the power of a homily…

… There are few things more detrimental to the spiritual well being of a congregation than the stand-up homily. The stand-up homily, in case you don’t know, is a homily where a priest tries to get all relate-y to his congregation using jokes and pop culture references. Nothing is said that could be construed as confrontational or judgmental. It serves no purpose other than to entertain. It is really a dreadful spectacle to endure. I have no patience for the stand-up homily. It is a complacent thing that bears no real fruit.

When a priest faces his congregation and speaks boldly the Gospel truth and reaffirms the Church’s teaches in no uncertain terms one of three things can happen to the listener. Their faith can be reinvigorated by a powerful homily, a stirring can begin to develop where one never existed before, or it can fall on deaf ears. With a stand-up homily the first two are surely to never happen.

Last week I read a heart wrenching letter published online. The anonymous writer was moved to contact the priest after hearing his pro-life homily. She wrote of the life long guilt and damage a women endures after having an abortion. It’s an honest letter and one that deserves to be read.

“Seventeen years later, there has not been a single day go by that I haven’t wondered about the baby whose life was cut short because of a choice. I look at my children now with the knowledge of having robbed them the chance to have an older sibling that they have never even heard about. Knowing I took the only opportunity for the father of the baby to have a child of his own. Living with such mental and emotional distress that not only I, but my husband now has to deal with, and finally, wondering each day if I am truly forgiven and if I will be allowed into heaven after I die.

I can say with 100% conviction that absolutely nothing positive came from my abortion.”

Read the full letter here.

Just imagine, if this women’s priest had given a stand-up homily we would be robbed of her powerful testimony on the soul destroying effects of abortion.

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  • When a priest faces his congregation and speaks boldly the Gospel truth and reaffirms the Church’s teaches in no uncertain terms…” 

    S’cuze me Father, your stepping on my blankey.

  • Lee Gilbert

    Many years ago in our parish In Glen Ellyn, IL we had Msgr Eugene Luke, who in practically every homily was like Moses come down from the mountain.  He was salt and light, and there were many such priests at that time- in the fifties and early sixties.  Much thunder and lightning, true, but they illumined the Church.  I used to wonder what the fuss was about, but now I am living in the Babylon they were trying to fend off.  

    He never said so, nor could he, but I think he was energized by what he was hearing in the confessional.   And the Church was packed shoulder to shoulder for every Sunday Mass, with long lines for the two confessionals every Saturday night.  Yes,  his preaching was addressed to our sins, and he was the better priest and preacher for hearing many confessions- or so I believe- and we were a better, Catholic people for the strength of his preaching.  

    Every now and then the Lord would show up in a very big way- as I recall this would happen maybe two or three times a year.   No, we couldn’t see him or hear Him, and nobody spoke of it, but there was practically a  palpable peace that would settle on the congregation, and on the way out we would look at one another and smile quietly.  What could anyone say?

    This was before it was Not Nice to raise the possibility of eternal damnation, to catechize the people on the difference between mortal and venial sin, to warn them sternly not to approach the Eucharist if they were not in a state of grace.

    Yes, he was a curmudgeon-what else could he be?  Approaching the rectory you felt as if you were taking your life in your hands.  One doesn’t come clod-hopping into the Holy of Holies or address the Priest of God lightly.  How to put it?  He lived on the other side of the altar rail- and that was a very good thing for both priest and people.  He was nobody’s good buddy, that’s for sure.  

    My mother was president of the Catholic Women’s Club at the time of his 50th anniversary as a priest.  She approached him about having a parish celebration of the event, but he wanted no part of it.  “But Monsignor we love you and want to show our appreciation for you.”  “If I wanted love I’d have married a blonde,” said he. 

  • Anonymous

    I’m blessed to live near a congregation that specializes in preaching and they don’t pull their punches either.  They are the Fathers of Mercy and they don’t sugarcoat anything.  Yet in the confessional, they are the kindest, wisest confessors that ever were.  

    The priest at my home parish might throw in a bit of a pop-culture reference, but he does it rarely and it usually makes a lot of sense (his favorite movie is Lord of the Rings).

  • I’m not sure why my earlier comment was deleted. I’ve restored it. It was intended as an affirmation of your post Kat, although done in my sometimes flippant manner (I do take my liberty in that way with you as I know you have a certain comfort level with it and don’t shy from having a sharp tongue yourself).  The words were intended to reflect the reaction of the pew sitter who wants to be coddled and babied with soft peddled half-truths and ‘relevancy’ much of the Church must endure rather than be challenged.

    I am absolutely with you in saying God bless our priests who are not unkind but are straight forward and not afraid to declare true Church teaching.

  • Suzanne Rutherford

    My parents experienced a tumult a “child bearing” problems, even staring death in the face with two unavoidable miscarriages.  Even though those miscarriages were no fault of my parents, I know that I have two siblings that I’ll never get to know.  Two siblings who I won’t get to tease or email or complain to or simply hug.  However, my parents know that they did nothing to cause it, and for that they are eternally grateful. Furthermore, if they had terminated (and they WERE given the option) it’s highly possible that my brother and I wouldn’t be here today because of the complications that accompany abortions.  So, all that to say, I’M grateful that my parents didn’t have to live with the grief of losing two children along with the idea that they caused it.  And I’m also grateful for my brother, who i love even more because i know that there are two more of us waiting on the other side.  Thanks for this post, Kat.  It’s much appreciated. 

  • Rfrendz

       It seems to me that the Homily would be a very imnportant part of the Mass, since it’s showing us how to apply the principles of the Gospel to your own life. Granted some priests will do a better job than others in conveying the connection. But when all the cerimonial motions are said and done and you’re ready to have your your spirit fed, you should rejoice in the message that the priest has put together for you. He is after all trying to lead the Church in a positive direction under the leadership and prompting of Christ. Church is for worshipping God and also for receiving His Word from the leader. I feel we all owe it to ourselves to listen and grow from the dailty messages prepared and delivered by our pastoral leaders.
        The message may not speak to you directly, but it may reach someone who needs to hear it. Ignoring it would be a dissappointment to the Lord. Just saying. 

    • the liturgy is not just “ceremonial motions” and my point is that the homily is not a comedy routine.  The purpose of a homily is to relate to the Gospel reading of the day, as you noted. But if you read what I wrote you’ll see I was very clear in defining what a stand-up homily and what it is not.