So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Monday, May 18, 2015

When priests walk the walk... the congregation should run from them.

No, this post is not about priests practicing what they preach. Coming on the heels of a recent experience, it is yet another brief reminder that priests should preach from the ambo and not engage in the liturgically curious (untenable?) practice of strolling about the sanctuary and/or nave in order to deliver a homily.

Location, location, location.

The homily is not an excuse for the priest to go wandering about the nave of the church eye-balling the congregation and drawing attention to Father Wanderlust. The word of God preached is, or should be, the focus of the homily.

The locus of the word of God is the altar of the Word: the ambo or lectern or pulpit. Indeed, the Word does come to meet His people, but He does so as word. The word delivered in the homily, if it be true to the Word, is sign enough of the Word of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. The word of God needs no gestural dramatics of an inordinate kind—gestural inflections of an intrinsic kind, perhaps—for the word to be planted in the ground of one's being.

The homilist need only provide himself as humble servant of the word of God, a servant who is also transparent to the Word Himself to deliver the seed to the congregation. He does not need to add excessive amounts of dung to grow the seed. Homilists should trust more in the Holy Spirit than verbal pyrotechnics to reach the people with the saving message of the Gospel. Thus, prayer must accompany the preparation, organization and delivery of the homily. Pray the homily as you preach the word of God! Be a priest of the Mass not a showman in a sideshow!

Walk this Way

Priests would do well to remember that the homily is hardly the time to bask in the limelight which properly belongs to the Lord. The homily is a moment when the word of God is explained and clarified by the priest who, habitually employing his fervent desire to "think with the Church" (sentire ecclesia), provides the teaching of the Church for the edification of the faithful to help prepare them for the coming encounter with Christ in Holy Communion and to help the people go forth afterwards to be bearers of Christ to the world.

The Holy Spirit plants the seed of life, the Gospel, in the womb of the heart of every believer. The Holy Spirit prepares the home for Jesus Who waits to be invited into the bridal chamber of the human heart.

The priest is a midwife who helps bring to birth the word of God in the hearts and lives of the people of God. The midwife reminds the bearer of the Word how to maintain spiritual health by affirming a healthy diet of essential nutrients (Holy Scripture, the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance) and necessary exercise (prayer, examination of conscience, fasting, corporal and spiritual works of mercy).

Bored Walk

Dear fathers, our beloved priests, please do not draw attention to yourselves when preaching. The Mass is not a personal stage to draw attention to yourselves. A "boring" homily can be the most interesting kind if people are taught how to invest their attention to savour orthodox content. The glitz of a mellifluous or animated preacher who offers ear candy and flare merely adds to a cult of personality.

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