar — the sanctuary basically acts as a tongue with the congregation on three sides and the choir behind it — but remains in what could loosely be described as a sanctuary to deliver his homily. [This is more about roaming around than it is about leaving the sanctuary.]

  3. William says:

    This is the single most annoying practice favored by “with-it” Catholic clergy. Phil Donahue in a caftan! Yuk!

  4. JosephMary says:

    I used to be in a parish that had a round ‘worship space’ and the pastor loved to be dramatic and walk around in the big circle arena. He said he knew Mass was good when he was having fun. I have not yet totally recovered from being there but am working on it.

  5. Not Erraticus circumvagans… suas profert nugas.
    Pox on all their houses (is that too harsh??!).
    Narcissistic attention-getters, drama-queens (or kings)…isssh!
    Just give the message at the ambo (pulpit) and get onwit’ it, Father! How annoying to watch/endure this kind of spectacle!
    Talk about “ego-centricism”.
    Sorry if I’ve been judgmental, here.
    My many years ‘in the pews’, if you will (I’ve only been ordained a priest for seven years, after fifteen as a religious brother) has made me ever-so critical of this kind of clerical
    You don’t have to impress me, Father. Just tell me the Word of Life; the true “key of Heaven”…and forgetta about the showmaniship…leave THAT to Fr. Pfleger, et. al.

  6. MLivingston says:

    Acts of the Apostasy blog yesterday had an article about a “laser beam” shock device the Vatican was “considering” to “combat liturgical abuses”. I think we need to provide this reader with one immediately. Desertfalcon, you made me laugh out loud.

  7. lacrossecath says:

    I just saw my bishop do this today! In a church that the current pastor is in the same habit.

  8. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    When this happens, I feel like an umpire at a tennis match, with my eyes (or in more extreme cases my full head) going:

    >_> <__> <__<.

    Especially since I can tend to mentally wander if I don’t really focus on what is happening.

  9. Will D. says:

    The deacon at my parish used to do this, and I kept thinking that he really missed his calling as a Baptist preacher. He has since roamed to another parish, and our priest delivers the homily from the ambo in a much more dignified manner.

  10. lacrossecath: OHHHH NO!…Tell me it ain’t so…I’m dyin’ here!:<(!

  11. Seraphic Spouse says:

    Thanks for the snippet about St. Augustine, Father. That was very interesting! I’d like to know about the Mass in Milan (and environs) in his day.

  12. The pastor here does it (somewhat) with the kids at the “school Mass”; whatever. That’s his prerogative. [Hmmm… I think it is his choice, not his prerogative.] My problem: it becomes a “catechism class”, which, does have its benefits. I’m not interested in teaching catechism, at that point. So.
    I don’t.
    I’m probably looked upon as stodgy, unfriendly, etc.
    But when I’m preaching, I’m not trying to be anybody’s friend nor buddy; I’m attempting to preach the Word of God…

  13. Supertradmum says:

    Every single priest in this diocese but two who say the EF wander around and down the aisle at the homily. This is also true in a diocese next to ours. As far as I know, this has been the way of preaching for over thirty years, as some of the priests in that generation were told to do that in the seminary, to “involve” the people. I hate it, as it reminds me of a cheesy comedian at a cheesy bar.

    This happens during daily Mass and on Sunday. It hurts to watch the priest.

  14. pseudomodo says:

    This problem is easily solved.

    Several of the faithful shoud get up and wander around or follow the priest around in a pensive attentive mood.

    If he asks whats going on, reply, “If you can leave the pulpit, why can’t we leave our pews?”

    Now THATS active participation!

  15. robtbrown says:

    My problem with a priest roaming around during the homily is that it often is done in lieu of content.

  16. robtbrown: Yep.
    Don’t want to judge or cast aspergens upon anyone, but, I believe you are correct.
    The “drama-king” typa thing is just rampant.
    Give me a break.
    Give me Jesus, in His Word, in His Sacrament, and knock it off…that’s what I think, anyway!

  17. smallone says:

    @pseudomodo: LOL!

    In all fairness, I’d hesitate to label this priest a narcissist. He’s probably sincerely convinced that this is an effective way of engaging the congregation.

    Most Catholic preaching is (by this ex-Protestant’s standards) pretty anemic. I am the last person who wishes to encourage violations of the GIRM, but I do wonder: how much effort is put into homiletics in seminary? Or maybe it’s just that men who become Catholic priests have different personality traits than those who become Protestant preachers.

  18. I have heard this referred to as ‘shambulation’ or ‘the Phil Donahue Syndrome’. Most of the time it results for the desire to be relevant or to ‘connect with the people’. (Though, I think there is an element of the desire to show off or be dramatic.)

    Perhaps we could issue shoes with plates in the soles and equip the floor under the pulpit with strong magnets.

  19. Fr. Richtsteig: ‘shambulation’


  20. smallone: I have to tell you; I was trained by a Dominican, with media background, etc.
    He insisted that we concentrate upon “the truths of the faith” and not get into dramatics…really.
    The wandering around the place is probably a “taught thing”; get peoples’ attention; let them know you’re “with them”, be “cool”, whatever.
    Believe me.
    I’ve seen it all; heard it all.
    The most effective preaching, as far as I’m concerned (and I do not consider myself in this “class”, believe me, if people get something out of what I say, it is God’s grace, pure and simple) is sincere, direct, clear and helpful to the everyday life of the people in the pew.
    Otherwise, it IS narcissistic, awful, overly dramatic and just “yechh”.

  21. Fr.Z: from my understanding, at Masses “where children predominate”, as in a school Mass, there is, in fact, something that allows for the priest to go down into the congregation.
    I could be wrong.
    I’m just giving the pastor (my superior) lots of room, here.
    If it’s not allowed, I’ll tell him, ever so properly:<)!

  22. cmm says:

    “If there is a person of note present, the celebrant can leave the sanctuary to give the sign of peace.”

    What’s a person of note? Am I less “of note” than, say, the mayor of my city? Should questions of status in society enter liturgical rules??


  23. Magpie says:

    ”In my opinion and experience, the Catholic preacher who does this is a narcissist. He is drawing attention to himself. He imposes himself, overlays himself, for his own needs, on the rite, the Word of God, and the people. His needs first… every else? Forget it.”

    That’s it. The sad thing is, without personal insight and a good does of Divine light, one cannot see it in oneself.

    I hate those pop-star earpiece microphone things. One of our priests uses one. During a recent Mass, it didn’t work properly, and the priest suggested that perhaps God was trying to tell him something…

  24. Desertfalcon says:

    @ smallone

    I think that certainly can be the case however, I would rather have a short expositive homily that is relevant to the day’s readings that may be a little dry than Prot. style preaching that tends to reflect the pastor’s interests.

  25. I don’t see this very much in the Diocese of Arlington, although we do have a few holdouts for aging flower children where this sort of thing is more likely to take place. It strikes me as an occasion to indulge narcissism, as least as the practice is described above.

  26. Andrew says:

    Very common in my town and sometimes they walk up to the pews and ask questions. Something like: “where is Jesus? can anyone tell where Jesus is?”

    (right here father, he’s sitting next to me, just got here from mexico yesterday, his name is Jesus Gonzales)

  27. SimonDodd says:

    Our former pastor would typically give his homily from the intersection of the aisle and the front row. He’d roam a little, but basically stayed put there. His successor preaches from the ambo at weekend Masses, and from the aisle at the more thinly-attended weekday Masses (he tends to wander a little more).

    Personally, I rather like it, and from talking to other parishioners, they seem to like it too.

    Is it borrowed from protestant practices? Perhaps. You know what else is borrowed from our separated brethren? Pews. We all like pews, right? Not everything they come up with is bad. Of course perambulation has the potential to be abused; what doesn’t? And of course, if (as Rob suggested) a priest is just hamming it up and has nothing to say, it’s bad. I see nothing wrong with a priest being a passionate preacher. Our former pastor was one of the best preachers I’ve seen in any denomination, and if he’s put more at ease moving around a little and gesticulating a little, that’s fine by me. [Put people at ease… is that what the preacher is supposed to do? And you may have confused “passionate” and moving about. Also, there is the issue of stans]

  28. From what I understand a “homily” or “sermon”, if you will, is supposed to be, is NOT an inspirational, motivational talk.
    This MIGHT, just might be okay for a mission or a retreat talk; moving about the congregation;
    but during Holy Mass…PULEEZE, bishops and priests, just preach the Word, at the ambo (which is supposed to be the place “where the Word is shared” (yecch!, but anyway)…or even at the chair (priests standing, bishops sitting)…
    people just want to hear the Word of God, made present in their midst, giving them light, hope and instruction.
    Don’t go all “Joe Orsteen” or whomever…just “do it”!

  29. momravet says:

    This is a slop over from evangelical sects – take a look at some of the Paul and Jan Crouch stuff on Trinity Broadcasting Network. Hand holding, arm waving, aisle wandering and weird clothes wearing ministers and ministrettes.

  30. stjoeky says:

    In our family we call these ‘Game Show Priests’…you know like on Family Feud?! ;-)

  31. EXCHIEF says:

    In my experience, Priests who do this are more showmen than homilists, do it to be popular, and to draw attention to themselves. While I admit this is a generalization they also seem to focus on feel good stuff rather than the content of the readings of the day. BTW Father your choice of a photo to depict this type of circus could not have been more appropriate.

  32. SimonDodd says:

    Father re “is this what they’re supposed to do”—in his case, no, he was genuinely very good. Of course I recognize the wide open door here for people who aren’t very good to make up for a lack in substance with rhetorical fire or OTT theatrics. All I’m saying is, if you have someone who’s very good, who really gets into it and is either put at ease by free expression—aren’t sicilians known for gesticulating a lot, for example?—or gets caught up in it, I’m not sure that’s bad.

    To give a better-known example, it’s never occurred to me watching Fr. Larry Richards (e.g. this that he’s doing something wrong.

  33. Re: the original poster

    Why not just say, “Father, when you move around too much, my wife can’t read your lips”? Admittedly it’s annoying to have to plead human weakness to get the problem solved, but it would be a wakeup call and give Father a face-saving reason to stop roaming.

    While we’re at it, it’s amazing how few readers realize that excessive head-swiveling at the mike during the readings, ostensibly to “draw the congregation in”, means that half the church can no longer hear you. If a parish has microphones, it should have some microphone practice classes.

  34. PhilipNeri says:

    Top this. . .

    I attended Mass as a seminarian in New Orleans one summer where the priest roamed around the church with a Mr. Microphone warbling hymns for about an hour! He “consecrated” an Eggo waffle. Went outside to smoke during communion, leaving several women to distribute communion in large stainless steel bowls. Spent almost an hour singing Happy Birthday, Happy Anniversary, etc. to five or six folks. . .individually. I was so traumatized by the whole thing that I had to watch Bells of St. Mary’s 40 times in a row. . .

    Fr. Philip, OP

  35. frjim4321 says:

    I very much prefer the ambo for preaching the homily, it seems to emphasize that it is a liturgical act and essentially different from a “talk” or “lecture.” Preaching from the ambo carries more authority, and at the same time it reminds the preacher that the preaching act is to be conformed to the Word and not the opinions, pet peeves, agendas, etc., of the preacher. Preaching from other than the ambo trivializes the ambo, and undermines its relationship to the altar. At times (children’s masses, weddings, funerals) I might make an exception (for example, the small configuration of the church requires brides/grooms to sit with their backs to the ambo; thus for them to see the homilist, the homily must be delivered from another location). The ambo also has a big shelf in it where I can hide all my props.

    (Just kidding, I hate props, I just wanted to see if anyone was reading.)

    Fr. Jim

  36. Fr. Jim: I read it…LOL!
    I agree: Preaching IS a liturgical act; it should be seen as such and respected both by the preacher and the congregation; like I’ve said before (ad nauseaum, perhaps!)…we’re not there to entertain, but to bring people to a more fruitful participation in the Sacrifice of the Mass and living it throughout the week.

  37. Fr. Philip: NO WAY!! Smoking during Communion (I thought only Greek ushers were allowed to do this…sorry)???!! An EGGO?
    That tops my “liturgical nightmares Top Ten”…and you persevered? God luv ya!

  38. Jason says:

    A “very good” sermon is in the substance, not the gesticulation and movement. I happen to be of Sicilian descent (with a cap S) on both sides. My dad used to say (with love and in jest), “if you wan’t to get your mother to shut up, make her sit on her hands.” I, too, can get a little animated when the spirit moves me.

    Father Corapi is a pretty good preacher and is of Italian descent. I don’t see him flailing about or running the aisles.

    For me the theatrics have no place. As I’ve posted here before, a Catholic preacher is the best preacher. He alone is in possession of the Truth (whether or not he embraces it). All he needs to do is deliver it, without soft soap or candy coat.

    One of the priests who celebrate Mass at my parish has the most dry, methodical, monotone delivery imaginable. Yet his homilies are an absolute joy.

    I’m reminded of Father John Hardon, S.J. who is deceased. He is the poster child for dry delivery with absolutely joyous content. He’s on youtube.

  39. Jason says:

    Fr. Philip I’m in the Archdiocese of New Orleans and I’d be interested in knowing what parish it was. If it’s inappropriate to say I understand but, since you said a “Mr. Microphone” was used, I’m assuming that this was at least over a decade ago.

  40. Jason: Archbishop Burke, in his recent interview on EWTN LIVE, admitted that although Fr. Hardon’s delivery could be very “dry”, it was full of depth, content and truth.
    That’s the epitome of good preaching; to state the truth, in season and out, no matter how dry or monotone the delivery. Truth is fruitful; absolutely!

  41. Joshua08 says:

    As for as the questioner is concerned, what about bring it up with the pastor? I don’t mean citing the rubrics or arguing, that would probably be counterproductive. But perhaps point out the difficulty his wife has because of hearing aids, and surely there are other people who have trouble following for that reason. Most priests that wander around are harder to hear.

  42. Charivari Rob says:

    Sticking with the practical problem presented by Father Z’s correspondent…

    a – They could simply speak with the priest and present the situation in a positive manner (that someone appreciates his homilies and is trying to follow by lipreading, not ‘criticizing the way he says Mass’). He might modify his behavior accordingly.

    b – If the church building has microphones, particularly cordless mikes, then it might have special headsets available that receive the microphone signal and are compatible with hearing aids. Ask the usher or go to the sacristy and ask the priest.

  43. Fr. Basil says:

    At an Eastern Catholic Church I attended for a while, both the Priest and Deacon wandered around some, and both were very effective and moving preachers.

    One time a little girl ran up to the Priest during his homily. He patted her on her head and sent her back, without missing a beat.

    The Spiritual Regulation of Peter the Great forbids the preacher to “whoop or hollow in the church, hold his arms akimbo, or do other things that disturb an audience.” So I guess it’s an old problem.

  44. Cecilianus says:

    “It is clearly not part of the Catholic experience from the earliest centuries that a preacher should walk around” – Father, this isn’t quite accurate. In the Byzantine churches there are no pulpits – the would get in the way of the iconostas – and the homily is always delivered by the priest standing in front of the Royal Doors, preferably standing among the first four pews in front of the tetrapod, although it is permissible to use a lectern in back of the tetrapod. This is perfectly reverent and “non-theatrical” in the Eastern Church, where the altar and iconostas represent Heaven and the uncreated energies of God, making it less appropriate to preach to the congregation from the altar (unlike Roman churches which represent the Church and Incarnation on Earth – hence the bareness of the Roman sanctuary devoid of ikons and veiled only by whispering, and the propriety of speaking to the congregation from behind the Communion rail and making the homily a more stilted, formal presentation of exegesis than one would expect in the East).

    For the priest to leave the altar in the Byzantine rite is also perfectly reverent because it is a common liturgical action. The priest usually walks through all the pews incensing the congregation and all the ikons on all four walls – there is enough sense of mystery that this informality does not detract from the reverence and holiness of the liturgy, and there is a much stronger sense of the congregation as being deified by grace than there is in the Roman liturgy, so walking among the congregation incensing them does not seem to be a desacralization of the liturgy.

    But the Roman is not the Byzantine rite, and the priest pictured in the photo was completely out of line. Most of the desecration of the Roman rite came from an ill-formed attempt to turn it closer to the Byzantine without respecting the respective integrities and fundamental symbolisms of each. The priest is flattening the whole liturgy to a purely “horizontal” interaction the preacher and the audience, like a Protestant meeting. He is simply a showman rather than an alter Christus. He is, as you said, a narcissist.

  45. puma19 says:

    I would like to make some comments on the matter of preaching positions etc in churches.
    1. The late cardinal Lustiger used to preach at the front of the main altar in Notre Dame in Paris. he would stand there at microphone and speak directly to people, never sitting nor using a lectern. His successor often does the same. Some exit onto the old raised pulpits in churches across europe especially as these are outside sanctuary, a la Oratory in london.
    So the matter of ‘walking’ etc is really a non issue and I think it would be highly Pharasaical to be trying to legislate or look for such when it comes to communicating the Word of God. Having the celebrant ‘imprisoned’ in a pulpit does not matter, having him seated (as the Pope) or whatever in a cathedra is not the point. what is critical is the actual preaching of the Word to the people. That the message is preached with conviction and in the spirit of the Gospels is the point. Jesus walked the earth and preached in the hills, the mountains, on boats, in synagogues – as Lord his message was valid anywhere and at any time – He was the preacher par excellence. So let’s focus on the message not the manner of that. Of course a caveat – the eucharist is not a circus or performing arts event – as it has often become of recent times – so clergy need to be aware of that, and this has been sadly missing and a distracting feature of many Masses across the planet.
    2. My second point relates to my last – yesterday at the Mass for the centennial of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata in Westminster Cathedral in London, I was amazed to see the small choir on the sanctuary and dominating the whole left side. The choir conductor often hinded sight of the celebrant, the Archbishop. The bishop, strangely, did not use his cathedra to sit on but rather a temporary one on the other side of the temporary altar. Why he did not use his set cathedra was amazing – I have never known a bishop NOT to sit in his cathedra in his cathedral. Curious.
    But at the start of the mass the whole procession had to stop and wait in the main aisle while two ‘dancers’ performed on the sanctuary during a ‘hymn’ that was being sung for the second time within 10 minutes. Why the man and woman were allowed to do this balletic thing amazes me. The sanctuary is not a dancing stage – and it was so distracting, but that it held up the episcopal procession was just stunning. Not sure this was in the spirit of the late and great and indeed Blessed Mother Teresa.
    Is there creeping liturgical liberalism at Westminster?

  46. chironomo says:

    This was part and parcel of the “LIFE TEEN” program and is, as noted above, borrowed from the preaching of Protestant ministers. Very often in the LIFE TEEN setting it involved carrying around various props and/ or “interviewing” various assembly members as part of an “interactive” homily. I even saw one priest toss the wireless microphone across several rows of pews to an individual (a la Phil Donahue) so that he could speak… in retrospect a very unwise idea as someone could have been seriously injured.

    I like the idea of having a pack of parishioners get up and follow him around…

  47. PostCatholic says:

    “This may be in imitation of Protestants, who almost by the very nature of much Protestant preaching need to impose their own personality on the sermon.”

    This would be an interesting topic to explore further. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the very nature of Protestant vs Catholic preaching and wherein you feel the differences lie.

    I’ve recently been to a Lutheran service, which felt very much like a Catholic one in form. No roaming around. And they’re not really “protestant” but at my Unitarian Universalist congregation the sermon is never given anywhere but at the pulpit, and when I was at the Ethical Society in New York two weeks ago, the address was given from the lectern. One very good reason for not perambulating is as your correspondent identified: it makes following the address so much more difficult for the hard-of-hearing.

  48. TJerome says:

    the photo of Father Pfleger makes him look like a madman

  49. irishgirl says:

    I thought that was Fr. Pfleger in the picture!

    I used to go to a parish where one of the priests would roam back and forth across the sanctuary and partly up the aisles (architecture is 1960s semicircular) when he preached. I couldn’t stand it; made me feel I was at a tennis match.

    nazareth priest-you tell ’em!

    Fr. Richtsteig-‘shambulation’ and ‘magnets under the floor’! Ha! Love it! Good ones!

  50. pseudomodo says:

    On a more serious note…

    A homily is a reflection on the readings just proclaimed. This is different from a sermon which is an explanation of a point of doctrine.

    A homily should be given at the ambo, that is, at the lectionary (or book of the Gospels).

    IMHO the priest should touch and caress the gospels as he speaks, he should breath over them and his voice should thunder over them as he formulates his homily. This symbolically harkens back to the creation of the world when the breath, the spirit of God hovered over the waters.

    The living water, that is Christ, is proclaimed in the Gospel and the priest (the alter Christus) should sprinkle this water on the faithful. His connection to the Gospel is clearer still by his remaining in close proximity to it.

    When a priest leaves the ambo and wanders around, he may think he is simply ‘bringing the gospel to the people’ but as we can see he has in fact left the scriptures behind.

    I think that the symbolism is that he is abandoning the gospel to some extent and substituting himself. His logic should tell him to bring the book with him!

    The sanctuary and the communion rail are there for a reason. One of the reasons is to keep the faithful OUT of the domain of the sacred ministers. The other is to keep the sacred minister OUT of the domain of the lay faithful.

    rant concluded….

  51. cdnsem says:

    Fr. Zuhlsdorf wrote:
    “There is common sense, which clinches the deal.”

    This reminds me a lot of G.K. Chesterton. In Dale Ahlquist’s book, “Common Sense 101: Lessons from G.K. Chesterton” (Ignatius Press), you can find the following quotes from Chesterton, which I believe really hit the head on the nail:

    “The first effect of not believing in God, is that you lose your common sense.” (p. 265)
    “Common sense often comes to us in the form of a tradition.” (p. 267)

    Putting these two statements together, could we not conclude the following:

    “The first effect of not believing in God, is that you often lose your sense of tradition” ?

  52. traditionalorganist says:

    Well, the worst I’ve seen is a visiting priest actually move the ambo to face one side of the congregation…just to read the gospel. Then he left it, started singing “if you’re happy and you know it” until the response was to sit down, which he did on the steps of the altar. The altar boys holding the candles on either side of the ambo were confused to say the least.

    I instinctively tune out homilies that are useless, such as the one described above. When priests roam around, i tend to think more about whether he’s going to come up to me and ask me to “praise Jesus!” or something.

  53. Jayna says:

    The priest at my previous parish does this sometimes. I think it’s only when he feels comfortable giving the homily without notes that he does it. Always on holidays, of course, and usually at the Life Teen Mass (last Mass of the weekend, by that point he’s given the same homily at least three times).

    At my current parish, one of the priests walks back and forth on the steps leading up to the sanctuary. And do you know what that does? Draws my eyes to his shoes. Haven’t a clue why, but it happens without fail.

  54. Fr_Sotelo says:

    Leaving the ambo during the homily was always a pet peeve on mine. Even my bishop did it all the time. Then we had a conference given by a liberal, liturgist priest who was popular and spoke about the importance of the ambo. The liturgist was very critical of priests who would walk around the altar and flat out said it was not “proclamation” and preaching but distraction. “When people move, the movement is the focus, or the drama, but not the words. It takes someone with good stage skills to give oration while they are moving, and most priests don’t have a clue what stage skills are.”

    After that, I happily noticed the bishop and many other “shambulators” move back to the pulpit. Priests will walk around because they think it is what people like or they want to imitate other priests who do this.

  55. PostCatholic says:

    Please correct me if my memory fails me. It seems to me that when in the past I attended Byzantine Catholic divine liturgy–I know there are more than: I am pretty sure the ones I’ve witnessed were the St John Chrysostom litutgy–it seems to me that the Gospel was taken from the sanctuary, was read and then put away with ceremony from in front of the central gate, and that the sermon/homily was given from a lectern in outside the sanctuary.

  56. C. says:

    That photo makes me think of Howard Dean.

  57. Iconophilios says:

    We have this problem sometimes at my parish. I say, that’s why you get an altar rail, to keep the clergy in the sanctuary.

  58. TonyLayne says:

    @ Andrew: “Very common in my town and sometimes they walk up to the pews and ask questions. Something like: ‘Where is Jesus? Can anyone tell where Jesus is?'”

    Yeah, I’d also be sorely tempted to give my inner smartass the reins: “Have you looked behind the couch?” Or “He just left Chicago, and he’s headed for New Orleans.”

    I love this talk by Fr. Bill Casey on superficial preaching. Moreover, he does it completely from the ambo. You don’t have to walk around like a revival-tent preacher or a stand-up comic to deliver an effective homily.

  59. Dean says:

    When we got a new pastor, he did a lot of, to be charitable, odd things.
    I thought he was using the rock star mike and moving around the church during the homily because he knew a moving target is harder to hit.

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