A Facebook friend wrote:
It would really be nice if priests actually presented Catholic teachings from the pulpit. When was the last homily you heard about contraception, The Real Presence, or the like? And they wonder why people don’t believe! Many homilies are feel-good pep talks that are at best marginally Christian, let alone Catholic. This is especially true if the sermon is presented by someone other than the pastor.
We can always read great sermons if we’re lacking that. Pick up a copy of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman’s Parochial and Plain Sermons (also available online for free). That’ll keep ya “fed” for two years.
My friend again:
We can read them, sure, but that’s not the issue. The casual Catholics in the pews won’t make that effort.
Well, yes and no. Ideally, we should have good, meaty homilies. But life is tough; we don’t always get what we want or should expect to get in church. I’m all for better homilies: the more the better. I love good, stirring, exhorting, convicting, inspiring homilies.
But each individual Christian is also personally responsible under God to grow and advance beyond the baby / milk stage. They have to learn. If the local parish doesn’t provide those resources, thankfully there is a lot of material out there that can (including much apologetics): much of it for free, online.
If we stand alone before God at the judgment, get baptized alone, confess and receive absolution alone, pray alone, do devotions alone, we can also learn theology alone if needs be.
Spiritually lazy / ignorant people need to get off their butts and start learning, just like they’ll learn about any number of things in school or at their jobs, or, conversely, waste their time watching (mostly) worthless shows on the idiot box all night long. If we love our faith, we gotta properly learn about it and understand it!
The bottom-line problem is that people put a low and optional priority on learning theology and spirituality. That goes back to the individual, ultimately, and can’t be blamed totally on priests lax in their duty, insofar as they deliver a mediocre homily.
This is one thing we can rectify on our own. If we want to better understand (and thus live) our faith, we can learn the theology and the spirituality and moral teachings, in any number of ways, aside from homilies.
We can’t create a reverent Mass if it isn’t available locally (or transform every priest into a St. John Chrysostom: “Golden Mouth”, or Bishop Bossuet or St. Paul), but we can do this, and there is no excuse (less now than ever, with the Internet) for anyone remaining ignorant about their faith. It’s laziness and apathy that cause that.
So sure: we can fault a priest who got a D in his homiletics class in seminary, but there is also a whole lot of fault in ourselves: beams in our own eyes. We can’t change another person, but we sure can change ourselves, and trouble ourselves to read and learn about the most important things in life: the spiritual things.
Photo credit: Photograph by Ben Eekhof (4-24-14) [Flickr / CC BY 2.0 license]