Expert Answer Forum

The Homily on Sunday QUESTION from Jane Gahlon February 4, 1999
May anyone besides a bishop, priest, or deacon deliver the homily at Sunday Mass? ANSWER by Mr. John Miskell on February 4, 1999
Dear Jane, Thank you for your interesting question. Your instincts are correct. The only ministers who are allowed to preach a homily at Mass is a bishop, priest, or a deacon. In the Vatican's Instruction on Certain Norms Concerning the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (Inaestimabile Donum)--1980 we read; The purpose of the homily is to explain to the faithful the word of God proclaimed in the readings, and to apply its message to the present. Accordingly the homily is to be given by the priest or the deacon. (Inaestimabile Donum, 3) In an instruction from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, titled Liturgicae Instaurationes we find; The Liturgy of the Word should be conducted with the greatest reverence. Other readings, from past or present, sacred or profane authors, may never be substituted for the word of God. The purpose of the homily is to explain the readings and make them relevant for the present day. The homily is the task of the priest; the faithful should refrain from comments, dialogue, etc. It is not permissible to have only one reading. (Liturgicae Instaurationes, 2) Canon 766 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law says there are situations in which a lay person may preach in a church or an oratory but they may never preach the homily during any Mass. One cannot get around this by calling it a talk or a chat instead of a homily because a homily is an absolute requirement on Sundays and on holy days of obligation. (General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 42) The Vatican has again shown that it is very serious about reserving the homily to the properly ordained minister in it's 1997 document, On Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priest. In Article 3 of this document we find; The homily, therefore, during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, must be reserved to the sacred minister, Priest or Deacon to the exclusion of the non-ordained faithful, even if these should have responsibilities as pastoral assistants or catechists in whatever type of community or group. This exclusion is not based on the preaching ability of sacred ministers nor their theological preparation, but on that function which is reserved to them in virtue of having received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. For the same reason the diocesan Bishop cannot validly dispense from the canonical norm since this is not merely a disciplinary law but one which touches upon the closely connected functions of teaching and sanctifying. For the same reason, the practice, on some occasions, of entrusting the preaching of the homily to seminarians or theology students who are not clerics is not permitted. Indeed, the homily should not be regarded as a training for some future ministry. All previous norms which may have admitted the non-ordained faithful to preaching the homily during the Holy Eucharist are to be considered abrogated by canon 767, § 1. § 2. A form of instruction designed to promote a greater understanding of the liturgy, including personal testimonies, or the celebration of eucharistic liturgies on special occasions (e.g. day of the Seminary, day of the sick etc.) is lawful, if in harmony with liturgical norms, should such be considered objectively opportune as a means of explicating the regular homily preached by the celebrant priest. Nonetheless, these testimonies or explanations may not be such so as to assume a character which could be confused with the homily. § 3. As an expositional aide and providing it does not delegate the duty of preaching to others, the celebrant minister may make prudent use of dialogue in the homily, in accord with the liturgical norms. § 4. Homilies in non-eucharistic liturgies may be preached by the non-ordained faithful only when expressly permitted by law and when its prescriptions for doing so are observed. § 5. In no instance may the homily be entrusted to priests or deacons who have lost the clerical state or who have abandoned the sacred ministry. I can't imagine how a priest would even try to justify having a lay-person preach the homily at Mass. I hope this helps. In Christ, John Miskell Back to Index Page

You have successfully subscribed!