QUAERITUR: Video in place of sermon

From a reader:

Is it permissible to have a video homily, instead of an actual spoken homily by the priest or deacon? Now the message was from the [b]ishop of ____ and was about the annual sharing appeal, but it took place of the homily and the priest spoke about it while sitting down after the video played. I believe that it was intruding on Mass and it had nothing to do with the Gospel readings of that day.

I cannot see this sort of thing happening in the Extraordinary form of the Mass.

In this vale of tears there are many things to endure, friend.  We must toil along doing our very best under the oppression of the world, the flesh and the devil.

That said, were a priest to receive something from the chancery saying “Play the video at all Masses”, that would not exclude the Extraordinary Rite.  If the local ordinary says “play this” during the sermon time, unless there is a VERY good reason not to, you play it, Ordinary or Extraordinary Form.

Of course, the priest could then give a sermon, at the risk of endangering patience and, therefore, both collections.

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  1. At my parish, when the bishop has a video presentation he wants played at all Sunday Masses, this is usually done after Communion, before the dismissal, which is a time normally reserved for parish announcement. Right or wrong, that is the way it’s done.

  2. Supertradmum says:

    Every year, the annual appeal made by the Bishop is shown as a video at the homily. This has been happening for years in several dioceses I know. Also, there is a parish of mostly Hispanics here, and I have personally seen videos there on immigration laws and how to outfox ICE. I wish I were kidding. I attended Mass there a few Sundays in order to support the parish festival, and saw the video.

    In Missouri, at the annual appeal time, we had a audio tape of the bishop asking for money, etc.

    I thought this happened everywhere at the NO, as it is so much the norm.

  3. patergary says:

    We just had our Cardinal’s appeal this weekend and we have to play the CD of Cardinal’s homily/ appeal in lieu of my homily. You’re right on the money Fr. Z (vow of obedience).

  4. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Miss Anita More, that is a good idea! Another idea I suggest is that the priest plays the video first, and ends with a shorter, straight to the point homily at the end.

    People remember the beginning and the ends of conversations and/or lectures more, correct? Anyone want to second or give proof to what I just said?

  5. cgvnau says:

    At least it was an ordained Catholic clergyman. I’ve seen the homily replaced by the (female, so very obviously not ordained) student minister speaking her thoughts. That was the first priest at the Newman Center.
    Unfortunately, the next priest allowed a lay protester of the WHISC (formerly School of the Americas) to speak instead of the homily. The first time was to explain why he was protesting and why he felt justified in going to prison. The next time was to speak on his prison experiences.
    It was made clear each time that these weren’t homilies, but certainly there are better forums to say nothing of the priest’s obligation to preach.

    Adopt a Catholic Blog

  6. Random Friar says:

    I play the video/audio when the bishop asks me to. I understand the bishop’s desperate need to reach the people sometimes, and sadly, many do not bother to read the bulletin or diocesan paper, so that’s where they put their message.

    That said, I would ask our bishops to please avoid using that time. I think most people feel “cheated” and don’t generally take to it well.

  7. Supertradmum says:

    Random Friar,

    The people in the pew both at the NO and TLM hate the videos. They have lost their effect a long time ago.

  8. cpaulitz says:

    Yes, this happened today in DC, and yes, unfortunately, it happened at the Traditional Latin Mass — and no real sermon to go along with it.

    Every Lenten Season, this is our penance. Week after week asking us to send money, to fund causes most trads spend their days trying to reverse.

  9. amenamen says:

    Liturgical abuse?

    It would seem that a recorded homily would be foreign to the spirit of the liturgy. Is there any reason to consider recorded homilies as anything else but an abuse of the liturgy?

    See “De Musica Sacra” (Congregation of Rites, 1958) :

    60 c) Finally, only instruments which are personally played by a performer are to be used in the sacred liturgy, not those which are played mechanically or automatically.

    71. The use of automatic instruments and machines, such as the automatic organ, phonograph, radio, tape or wire recorders, and other similar machines, is ABSOLUTELY FORBIDDEN in liturgical functions and private devotions, whether they are held inside or outside the church, even if these machines be used only TO TRANSMIT SERMONS OR SACRED MUSIC, or to substitute for the singing of the choir or faithful, or even just to support it.
    However, such machines may be used, even inside the church, BUT NOT DURING SERVICES OF ANY KIND, whether liturgical or private, in order to give the people a chance to listen to the voice of the Supreme Pontiff or the local Ordinary, or the sermons of others. These mechanical devices may be also be used to instruct the faithful in Christian doctrine or in the sacred chant or hymn singing; finally they may be used in processions which take place outside the church, as a means of directing, and supporting the singing of the people.

    Has anyone ever challenged this recent fundraising technique by submitting a question to Rome?

  10. Mike says:

    We heard from our Cardinal via CD today. Is it a liturgical abuse to put fund-raising cloaked in a CD-homily during Mass?

    If it isn’t, it should be.

  11. Random Friar says:

    @Supertradmum: Hey, you only have to sit through it once. Father has to sit through it two to four times! ;)

  12. flyfree432 says:

    I don’t know that it has lost its effectiveness. Here the diocese always meets and exceeds its goal using this method. They also promise the parish 50% of anything over their parish goal.

  13. Tradster says:

    Last year at the indult TLM of the Archdiocesan parish I attended, the pastor played the required video before he began the Mass, then dispensed with the sermon. I presume he als0 did the same for the NO Masses. It not only avoided disrupting the Mass, it gave cover to a few latecomers.

  14. patergary says:

    If the diocese stop doing their bishop’s appeal, they have no choice but to increase their assessment collection from every parish. I would like to know if there are any arch/diocese that does not do any arch/bishop’s appeal. This is not liturgical abuse because the bishop is incorporating the appeal in his homily, and he cannot be present in all parishes at the same time (unless he can clone himself 100times) and this is only done once a year.

  15. Dennis Martin says:

    The video for the annual diocesan appeal was presented in place of the homily but the bishop took some care to integrate it with today’s Scripture readings for the Ordinary Form. Obviously this would be discordant for the EF, unless he prepared a separate video for that. But it did, in fact, function as an adequate, IMHO, homily.

    And the homily, strictly speaking, is not part of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, is it? We should beware, in getting our dander up over this, of the danger of making the homily into something it is not, the danger of, shall we say, giving the homily the sort of super-essential importance that uh, well, ummmm, Protestants give it????

  16. jeffreyquick says:

    At least one can make the argument that importance/rank of the Bishop/need make the replacement-homily acceptable, because it’s the same basic thing. Today I guested at a parish where they wanted to introduce/honor the new confirmands, and to do so they pre-empted the Creed! Yes, it was a nice thing to do, but do priests really get to leave out parts of the Ordinary, in clear violation of GIRM 24? It would have taken about 3 minutes to recite the Creed, max. Or they could have had the confirmands recite it. What’s with this Mussolini-make-the-trains-run-on-time philosophy about the Mass?

  17. Only the medium is new. I remember well, as many as four or five times a year, before Vatican II, during what is now called the Extraordinary Form, that sermons would be replaced by the reading of a letter from Cardinal Spellman. This usually concerned money, but sometimes other items, even politics.

    I didn’t care for this kind of thing then, I don’t now. But the ordinary has the right to be heard and I would hope pastors and priests would exhibit respect and obey. To show the video (or read the letter) before Mass or after communion (when may will just leave) strikes me as passive disobedience, at best.

  18. Fr. Augustine: this is not exactly on point, but I have seen you speak, and I have to observe that I just cannot believe that you are old enough to remember back behind Vatican II. :)

  19. Ben Yanke says:

    Hey, that’s better than what we had to deal with at our old parish. Once or twice a year, we had to sit through a report on the budget during the homily!

  20. Crbtre says:

    @ Dennis Martin

    I would argue in todays society the homily is important. We as Catholics are being attacked from every angle and those 10 minutes might be the only time a lay person may be touched and taught something about or faith. I do agree that obdience to the bishop should be kept and if he wanted the appeal to replace the homily that should be respected, but there had to be a better placement. At my parish, the congregation, after watching the appeal was told to fill out the pledges with instructions from the priest on how to do it. It was very distracting and had no place in my opinion in the middle of Mass.

  21. Mary Bruno says:

    We had a recording (not video) from our Bishop today, too. I was glad it was over the sound system and not a tape recorder sitting on the altar like the first year we had it.

    It was only 3 minutes and 47 seconds long. The Deacon said a few words before and after it, but it was not a homily just explaining what was going to happen and to fill out the envelopes if we wished to do so or considering filling out the info at home if we received it—Catholic Charities.

    I think I’d prefer hearing the priest or deacon read a letter instead of the recording. I get too distracted by the Bishops accent…

  22. JohnMa says:

    As usual Fr. Scalia got it right today. He gave the little talk that the Bishop told him to give but then went on and gave a full sermon as well. Did Mass last longer? Yes. (And judging my how late the OF got out today it was in both forms.) Was their an uprising? No.

  23. priests wife says:

    arrrrgh….this bugs me…John Ma is correct about his priest’s correctness- do the video thing out of obedience, but then PREACH ON THE GOSPEL

    a serious frustration for me…Easter and Christmas my husband has to read a looooooong pastoral letter from the bishop (yes, developing ideas from the Gospel, but still). So the church is full for a change, but the visiting people don’t get a homily from the pastor…they get a talking head :(

  24. Paul says:

    Not sure if it is wrong or not, but I generally just say the rosary during the videos. I will give regardless, but seeing a TV on the altar sets my blood to boiling.

  25. Maxiemom says:

    While I’m not a big fan of the annual bishop’s beg-a-thon video, I’d rather sit through it than the totally awful homilies of the pastor and associate in my parish. It’s not that I don’t support the bishops appeal, I much prefer to get some literature and be left to make up my own mind. And the money spent on the video could certainly be put to a better use.

  26. This has been going on in the Archdiocese of New York for years for the annual archdiocesan appeal, and Fr. Z is right– everyone has to play it, and about the only good reason not to do so would be that the DVD player or the projector breaks down at the very moment it is needed. That said, I despise the practice of inserting a slick, professionally produced sales pitch (also known as a commercial) into any Mass. It just isn’t right, even if the archbishop requests it. Now, when I say, “isn’t right,” that doesn’t necessarily mean that the bishop doesn’t have the canonical right to order it, but that even an archbishop needs to exercise good judgment and good taste. In a case such as this, it probably isn’t the place of a priest or lay person to make a squawk (unlike distributing Communion to manifest public mortal sinners, which certainly isn’t a matter of taste), but it’s a bad practice nonetheless. Maybe if we all agreed to contribute enough money (parish meets its goal ahead of time) ahead of time, the bishop would agree not to preempt the homily in that parish.

    What concerns me more is the cumulative effect of many such preemptions of a proper homily over time. If it were one a year, maybe it would be more tolerable, but a typical parish will have such preemptions several times a year for various causes. We should note that the norm in canon law requires a homily at every Sunday Mass. We need good homilies– I think that Catholics would be lots better at practicing their faith if we had good homilies on a regular basis. These preemptions also allow lay people to worm their way into a slot in the liturgy that is supposed to be reserved to a priest or deacon. “Now, Miss X is going to tell us about her trip to Uganda,” followed by a round of applause (another liturgical annoyance).

  27. Bob says:

    I don’t see how it would be physically possible to show a video at either the OF or EF church I attend.

  28. Will D. says:

    I wonder if this isn’t from my Diocese. At my parish, the priest showed the Bishop’s Appeal video before Mass, but after the scheduled time (in order to catch the laggards, I guess), and then just had a moment of silence between the Gospel and the Creed.

  29. Will D. says:

    I don’t see how it would be physically possible to show a video at either the OF or EF church I attend.

    Easy, peasy. They just wheel in a projector, dvd player, and a portable projection screen. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

  30. benedictgal says:

    While pitches for money are certainly important, bishops and archbishops should realize that the preaching of the Word comes first, ahead of financial campaigns. Bishops are not above obeyin the rubrics. Nothing in the GIRM states that the bishop has the right to abrogate the homily.

  31. amenamen says:

    “Absolutely Forbidden”

    Preaching about stewardship, begging for donations, and fundraising for good causes at Mass may be annoying, but it is as Catholic as the New Testament (Acts 11, Romans 15, 1 Corinthians 16, 2 Corinthians 8-9, Galatians 2).
    Reading letters from the bishop is also a standard part of our liturgical practice.

    But there is another problem that has become widespread recently. That is, the video or audio recordings at Mass: the so-called “canned” homily. It seems that the last official Vatican statement on this question (De Musica Sacra in 1958) was that it is “absolutely forbidden” to use machines such as phongraphs, radios, or tape recorders during the liturgy “even if these machines be used only to transmit sermons or sacred music.”

    If it is “absolutely forbidden” it should not be done.

    Has there ever been a document to change the liturgical law in this matter? The practice seems offensive to Catholic liturgical principles, as well as contrary to the law.

  32. benedictgal says:

    The obedience card works both ways, though. Might I add, Redemptionis Sacramentum has something to say about the importance of the homily:

    64.] The homily, which is given in the course of the celebration of Holy Mass and is a part of the Liturgy itself,142 “should ordinarily be given by the Priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating Priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to a Deacon, but never to a layperson.143 In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a Priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate”.144

    The GIRM does give the bishop wiggle room on the Mass, but, it’s limited. Archbishops and bishops are not above the rubrics. They are not the masters of the liturgy, but, it’s humble servants.

  33. mrose says:

    Today we got an audio recording from the Cardinal for a big fundraising drive. It only vaguely related to the Gospel, but was mostly pining for money. What was better though, was the laywoman and 2nd grade daughter invited up after the audio to tell us about how the funds help her know about Jesus at her Catholic school. Cute, but not in the homily.

    While clearly the Homily is not the most important part of the Mass – as Dennis Martin said, that would be a rather Protestant notion – I fully sympathize with other commenters who noted the need for consistent and clear instruction to navigate the world these days. For many, this is the only opportunity for such instruction. (Not that the homilies at the parish I attend are all that great though).

  34. Random Friar says:

    Although it may be omitted, the homily should be part of the Mass. To wit, from the GIRM.

    65. The homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life…

    66 … There is to be a homily on Sundays and holy days of obligation at all Masses that are celebrated with the participation of a congregation; it may not be omitted without a serious reason. It is recommended on other days, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent, and the Easter Season, as well as on other festive days and occasions when the people come to church in greater numbers.

    Even Trent recommended preaching on Sundays and Solemnities, at least. We got a little lazy sometimes before Vatican II. There were errors to preach against and calls to spiritual combat then, and boy, do we need them now!

  35. Gaz says:

    I’ve heard a couple of good things in my time. One was when the Archbishop mandated inclusion of prayers for those suffering from the crippling drought in Australia (now no longer the case since we’ve had massive floods) in the Prayers of the faithful “at every Mass”. The EF guys added a collect.

    There was one time when the Archbishop (another diocese) made sure that some statement about the forthcoming election was read at each Mass. The Priest prefaced remarks with a commentary saying that it wasn’t the Church’s role to tell you who to vote for, just what issues you should consider when deciding.

    BTW, some of the best homilies I’ve heard had nothing to do with the Gospel reading that day – that’s a furphy if ever I heard one. Homilies are about truth, not shallow thematical relevance.

    @Dennis Martin, is the homily a part of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass? Well, yes it is inasmuch as the Gloria and the Creed are. What I mean here is that you don’t have to have one at every Mass but it is mandated at Sunday Masses (I can’t be bothered to cite the appropriate canon – someone else can if they feel they must). The homily is there as a witness to the truth and to build up the reserves of the faithful to defend and uphold the truth in their everyday lives. If you think that it doesn’t have anything to do with the sacrifice then I think you need to reconsider.

  36. jflare says:

    I’ve never seen a TV on an altar, ever. We still got the video though.
    We have a foldable, white panel to aim at. We have two people hold it up while they stand on about the third step (of four) leading up to the formal sanctuary area. It works fairly well, but it helps if you know how to work the projector pretty thoroughly; if the people aren’t standing in PRECISELY the right spot, the image can be a bit fuzzy.

    That’s the one and ONLY time I have ever seen Father allow a video in Mass…

  37. MikeM says:

    Do you all seriously get videos or audio recordings at your churches? I’ve never seen that before. This week, the priests in the diocese were all asked to promote the archdiocese’s appeal at the time of the homily (not necessarily in place of a homily), and were forced to read some (rather unnecessary) instructions about how to fill out the appeal envelopes… but there was certainly no pre-recorded message.

  38. amenamen says:

    More from “De Musica Sacra”

    73. The use of film projectors, especially machines, whether silent or with sound, is strictly prohibited in church, even though it is for a pious, religious, or charitable cause.

    The whole document was published in Caecilia vol 85 no 4, pages 345-377:

  39. MattW says:

    We had the annual appeal in Cleveland this week, too. The bishop tied the almsgiving in with the readings and with the Catechism of the Catholic Church soundly, I thought, and the pastor spoke briefly after the audio (no video). All in all, it could have been much worse.

  40. chironomo says:

    If the diocese stop doing their bishop’s appeal, they have no choice but to increase their assessment collection from every parish

    I’m puzzled by this comment. The CFA (Bishop’s Appeal, whatever…) IS the assessment collection from every parish. It’s not as though the Diocese holds this “fundraiser” in order to reduce the assessment from each parish. Or perhaps I’m mis-speaking…. is this different from Diocese to Diocese? Are there places where the Diocese raises money first, then figures the parish assessment based on the remaining money left to be raised?

    This year our parish “assessment” (tax) is about $300,000. We have to raise this during the CFA campaign. If we don’t make our goal, we still have to pay it out of parish operating funds. Thus, it’s not really a “fundraiser”, but a tax.

    Our Diocese no longer does the Video during the homily. The Diocesan Stewardship Committee held afocus group and discovered that it actually negatively impacted the giving.

  41. Grateful Catholic says:

    What amenamen said.

    The canned appeal creates a jarring rupture to the dignity and flow of the Mass even in, such as it is, the NO. That even good bishops abuse the sacred liturgy and their flocks in this manner is one of many unsweet mysteries of life in these times.

  42. jfm says:

    This is a particular challenge, and I have seen a few priests navigate this beautifully.
    After the video (or reading of a letter), tie in something with the annual appeal with the day’s gospel, and do it in 3-5 sentences.
    That’s all that needs to be done.

    One priest, whom I loved, started a homily by reading a letter from the bishop. He said, “I have one more epistle, although it is not from the Bible – it’s a letter from Bishop X to the members of our church.” Then he tied the essence of church letter writing back to Paul et al. and made it vivid for us that we were part of a living church. The letter was about 5 minutes. The homily was about 3 minutes. I remember it 20 years later.

    A friend of mine who is a Protestant minister told me about an exercise he had in divinity school, where each student was given a small gospel passage and another topic (money for fuel collection, recent death of a community leader, Bible camp sign-ups, visitation hours at the hospital, canned food drive for an Eagle Scout project, etc.) and asked to improvise a 3-5 minute sermon connecting the two. It’s not easy, but it is a tremendous skill. Moreover, it is the essence of what a good preacher can do: namely, take a passage from the Bible and make it clearly and directly relevant to the lives of those in the congregation.

    This is a nice variety from other sermon types – my favorites remain a close line-by-line textual reading of a passage, where the preacher tells the congregation to look at their missalette while he is preaching so we can all follow along. I love when a homily gives me a specific, concrete tool to understand God’s word better.

  43. Elly says:

    Did the bishops require that the video be shown during the homily? I am wondering if it could have been shown instead immediatly before the Mass, which would eliminate all the problems. Mass could start a few minutes late and if necessary there could be a shorter homily so there is enough time to prepare for the next Mass.

  44. AnAmericanMother says:

    Mike M,
    You’re in Atlanta, aren’t you? At least it was just audio and not video.
    Our parish did as well with it as we could — the audio was played, then the ridiculous instructions for filling out the envelopes, but then our Parochial Vicar got up and preached an abbreviated but very nice homily – his last homily before he is transferred to his new parish – recalling the Gospel and bidding us all to trust in the love of Christ. And then the choir sang an excellent motet (Viadana “Exultate Justi”) which got us all back on track.
    I hope that our PV’s new parish appreciates him. He is a fine young man and a faithful priest who is on fire for Christ.

  45. wolfeken says:

    To add insult to injury, D.C. Cardinal Wuerl talked about the novus ordo readings yesterday in his recorded message, played at the TLMs (and presumably at the Oriental rite liturgies).

    I think the FSSP is secretly behind all this — every time one of these archdiocesan appeals takes the place of the sermon and makes me angry I am moved to donate more to the Fraternity.

  46. wmeyer says:

    In my parish, not only did we have the Archbishop’s appeal in place of the homily, but the ushers then distributed contribution forms and pencils, and the pastor then instructed everyone in filling them out, after which they were collected. I mean really! Were it not for the fact that any shortfall to the Archdiocese is taken from the parish, regardless of parish impact, I would have refused to contribute, in protest.

    It also came to mind that if the Abp were to take so strong an approach to the Tribunal, annulments might be far less painful to his flock.

  47. Supertradmum says:

    I hate to mention this, but the newer church I attended until September, 2010, had a screen built in and the priest just had to push a button for it to unfold for such videos and others, I suppose. In the new plans for churches in our area, where old, elegant ones are going to be closed for mega-churches, automatic screens in the sanctuary are part of some of the plans. This type of audio-video presentation is horrible, but obviously, is not going away, or the plans for the future churches would not include such.

    Thankfully, I go now to a church which is a historically listed building, and all the AV stuff happens in the new church hall.

  48. moon1234 says:

    Whenever there has been a required announcement (or even un-required) at our EF Mass, Father has always stated so at the END of his homily. He states “There is an announcement from the Bishop today. Please remain after Mass and it will be read.”

    Short, sweet, does not distract from the Mass AND people stay after Mass is over. I think this is the BEST way to do it. Late comers to Mass don’t miss it and everyone usually stays afterwards. What the Bishop has to say does NOT distract from Mass.

  49. amenamen says:

    The original question was
    “Is it PERMISSIBLE to have a video homily, instead of an actual spoken homily …”

    If it is “absolutely forbidden” and “strictly prohibited,” then the answer must be simply, “No.”
    Where (in the rubrics) is there any evidence that permission has been given?

  50. Luvadoxi says:

    I’m in the Atlanta diocese, and we got the video, not just the audio.

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