ASK FATHER: Can lay people assist with sprinkling rite and give homily?

From a reader…


I had to use my territorial novus ordo parish for a valid mass instead of the TLM since I work in emergency medicine and sometimes shift work makes it difficult to get to a TLM or even a moderately well celebrated novus ordo mass.

During mass this evening 5/11/19 Archdiocese of __ the pastor had a lay woman assist with the sprinkling rite (i.e. he did half of the congregation she did the other half).

Additionally after the Gospel he gave a short homily (~3-4 sentences) and then another woman gave a “reflection on the scripture readings”.

Before I get too frustrated, are either of these licit in the novus
ordo (I know they are in poor taste). If illicit, are there any hard
references I can send to my territorial pastor (he was presiding at this mass) in the hopes this is all simply out of liturgical


Fr. McNamara actually has a pretty thorough and (to my mind) reasonable answer to the question of whether a layperson can assist with the sprinkling rite ( He concludes that a deacon (or deacons) might be able to assist the priest, but finds no support for the laity assisting with the rite, even in the case of a priest who is too old or infirm to do it. I would add that since it is an optional rite in the Novus Ordo, except on Easter, if the priest is unable to sprinkle the congregation, logic would dictate that he simply refrain from using the rite.

As to the “reflection” that issue has been treated time and time again. There is simply no excuse for this sort of folderol. Redemptionis Sacramentum 64, 65, 66, and 161 outright exclude the possibility of a lay person preaching, or reflecting, or testifying, or memorializing, or ruminating, or remonstrating, or chewing the fat, or lecturing, or sharing bon mots at the time of the homily or even after the homily. Paragraph 74 raises the notion of a layperson giving some kind of appeal or instruction – preferably outside of Mass, but “for serious reasons” after the Prayer after Communion (it’s hard to imagine what these serious reasons might be), but this appeal or instruction should not in any way shape or form be confused with a homily.

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  1. fishonthehill says:

    I always have a layperson “assist” with the sprinkling rite at Mass and Funerals. Who’s going to carry the Holy Water Bucket?

  2. Andrew Hollingsworth says:

    I think it is fairly common for there to be very good reasons for a lay person to speak at the end of Mass very occasionally. In most English parishes the notices are read after the post communion prayer. On one or two occasions per year detailed practical information may be conveyed rather better by a lay person perhaps concerning the accounts of the parish or a planned giving drive. There might be an annual appeal for a charity the parish supports, including detailed information on the work undertaken in the past year. I am afraid that if such matters are done outside Mass most parishioners will not attend a meeting to listen.

    I agree that should not be done too often. I have visited parishes were clearly many parishioner get up to give brief notices which can be distracting.

  3. bobbird says:

    So … what should we do if this happens? We have endured the abuse of the non-ordained sermonizing sporadically for decades. It has been done by seminarians who have yet been ordained to the deaconate, feminist nuns, but also “pet” laity. We followed the “principle of subsidiarity” by first approaching the local priests, then the Local Ordinary (who supports it) and having written to the CDW [who as expected does not respond in any way, but since we eventually got a letter denying this occurs from the Local Ordinary — a falsehood we both knew, but was writing likely as a way to respond to the CDW], what do we do? Do we hand out leaflets after Mass? Admonish the practice on-the-spot in the Sanctuary? Endure silently and pray? The sermons by the non-ordained seminarians have been better than the priests, BTW, but others are heretical, confusing, PC or aimless.

  4. Semper Gumby says:

    “Redemptionis Sacramentum 64, 65, 66, and 161 outright exclude the possibility of a lay person… testifying…ruminating…chewing the fat…or sharing bon mots at the time of the homily or even after the homily.”

    Doggone right Fr. Ferguson.

    In fact, it would be cool to see a priest during the homily thump a Bible. Ah, yes…Father Chesty Puller:

    “Alright you heathens, listen up. We’ve been at this twenty centuries, so lemme’ tell you somethin’. This is Holy Mass, not open-mic night at the Comedy Shack. You want showtunes? Buy a stereo. You want dancing? Arthur Murray is two blocks down the street. You want fire bowls? Buy a wok. And another thing, Holy Mass is not a Safe Space for Snowflakes. We don’t hold hands during the Our Father, no one gives a darn if you drove a Prius here- though if you bi-located here this morning that’s pretty cool- and, as I look out at your bright, shiny, and shocked faces: Put down those teddy bears and put on a Scapular! Satan is prowling about looking for souls to devour. Your knight may have levelled-up yesterday in Dungeons and Dragons but that doesn’t mean JackSquat. Put on the whole armor of God, pray the Rosary- that Rosary better be clean and dust-free- and remember my brothers and sisters in Christ: Go to Confession!”

  5. SanSan says:

    Thank you for this post. Coming up on the annual Baccalaureate “mass” for graduates of a local girls school. The “mass” is celebrated at the local parish where the pastor allows one of the graduates to speak after of the Gospel, instead of taking this opportunity to share the Gospel to those in attendance (mostly “nones”). Also the principal or some other lay person will speak about things unrelated to God and His teachings. I’ve asked the pastor to forego the Eucharistic Liturgy and just have a celebration including readings from the Word. Most in attendance including these Catholic educated girls, do not know anything about the Mass. Most squirm in the front not knowing when to stand, sit or kneel–my family members included (sigh). Mea culpa dear Lord.

  6. tho says:

    We have lost our sense of the sacred, and sadly, it is only going to get worse. We need a trial like Nurenberg after WWII.
    Those Popes and Bishops who are still living, should be held responsible for destroying the most magnificent and sacred expression of mans love for God ever devised. Right now we are only trying to abate the most egregious cases. but believe me, human nature being what it is, along with this diversity thing, and trying to erase the distinction between layman and clergy is a path to oblivion. Declaring the Popes who implemented the Novus Ordo saints is to take a vacation from common sense.

  7. Kevin says:

    Why ____ the Archdiocese? Name it. Maybe the Archbishop isn’t aware of the abuses. Plus, we need to start holding all responsible. Souls are at stake!!!

  8. This is the perennial problem. Leave the parish? Stay and try to change it? Stay because there is no other place to go? Start a campaign?

    Whatever you do, if you write letters, save copies of everything and follow my tips for writing.

    These are the times when God chose to bring us into being. He is going to offer us graces to deal with our challenges, even from these nitwits with their condescending clericalism. That’s what it is, in its worst form. The nerve of these guys! Telling lay people that they aren’t good enough on their own unless the priest deigns to allow them to do some of his work. For shame.

    Every parish situation is different. There is not only one correct response especially when it is ingrained. Think about a chess game… in the beginning with abuses the variations are simpler to deal with. When you get into the middle game, there are so many variables that the mind begins to reel.

  9. Gab says:

    Pray for their conversion. I ain’t got nuthin’ else.

  10. Amerikaner says:

    It’s a shame more dioceses don’t make use of installed acolytes.

  11. mburn16 says:

    “trying to erase the distinction between layman and clergy is a path to oblivion”

    That’s part of it for some, no doubt. Although in regards to lay-preaching, I think there’s another component: the salivatory-inducing prospect of a captive audience for those of strong viewpoints. Anyone can preach after all, but only the Priest (or Bishop, or Deacon, or Pope, etc) can preach during mass. Yet mass is the only time other people MUST listen to you. For many who desire to be able to give sermons at Mass, I think the allure is less “equal status with the Priest” than “people must listen to what I say, whether they like it or not”

  12. MaHrad says:

    Love it! That would be throughly enjoyable to see.

  13. MaHrad says:

    Love it! That would be thoroughly enjoyable to see.

  14. Hidden One says:

    What specific documents should one use against the (erroneous) counter-argument that a diocesan bishop, as chief liturgist of his diocese, can authorize particular lay folk (such as seminarians) to preach on particular occasions? The idea seems to be that the diocesan bishop can dispense from the relevant laws. This argument is presently made in some dioceses in Canada, for example.

  15. msc says:

    An O.M.I. church were I used to go regularly back in the early 1990s regularly had lay people preach — it was always one of two women whose overall role in that church I never quite understood. The same church was fond of using some sort of multi-grain cookie type thing for hosts. Even as a new Catholic these things seemed odd to me. I was somehow surprised to find that lay preachers are regular, if not frequent, in the Anglican churches near me (I have several very dear Anglican friends).

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