Gasp! Lay People Giving the Homily

Oh. It’s okay. They were asking for money.

Vox Nova enters the realm of liturgy when one of its contributors posts that he and his wife gave a homily at parish Masses this past weekend. I see the comments have disappeared, at least from the perspective of my browser. Too bad; a little liturgy controversy is always good for a thirty percent swell in site hits.
The most recent Roman legislation pretty much clamps down on canons 766-767, which permitted a broad possibility of lay preaching if the bishop approved. Or didn’t complain. Finance committees and pastors often seem to agree that if lay people can’t talk about the Scriptures or liturgy (homily) or some aspect of morals (sermon) and if they can rake in the stewardship results better than Father, money seems to soothe a wide swath of liturgical sin.

Personally speaking, I don’t see why the decision for lay preaching shouldn’t rest with the local bishop and the careful discernment of the parish pastor. As it stands, the approved place for a lay money talk is before Mass or before the final blessing. Like it or not, the clergy get the captive audience after the Gospel.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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8 Responses to Gasp! Lay People Giving the Homily

  1. freder1ck says:

    I agree with your opinion. Who wouldn’t want to have Jean Vanier preaching at Mass? Or other lay people testifying to the Gospel…

  2. Tony says:

    It’s simply not allowed.

    I don’t understand the problem that many people have with rules regarding what is liturgically correct and what is not.

    This liturgical “floppiness” on the part of local bishops who give their tacit approval (or turn a blind eye) to these “innovations”, have given us…

    C’mon Todd, you ought to be able to sing this refrain by now. :)

  3. Henry Karlson says:

    There was a switch from blogger to wordpress; the comments, alas, did not transfer. Most of the VN wanted it so they can have long posts without requiring people to scroll down to get past them and read other posts.

  4. freder1ck says:


    How strange to see a response which simultaneously praises positive law (whatever its current form) and disparages the bishops as buffoons. How far this attitude is from that of the martyr Ignatius who wrote from death row:

    Wherever the bishop appears, there let the people be; as wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

    Ok, now let’s look at the magical response: “IT’S SIMPLY NOT ALLOWED.” You really owe it to yourself to read Jeffrey Gitomer’s book Customer satisfaction is worthless; customer loyalty is priceless (in fact, anybody serving the Catholic Church in a public role would do well to read this book).

    Gitomer has absolutely no sympathy for folks whose knee-jerk reaction is to refer to ‘company policy’ instead of understanding and presenting the principle involved in the rules. And what are the principles involved in lay homilies? subsidiarity, collegiality, having a clearly defined mission for ordained priests, the common priesthood of the baptized. Tradition is another value, so perhaps one would do well to look at Pauline writings on lay homilies and their development in history… this would be an interesting dialogue (instead of the unthinking it’s not in the rules – which translates roughly to STFU).

    As a Catholic, I belong to the local Church headed by my bishop – my link with the person of Christ; and it’s through him (via Confirmation) that I am a member of the Catholic Church and in communion with the Pope.


  5. Todd says:

    Here’s what canon law actually says:

    Can. 766 Lay persons can be permitted to preach in a church or oratory, if necessity requires it in certain circumstances or it seems advantageous in particular cases, according to the prescripts of the conference of bishops and without prejudice to ⇒ can. 767, §1.

    Can. 767 §1. Among the forms of preaching, the homily, which is part of the liturgy itself and is reserved to a priest or deacon, is preeminent; in the homily the mysteries of faith and the norms of Christian life are to be explained from the sacred text during the course of the liturgical year.

    “I don’t understand the problem that many people have with rules regarding what is liturgically correct and what is not.”

    Tony, you might want to ask the traditionalists to sing it with me, eh?

  6. Jimmy Mac says:

    Todd, if you allow qualified layfolk to (gasp) preach, the next thing you know they’ll want to do more. Like have an equal voice in how the non-spiritual side of the parish is run.

    Gotta guard that sanctum sanctorum of the ontologically superior, you know. Otherwise, can congretationalism or lay trusteeship be far behind?

    First the dominoes and then the slippery slope and then ……

    The spirit shrinks at the thought of the possibilities.

  7. Tony says:

    Tony, you might want to ask the traditionalists to sing it with me, eh?

    Can you gimme a middle C on the organ? :)

    You know I sing that tune to our traditionalist friends also. This makes me hated in both liberal and “traditional” camps. I’m happiest when I’m banging their fool heads together.

    If it’s allowed, it’s fine with me.

  8. Chi Che says:

    I became a Roman Catholic in a modern, progressive parish, in a metropolitan area where I was living temporarily (several months) due to work. There were Masses with contemporary praise preceding and following, Masses with lay involvement, small Bible groups, talented lectors and cantors (okay, the same five to ten people, in rotation–if you weren’t effective, the priest didn’t schedule you again to do either). Lay people often gave a pep talk before the final blessing OTHER THAN MONEY, usually relevant to ministry and/or even the homily. (probably a couple times a month). Lay people could share ideas about the church organization themselves instead of through the parish council. . . Fast-forward—moving out of the city was like going back 50 years. Priest is in control of everything (that he chooses), secretary really runs most things, and Parish Council is really not very powerful. Very little of the modern, secretary is punitive with people in the parish, no choir, less lay person say in anything. . . . I’m ready to travel an hour every Sunday just to get back to the 21st century church.

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