ASK FATHER: Priest combines Gospel and Sermon.

ask_father_q_box_title_smFrom a reader…

At mass on Sunday, after the congregation stood for the Gospel, the pastor asked us all to sit because he was going to combine his sermon with the Gospel. The best way to describe it is to say it was a like a poorly done line-by-line Bible study. I know enough to know such an action by the priest is not permitted at Mass. I have a two part question about this:

1. How should I have handled it on Sunday? Would walking out have been inappropriate? 

1a. How should I handle it after the fact? A letter to the pastor? The bishop?

 If it helps at all, this parish is my territorial parish, although, because these weird actions by the pastor are somewhat common place, I am registered at and regularly attend a neighboring parish. I was only at this church because I was unable to make it to the parish I usually attend and wanted to fulfill my Sunday obligation. 




Once again, our liturgical lives are held captive by the terrorism that is “creativity.”

One wonder how countless generations were brought to the faith and catechized sufficiently before these liturgical jihadis were unleashed upon an unsuspecting Church.

Of course, one need not say that there are no rubrics in the Missal that provide cover for this kind of innovation. The proclamation of the Gospel is one thing, the preaching of the homily is another thing. If were in the spirit of combining things – how about we combine the collection with the sign of peace? Whilst hugging one’s neighbor and whispering sweet nothings into his or her ear, one can reach into that person’s back pocket and pull out a sawbuck or a c-note and drop it in the passing basket. How about combining announcements with the first reading? “and lo, the messenger of the Lord saith unto the people of Judah, ‘don’t forget the pancake supper this Friday for the support of the youth group’s planned trip to Wyoming Catholic College.'”

If one were to parse the levels of liturgical absurdity and violations of rubrical law, on a scale of one (Father deliberately used the collect of the second Sunday of Lent on the third Sunday of Lent) to ten (Father just attempted the consecration of pumpkin bread), this would probably hover in the range of three – but the faithful people of God have the right to the Holy Mass as the Church has laid it out.

I don’t think this would be something to warrant a walk-out, especially if it were a one-time thing. I think a polite word with the priest after Mass would be warranted, “Father, I’m curious, where did you get this idea to combine the Gospel and the homily? Personally, I felt that the Lord’s Word was somewhat diluted.”

If one is not able to be in full control of one’s actions in the moment, a letter would probably be better than a confrontation that might get both parties unnecessarily flustered – such a confrontation seldom does anyone any good. A letter to the pastor, first, is the step to take – then, depending on the answer, going up to the bishop.

Sadly, Father is probably being told – even as we speak – how WONDERFUL his homily was, and how much it made the Gospel come alive, and how it made people feel all warm and fuzzy inside and what a great gift he has as a preacher. There are always those at the ready to provide “positive feedback” and puff up the pride of those who seek to bring in liturgical innovation. Pastors who insulate themselves from criticism by surrounding themselves with fans of this sort are unlikely to be changed in their approach, even in the face of reasoned arguments or threats of punishment from the bishop.

In fact, if at all possible, the best approach is probably to avoid this priest and his liturgical aberrancies as much as possible.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    If I were in a congregation where noone knew me, or all understood me…

    I’d play roly-poly (is that the word?) and always jump up for the Gospel, sit down for the word of sermon, jump up next for the next part of Gospel, sit down again and so on. (The preacher might get me in a bit of training…)

  2. RobJ says:

    “Father, I like to stand for the Gospel out of respect for Jesus, and sit for the homily so your message can sink in.”

  3. It used to be held a mortal sin for a priest to make deliberate changes to the Mass on his own authority. How could that have ceased to be a mortal sin, just because nobody believes it anymore? The next time a liberal brings up structural sin, can I raise as an example the widespread belief that there’s nothing wrong with a priest tweaking the Mass according to his whims?

    This is what leads to the faithful in the pews wanting to know which priest is celebrating which Mass, so that they can go when they are more likely to get something more closely resembling the Mass than not. If it weren’t for this kind of stuff, I wouldn’t care which priest is celebrating which Mass.

  4. Ages says:

    I don’t see any problem with a line-by-line expository homily, but is it so much to ask to READ THE PASSAGE IN FULL first? How can you undertake a study if you don’t first know what you’re studying?

  5. Traductora says:

    I’ve only walked out once, but I would have walked out on this one. Since when does Fadduh get to think he’s the equivalent of Our Lord and gets to do interlinear “interpretations” of what Jesus said?

  6. hwriggles4 says:

    One thing I like to do before attending Mass on Sunday (to help prepare, but I don’t always do this) is to watch the Mass on EWTN. Not only does it help prepare me for the readings that will be recited at Mass, but I know there will always be a solid homily. There are some Sundays where the EWTN homily will be more thorough and have a better “hit the nail on the head” message than what I heard from the priest or the permanent deacon while I was at Mass.

  7. frjim4321 says:

    It would take a lot for me to walk out.

    Even when poorly celebrated, it’s still a valid sacrament.

    I might seem as a lefty in these parts, but generally I believe that the rite is right, and you can’t go far wrong when you follow it; and the opposite is sadly also true.

    I wish there was something in the rubrics the would explicitly prohibit props, skits, step-ladder, garden hoses and the like from homilies. I don’t need a priest to ride a colt into the church this Sunday.

    But I would probably not walk out.

    This priest disrespected (1) the text, and (2) the nature of the preaching act. There are about five really big and bad things wrong with what he did.

    In my first parish it was the custom to do the “Washing of the Feet” as a pantomime while the gospel was being read. Much was lost.

  8. LeeF says:

    I wouldn’t walk out. And I wouldn’t complain if it were just the once. But I would complain if it happened again or if there were a series of separate serious liturgical deviations from the GIRM. The way I would complain would be to talk to the priest privately and then write him a letter if he seemed unwilling to stop. And when that letter went without a serious reply, I would write the bishop and not just mention the various violations of liturgical norms, but also specifically ask if the bishop had given his priests to vary from the GIRM like this. If the bishop failed to remedy the situation I would write to the Congregation for Divine Worship. This is time-consuming, but if done in the proper and respectful manner, it can get results. One must remember to treat this canonical complaint process as confidential though if you want Rome to take action.

  9. edm says:

    “Sadly, Father is probably being told – even as we speak – how WONDERFUL his homily was, and how much it made the Gospel come alive, and how it made people feel all warm and fuzzy inside and what a great gift he has as a preacher. There are always those at the ready to provide “positive feedback” and puff up the pride of those who seek to bring in liturgical innovation…”

    This paragraph is one of the most succinct expressions of the problem that I have ever seen.
    This is also the reason why those who wish to be faithful to the rubrics will then not be listened to by the local “liturgical authorities”.
    The stranger it gets, the more attention it elicits from the faithful who, through no fault of their own do not understand that there ARE rules and guidelines and this brings the “creative liturgists” to seek more and more praise by getting wilder and wilder. It becomes a vicious circle.

  10. Charles E Flynn says:

    “Our liturgical lives are held captive by the terrorism that is ‘creativity’” might not fit on a mug in a typeface of legible size, but I picture it as a first of a new line, a large lead-free crystal decanter with text in Trajan typeface circling the largest diameter.

  11. Father Ferguson’s explanation is excellent, but it’s the long version. Here’s the short version:

    The purpose of rubrics is not to say what is not done, but to say what is done.

  12. I will “plead the 5th” while I go and “spit tacks”…

  13. JimP says:

    This reminds me of an experience during Lent last year, when we attended our territorial parish due to weather that made the drive to the parish we usually attend unsafe. I was on guard after we found no holy water in the stoups, and the processional ‘music’ was provided by a rain stick and bass drum. When it was time for the Gospel reading, the deacon told everyone to sit while he read the Gospel as a dialogue with a laywoman. I was sorely tempted to walk out and take my chances on the highway, but my wife convinced me to say. I have not been back to the parish since, but I suspect that things like this aren’t infrequent, since we seemed to be the only people who seemed a bit confused by it.

  14. slainewe says:

    Is not the Gospel primarily part of our worship? So, in the TLM it is prayed towards God? (Only afterwards is the translation, if given, read towards the people.)

    In the NO, all worship of God is directed to the people, but is not the Gospel still worship? In which case what the priest did makes no more sense than if he peppered any of the Mass prayers with commentary?

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