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Is it okay for a lay person to preach during the Mass?

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Is it okay for a lay person to preach during the Mass?

This is clearly a liturgical abuse if it is truly happening. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states:

The homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to the deacon, but never to a lay person. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a bishop or a priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate. (GIRM 66)

The Church recently released a new document dealing with liturgical abuses. The document is entitled Redemptionis Sacramentum (Latin, “The Sacrament of Redemption”). It was prepared by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the request of Pope John Paul II, and it offers practical rules (norms) concerning how Mass is to be celebrated and how the Eucharist is to be treated. It focuses on liturgical abuses that have been occurring in recent years.

Redemptionis Sacramentum reiterates GIRM 66 and adds the following:

  • It should be borne in mind that any previous norm that may have admitted non-ordained faithful to give the homily during the eucharistic celebration is to be considered abrogated by the norm of canon [law]. This practice is reprobated, so that it cannot be permitted to attain the force of custom. (RS 65)
  • The prohibition of the admission of laypersons to preach within the Mass applies also to seminarians, students of theological disciplines, and those who have assumed the function of those known as “pastoral assistants”; nor is there to be any exception for any other kind of layperson, or group, or community, or association (RS 66).
  • If the need arises for the gathered faithful to be given instruction or testimony by a layperson in a Church concerning the Christian life, it is altogether preferable that this be done outside Mass. Nevertheless, for serious reasons it is permissible that this type of instruction or testimony be given after the priest has proclaimed the Prayer after Communion. This should not become a regular practice, however. Furthermore, these instructions and testimony should not be of such a nature that they could be confused with the homily, nor is it permissible to dispense with the homily on their account. (RS 74)
  • As was already noted above, the homily on account of its importance and its nature is reserved to the priest or deacon during Mass. As regards other forms of preaching, if necessity demands it in particular circumstances, or if usefulness suggests it in special cases, lay members of Christ’s faithful may be allowed to preach in a church or in an oratory outside Mass in accordance with the norm of law. This may be done only on account of a scarcity of sacred ministers in certain places, in order to meet the need, and it may not be transformed from an exceptional measure into an ordinary practice, nor may it be understood as an authentic form of the advancement of the laity. All must remember besides that the faculty for giving such permission belongs to the local ordinary [bishop], and this as regards individual instances; this permission is not the competence of anyone else, even if they are priests or deacons. (RS 161)
  • The document goes on to explain that abuses such as this “are not to be considered of little account” and are to be “carefully avoided and corrected.” (RS 174)

Any Catholic, whether priest or deacon or lay member of Christ’s faithful, has the right to lodge a complaint regarding a liturgical abuse to the diocesan bishop or the competent ordinary equivalent to him in law, or to the Apostolic See on account of the primacy of the Roman pontiff. It is fitting, however, insofar as possible, that the report or complaint be submitted first to the diocesan bishop. This is naturally to be done in truth and charity. (RS 184)

What does the Church say to those who have committed or turned a blind eye to abuses?

Let bishops, priests, and deacons, in the exercise of the sacred ministry, examine their consciences as regards the authenticity and fidelity of the actions they have performed in the name of Christ and the Church in the celebration of the sacred liturgy. Let each one of the sacred ministers ask himself, even with severity, whether he has respected the rights of the lay members of Christ’s faithful, who confidently entrust themselves and their children to him, relying on him to fulfill for the faithful those sacred functions that the Church intends to carry out in celebrating the sacred liturgy at Christ’s command. For each one should always remember that he is a servant of the sacred liturgy (186).



Written by Erineus

July 21, 2014 at 12:57 am

Why Church acoustics is important and concern should be shown for it?

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In order to facilitate hearing the word of God, consideration should be given to measures which can help focus the attention of the faithful. Concern should be shown for church acoustics, with due respect for liturgical and architectural norms. “Bishops, duly assisted, in the construction of churches should take care that they be adapted to the proclamation of the word, to meditation and to the celebration of the Eucharist. Sacred spaces, even apart from the liturgical action, should be eloquent and should present the Christian mystery in relation to the word of God”.[238]

[238] Propositio 40.


Why homily is important and there is a need for careful preparation and witnessing?

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The importance of the homily

Each member of the People of God “has different duties and responsibilities with respect to the word of God. Accordingly, the faithful listen to God’s word and meditate on it, but those who have the office of teaching by virtue of sacred ordination or have been entrusted with exercising that ministry”, namely, bishops, priests and deacons, “expound the word of God”.[208] Hence we can understand the attention paid to the homily throughout the Synod. In the Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, I pointed out that “given the importance of the word of God, the quality of homilies needs to be improved. The homily ‘is part of the liturgical action’ and is meant to foster a deeper understanding of the word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the lives of the faithful”.[209] The homily is a means of bringing the scriptural message to life in a way that helps the faithful to realize that God’s word is present and at work in their everyday lives. It should lead to an understanding of the mystery being celebrated, serve as a summons to mission, and prepare the assembly for the profession of faith, the universal prayer and the Eucharistic liturgy. Consequently, those who have been charged with preaching by virtue of a specific ministry ought to take this task to heart. Generic and abstract homilies which obscure the directness of God’s word should be avoided, as well as useless digressions which risk drawing greater attention to the preacher than to the heart of the Gospel message. The faithful should be able to perceive clearly that the preacher has a compelling desire to present Christ, who must stand at the centre of every homily. For this reason preachers need to be in close and constant contact with the sacred text;[210] they should prepare for the homily by meditation and prayer, so as to preach with conviction and passion. The synodal assembly asked that the following questions be kept in mind: “What are the Scriptures being proclaimed saying? What do they say to me personally? What should I say to the community in the light of its concrete situation?[211] The preacher “should be the first to hear the word of God which he proclaims”,[212] since, as Saint Augustine says: “He is undoubtedly barren who preaches outwardly the word of God without hearing it inwardly”.[213] The homily for Sundays and solemnities should be prepared carefully, without neglecting, whenever possible, to offer at weekday Masses cum populo brief and timely reflections which can help the faithful to welcome the word which was proclaimed and to let it bear fruit in their lives.

The fittingness of a Directory on Homiletics

The art of good preaching based on the Lectionary is an art that needs to be cultivated. Therefore, in continuity with the desire expressed by the previous Synod,[214] I ask the competent authorities, along the lines of the Eucharistic Compendium,[215] also to prepare practical publications to assist ministers in carrying out their task as best they can: as for example a Directory on the homily, in which preachers can find useful assistance in preparing to exercise their ministry. As Saint Jerome reminds us, preaching needs to be accompanied by the witness of a good life: “Your actions should not contradict your words, lest when you preach in Church, someone may begin to think: ‘So why don’t you yourself act that way?’ … In the priest of Christ, thought and word must be in agreement”.[216]

[208] Ordo Lectionum Missae, 55, 8.
[209] No. 46: AAS 99 (2007), 141.
[210] Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, 25.
[211] Propositio 15.
[212] Ibid.
[213] Sermo 179, 1: PL 38, 966.
[214] Cf. Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis (22 February 2007), 93: AAS 99 (2007), 177.
[215] Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Compendium Eucharisticum (25 March 2009), Vatican City, 2009.