From a reader – QUAERITUR:
The priest in my parish seems to be a very decent and holy Man; but his homilies are super simplistic and boil down to being good and faithful. He also tells a minimum of two jokes per homily. Of course he is right about being good and faithful and his jokes are harmless and I’m sure well meaning. Plus he is on the front line and deserves slack; but I would love something deeper that could help me understand the readings better, understand the Church Fathers better or Sacred Tradition better…and help me learn to BECOME more good and faithful.
Any advice?? Do I just need to buck up and stop looking for perfection in the Mass, and just be glad that I’m back? Say the rosary? It doesn’t feel right to shop for Churches because I don’t like an aspect of it; and I’m sure the Enemy will direct me to spot something else to complain about in another parish anyway.
It is probably good advice to cut Father some slack. There are, however, some positive steps one can take to help Father improve his homilies, if … if these steps are taken carefully. Very carefully.
Consider that Father might want to preach more substantive homilies. It may be that he has in the past. Then consider that he may have received letters and calls of complaint from parishioners. Thereafter, he may have decided to tread lightly, use humor, to deflect those complaints, lest the fill up his personnel file at the bishop’s office.
Yes, the local chancery will get letters and calls about priests’ homilies, and yes, they are often kept on file… for future use.
To start, you might get to know Father a little better. Without being weird stalker creep, seek him after Mass, thank him for offering Mass, and tell him something significant that you got from his homily – and not one of his jokes. “Father, my name is Eleutherius Witherspoon. I just wanted to thank you so much for offering the Holy Mass for us. I also wanted to say that point you made about the Holy Spirit appearing at Jesus’ baptism in the form of a dove was prefigured by the dove returning to the Ark signaling the end of the flood was very interesting – I plan on praying over that image this week.”
Over time, maybe invite Father out to a meal, or for coffee. Some priests love to do this, others, not so much, so don’t take offense if Father says no.
Once you’ve established some kind of rapport with him, you can share with him some of what you are reading to improve your own spiritual life. “Father, I just started reading these collected sermons of St. Augustine, or Fulton Sheen, or Bl. Columba Marmion.” If he shows an interest, offer to buy him a copy.
Try to avoid directly criticizing Father, since he probably gets enough of that. If he asks for your input, don’t be shy about giving it. Instead of un-asked-for criticism, offer him some comparison to your preaching heroes. “Father, I just got back from a business trip to England. Fr. Tim Finigan at Blackfen completely blew my socks off with his homily!”
In the meantime, while dealing with homilies that might not be heterodox or completely slipshod, pray. Say a prayer to the Holy Spirit as Father ascends the pulpit to proclaim the Gospel. Offer a prayer to his guardian angel when he begins to preach. Ask the intercession of Sts. Anthony of Padua, Dominic, and John Chrysostom for your priest. Keep a rosary in your pocket or a finger rosary on, and if things get to befuddled, offer up a couple of decades during the homily, quietly. And, if the homilies aren’t providing you with the grist you need for your spiritual mill, spend some time after Mass reading some quality patristic commentaries on scriptures, or homilies by Doctors of the Church, or find some good priests who do podcasts of their homilies.