Is there any rule that says a priest or deacon must only give homilies that he has written? I ask this because of how many lackluster homilies I hear and think of the effect it has on the congregation. Let’s face it: not everyone can be a stellar orator. And in a society with a “between commercials” attention span and a need for stimulation, a banal homily is just another reason to stay home on Sunday. After all, most people I’ve talked to who don’t go to Mass anymore say it is because the Mass is boring. And the two reasons most often heard for why Mass is boring are (1) the music and (2) the homily because it doesn’t “speak” to me.

What a tragedy that the most sublime event, the most important action in all of history, the re-presentation of the Last Supper and Sacrifice of Calvary, could be made boring. (I acknowledge that this is a subjective judgement on the part of the individual Catholic and not a general judgement on priests and deacons.)

And let’s not pretend this is only a Novus Ordo thing. It was just as possible for the congregation to be disconnected and bored with the Tridentine Low Mass’s long silences and the priest speaking inaudibly at the altar. It’s not specific to one or the other, in other words. The situation is only exacerbated by our society being a TV culture, where all activities must entertain or be deemed worthless.

So what can be done about homilies? Like I said, not everyone can be a great orator, yet we expect all priests and deacons to either be one naturally or to be trained as such. This is unrealistic. Even for those whose homilies are usually very good, there can be an off week. Maybe they’re intellectually exhausted at the moment or they’ve been kept running so much this week that they have to thrown a Sunday homily together at the last minute. And what about all those other Masses: weekday Masses and funerals and weddings?

“Canned” homilies

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli