FIYH 58-59: The Homily Service

Even before the internet age, bishops were concerned about the potential abuse of “ready-to-preach” homilies First the bad news:

[58] This pastoral dimension of the homily is the principal reason why some homily services, especially those that do little more than provide ready-to-preach homilies, can actually be a hindrance to effective preaching. Since the homily is integrally related to the liturgy, arid since liturgy presupposes a community that gathers to celebrate it, the homily is by definition related to a community. Homily services can be helpful in the interpretation of scriptural texts (though generally not as much as some basic exegetical resources) and give some ideas on how these texts can be related to contemporary human concerns. But they cannot provide individual preachers with specific indications of how these texts can be heard by the particular congregations to whom they will preach.

What are homily services good for?

[59] Homily services can provide valuable assistance to the preacher when they are concerned to relate the interpretation of the lectionary texts to the liturgical season in which they appear, and when they are attentive to the lectio continua principle of the lectionary. They may also be helpful in suggesting some possi­bilities for the development of a homily, or in providing suitable examples and illustrations. The primary help that a good homily service will offer is to make available to the preacher recent exegetical work on the specific texts that appear in the lectionarv and to indicate some ways in which this biblical word can be heard in the present as God’s Word to his people. They can never replace the homilist’s own prayer, study, and work.

I’ll confess I wrote for a homily service many years ago. I’ll also confess I had doubts about what I was doing. It wasn’t so much the quality of writing, but that I was making it much easier for preachers. The best homily preparation I was ever involved in was in my first parish. The pastor welcomed staff input on both the Scriptures as well as the pastoral situation in the parish: what the tenor of the people was, what the concerns were, and so on. I found later that was an uncommon experience.


(All texts from Fulfilled in Your Hearing are copyright © 1982 USCCB. All rights reserved. Used with permission.)

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Fulfilled in Your Hearing, Liturgy, USCCB documents. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to FIYH 58-59: The Homily Service

  1. Randolph Nichols says:

    I, too,had reservations about my work for a homily service. The limitations were obvious. We were never allowed to use personal pronouns or allude to personal experience.

    It should be stated, however, that these packaged homilies were meant only as models and not as something to be read word for word to a congregation. It was assumed that the service staff writers had greater familiarity with scriptural scholarship and that their offerings had been finely edited so as to provide examples of elevated rhetoric. In addition, before the internet age the homily service – which usually included an informative newsletter -managed to link an often isolated clergy to a wider community.

    Priests and deacons still need the benefit of scholarship and examples of crafted language, but the concern that homiletic service models “cannot provide individual preachers with specific indications of how these texts can be heard by the particular congregations”[58]is valid.

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