From a reader…
It has happened at least two times now where our pastor has preached 30 second homily and then says, ” and now our resident seminarian will offer some words on today’s gospel. ” The seminarian then gives a 15 min homily. I understand that seminarians need to practice, but I was under the impression that this is not allowed. If not, is it something I should bring up to Father?
The 2004 Instruction Redemptionis Sacramentum is perfectly clear. After establishing that the homily is ordinarily to be given by the priest celebrant (64), with another priest, or a bishop, or deacon able to fill in on occasion, it explicitly excludes laypersons and adds
“The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as ‘pastoral assistants;’ nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association.”
As clear as the law is, some want to skirt, disregard, ignore, or dance around the law.
Seminarians, in particular, are in precarious situations. Oftentimes their formation is dependent upon recommendations given by people with little desire to observe the law. Even though most seminaries are long past the dark days (though there is evidence that the dark days are returning), there are still folks involved in formation who see it as their bounden duty to “test” these little bundles of fervor and orthodoxy and shake them up. In an effort to prove to these men whom they perceive as naive waifs that there exist grey areas and difficult situations, these priests (and others) put the seminarian in a situations where they are forced to chose between obedience to the law, or obedience to the pastor.
The seminarian who resists and stands firm in the law and tradition of the Church can then be labelled “rigid,” a term that might not hold as much sway in seminaries as it did a generation ago, but is still trotted out as a slur by certain members of the in crowd… such as the Pope.
For laity, the situation can be awkward. While you have every right to the liturgy of the Church as the Church intends it (which includes a homily given by one qualified), bringing these facts up to the pastor might cause problems for the seminarian, especially if the pastor thinks that the seminarian set up the confrontation. It need not be the truth that the seminarian did so, but the perception – his accusation – can be just as damning and harmful in the seminarian’s evaluations.
Pray for the seminarian, who is likely struggling with the propriety of doing what he’s told by the pastor, while trying to remain faithful to the law of the Church.
He has probably had to make several decisions about which battles are worth fighting and which are best to practice the virtue of nodding, smiling, and saying, “Yes, Father.”
Meanwhile, if those priests who put seminarians in this position know what Redemptionis Sacramentum says continue to put seminarians in that position… I fear for them at their judgment.