Monday, January 09, 2012

What to do about bad homilies or priests who aren't Christ

I hope I don't preach bad homilies but who knows. I must admit there are some homilies which I think aren't brilliant, some which rely more on form than substance.
I am more concerned with other areas of priestly failure, like saving souls. I think this bit of advice applies to all who realise that most bishops and priests who fall short of Christ the High Priest.
It is from the blog of the High and Mighty Fr Z, may he blog forever.
A reader writes asking about “bad homilies”:
Every once in a while, you get a real clunker, one that isn’t just theologically weak, but turns what should be a feast into over microwaved junk. What is the proper response?
You want to know what to do?
Get down on your knees and pray for the priest who gave it.
Do penance for his intention.
Be happy you have a priest when many – many – don’t.
That is what you do.
And if there is some occasion to offer him positive encouragement, do so, with a cordial aspect and kindness.
And consider kissing the hand of the priest who consecrates the Eucharist, forgives your sins, and with anointing imparts even remission of temporal punishment due to sin when you are about to die.
After that, you want to know what to do?
Get down on your knees and pray for more priests. Pray for all priests and bishops and seminarians too. Pray for young men to answer a vocation to the priesthood.
Fast more.
Do more penance for these men and for vocations.
And remember how happy you are to have a priest when many – many – don’t.
That’s what you do.


Edwin said...

A churchwarden once said to Bishop George Reindorp, "I could preach twice as well as our Vicar". "Yes" answered the bishop: I expect you could preach twice, as well as your Vicar".
It's not the one-off (or two-off)sermon which is the test, but the continuing faithfully over the years.

Aaron S-C said...

When I was living in Brighton Fr. I had the option of at least Three or Four other Catholic Churches that I can think of (Sussex Chaplaincy; St Francis of Assisi; St Joseph; St John the Baptist) on my way to St Mary Magdalen's.

In your commitment, devotion, and piety towards Christ's Priesthood, and also your evident paternity towards your parishioners (particularly in Confession), I remember considering and noting on a FB update that you 'show the human and divine face of the Priest' which I suppose is what every Priest is asked to do, imitating Christ as the High Priest.

Anyway, God Bless Fr., I shouldn't worry about bad homilies! A

Православный физик said...

I normally start praying...if it's heretical, I'd get sick, and have to walk out.

Ivan K said...

The quality of the liturgy is much more important than the quality of the homily, in this mediocre Catholic's view. I'm not really bothered by a homily that is a bit boring or formulaic, as long as it isn't heretical or lengthy. On the other hand, bad liturgy is just depressing. As far as homilies are concerned, a good rule of thumb, in my opinion is: look at what the Evangelical preachers do, and don't do it. Far too many priests and laity think that that's the standard to emulate. Some of the worst rabble-rousers in the Church--Savonarola, for example--were popular homilists.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Aaron, I wasn't conciously fishing for compliments but thank you.

Supertradmum said...

I used to play "heresy watch" with my son on the way home from Mass in the car. "What did the priest say?" "Which heresy is that?" Sadly, this situation has not changed in several places I have been in America, England,Canada, Malta and Ireland. The most common error is the heresy of universal salvation-that either there is no hell, or no one is in it if there is. The second is the heresy of relativism, which usually sounds like this from the pulpit, "We must respect all religions as they all lead people to God." Rarely do we here about Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. Also, I have heard one anti-abortion sermon in seven years!!!! Rubbish. The only place I can get a truly Catholic sermon is at the TLM, which, sadly, is too far away for me to attend regularly in Ireland, and at a time on Sunday before the buses run. By the way, it is not that seminarians are not being trained in homiletics, itis that they still have, in many places, poor theological training. And, I pray for priests, daily seriously, consistently...and for seminarians.

margaret said...

I don't read Fr Z so I wouldn't have read this if not for you. It is exactly spot on.

Anonymous said...

Supertradmum said..."The only place I can get a truly Catholic sermon is at the TLM"

Here in Moscow I used to knew a bishop who did long, ceremonial, neat and sophisticated lecture-style homilies sometimes with slightly shaken voice, which did not contain anything controversial or overtly wrong but often seemd just too long, wordy and boring. A few (Polish) priests who say also long and rather sentimental homilies (perhaps they may be too sentimental for me?) avoiding any controversial issues, that look the same every time. And an old priest who does not speak Russian well and says rather short and simple homilies in very simple words with a strong accent; sometimes he stops apparently having difficulties finding the necessary words; but it is always very heartfelt, sincere and loveful, and full of reverence to Our Lord. I do not think it is a coincidece that the last priest is the one who routinely celebrates the TLM here. Father, oh, are very long homilies evil?

Delia said...

Off-topic SOS:

Does anyone know the name of a book published recently about the conversion of the Roman Empire to Christianity? A priest friend would like it for a (belated!) Christmas present - he heard Cardinal Pell recommend the book highly at a talk at St Patrick's in Soho, but can't remember what it was called - and apparently no one else can remember the title either (or the author, for that matter)!


August said...

I haven't yet started shouting during the homily, but I am increasingly suspicious that it might be worth it. Fr. Z's advice is another version of 'don't make a scene.' Understandable, but it also turns into 'don't change anything.'

At the very least, after Mass I may start expressing my displeasure. I have no interest in listening to vapid pseudo-psychological crap. There are plenty of Church fathers to quote from, but we get pop culture quotes. The deacons here do better homework than the priests.

Mr Grumpy said...

I wish I'd read this to prepare me for the homily I heard at Christmas (no names and it was in another country anyway). Thanks for putting me right and I'll try to follow at least some of the suggestions retrospectively!

Ivan K said...


The Rise of Christianity, by Rodney Stark is quite good. He is a sociologist of religion, and he shows that the historical, demographic, and other evidence supports the idea Christianity spread by voluntary conversion, simply because people preferred it to paganism--and Judaism, since, as it turns out, a large percentage of the converts were urban Jews. At any rate, Christianity did not spread by compelled mass conversion; rather, it spread because individuals believed it to be the truth, and because it improved their lives.

Pablo the Mexican said...


Is that all?

I know some folks that have been overdoing it.

Saint Therese used to kiss the ground where a Priest had walked.

Most Priests I know use The Golden Legend or Lives Of The Saints Compiled by Jacobus de Voragine and the Didache to form their sermons.

I have on my web site sermons that should provide useful pointers for Priests to use in their sermons.

'...Supertradmum said..."The only place I can get a truly Catholic sermon is at the TLM"..."

That statement is blasphemous and sacrilegious.

It is another example of Elite Traditionalists abusing the graces God has given them.

The Holy Mother forms Priests in the image of her Son, and places the words they need (if they are obedient Priests), in their months at the time they need them.

Pray for the Holy Father, and all his Priests Nuns, and Religious.

For the end of your Rosary:

Let us pray.

O GOD, who’s only begotten Son, by His life, death, and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life, grant, we beseech Thee, that meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.

V. Lord grant us Priests.

• R. Lord grant us Priests.

• V. Lord grant us many Holy Priests.

• R. Lord grant us many Holy Priests.

• V. Lord grant us many Holy Priests and Religious Vocations.

• R. Lord grant us many Holy Priests and Religious Vocations.

• Saint Pius X pray for us.

• Saint Joseph pray for us.

• Saint Juan Diego pray for us.

• Saint Therese the Little Flower, pray for us.

• Saint Anthony of Padua, pray for us.

• Saint Rita, pray for us. Amen.

May the Divine Assistance remain always with us; and may the souls of the Faithful departed, through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.


Taken from:


GOR said...

Well Father not every man who is ordained a priest has ‘the gift of tongues’, so to speak. While Homiletics may have been taught (or not…) in the seminary, not everyone is a gifted speaker and there are probably few St. John Chrysostoms around. But even if there were, I suspect many would not be able to sit through the one hour-plus sermons of some of the Fathers!

Even with the best of intentions the pastoral work of the parish sometimes militates against putting as much effort into preparation as one would like. It was bad enough years ago when one only had to prepare a single homily a week. I can’t imagine what it’s like trying to get one ready everyday! Speaking of which, I think homilies should be confined to the Sunday Masses anyway…

Pablo the Mexican said...

By the way, there are no such thing as a bad Sermon.

There are simply too many poor listeners.


George said...

What I'd like to hear more about is all the grief that priests receive when they do start preaching solid orthodox sermons.

I overheard friends of mine complaining about their parish priest preaching on the topic of "why we genuflect". A perfectly good idea. I think many traditional Catholics would applaud such a priest. But the run-of-the-mill Catholics in the pew thought it was a waste of time.

After that incident I've become much slower to criticize novus ordo priests for not acting and speaking always like my favorite traditionalist priests. The mainstream priest are in a pickle.

Mark L said...

I'm probably not supposed to say this but the only time i went away from St. Mary Magdalen's disappointed about the homily is when a letter from the Bishop deprived us of one! I even found your homilies on weekdays to be remarkably good.

I'm not sure whether I've been ungrateful when i've grumbled to myself about the quality of the homilies and liturgy in my new parish or if i was just spoiled at St. Mary Magdalen!

I was not a Catholic for most of my time at St. Mary Magdalen but the liturgy was one of the things that drew me to the Church, kept me there and brought me home in your parish. I am eternally grateful and in my (admittedly limited) experience both the liturgy and the preaching (not to mention the chant) are very important. This might have something to do with me being a convert from evangelical Protestantism, i don't know.

Now, i occasionally get a good homily, but what i really miss is Latin. Oh, for a sung Credo, or even the Agnus Dei....

However, rather than moan i have to agree that prayer for priests, religious, vocations, etc. is the right, Catholic response (as well as gratitude that I am in a parish blessed with more than one priest!!!)

Imrahil said...

Dear @Pablo, you almost convinced me with your first comment, but then your second is so obviously wrong. There are, after all, bad sermons. One might even make a case that there should be, but, anyway, they are there.

Besides, @August seems to pronounce a ban on pop culture quotes; I think there should be pop culture quotes and they do no harm. It depends on the, sometimes hidden, message the preacher preaches; if he can preach the same message via a pop culture quote I'd generally even prefer this to a Church father. That the Church father was a Christian is known beforehand. On the other hand pop culture, at least what I do call pop culture (which includes folk music but does not include techno), is an expression of (present) natural man and often this is what the preacher wants to express.

Of course, a quote to pop culture *as authority* is entirely void, and of that I'm not speaking.

Anonymous said...

"Pablo the Mexican said... Padre, Is that all?"

Pablo, it is not blasphemous, it is just the usual observation. Priests who celebrate or who want to celebrate the EF are usually (I cannot say always for logical reasons) more pious, devout and reverent to God. Or probably it's the other way round: those who are more devout love the TLM. This observation is not incompatible with the need to kiss the ground where the worst, sinnest and even lapsed priest has walked. Because this applies to his Priesthood, not to the particular person or personality.

The Novus Ordo is indeed the valid Saint Mass and has all the grace, all fruits and dignity; its value must not be diminished. Rejecting this is indeed blasphemous. Unfortunately the way it is celebrated by some priests sometimes leads the faithful away. Though, the NO Mass can be (and must be) celebrated with the full dignity and reverence. And again, my own humble experience shows that this occurs with the priests who also do the TLM.

Delia said...

Ivan - thanks. Maybe that is the book, though I understand it was published recently, and the Rodney Stark one came out in 1997. Apparently, the cardinal said that all the School of Evangelisation people should have a copy!

FrBT said...


This is a wonderful topic.

I try to keep my homilies 'shortish'. I know priests who can speak for 15-20 minutes every Sunday Mass. Its not the length but the content that is important.

My flock turn into rams and outspoken 'lambs'. If they don't like something - they tell me.

I have one lady who EVERY weekend complains about something.

- the singing
- the latin content
- the new translation of the Mass
- too much of this
- too little of that

She waits for me after the early Sunday morning Mass. Always stands in the same place, at the back of the church. Handbag poised, gloves in the other hand. I can always see it coming - THE COMPLAINT.

A few weeks ago she went on holiday.
I got to the back of the church after Mass and there was something missing - what could it be?

The lady's sister came up to me and said ' Father, my sister has gone to see her friends but she left you a little note'

I thanked the lady and took the note from her gloved hand, with handbag poised on the other wrist. (must be a woman's thing,I thought)

I read the note, which said;

Father T
I am away this weekend, but I wanted to tell you that I think St Joseph is in the wrong place in the crib. I suggest you move him more to the left side.
I have already told you several times, that we don't need to hear a homily during the week, save your energy for Sunday.
Also, why don't you use the gold vestments more often and I think that you should polish your shoes with more care.

After reading this,I thought - well I thought a few things, which will remain with me!

So keep going Father and I hope you include some latin content in your homilies. What would we do without the latin?


Fr Michael said...

I would like to say to Fr BT that his parishioner who complains to him on a weekly basis must have a sibling in my parish.

I know what you mean with the handbag and the gloves!

Fr Michael

Francis M said...

I agree with Fr BT and Fr Michael, we do get some who complain about homilies, latin, singing etc.

I think that there are further 'siblings', sister and a brother in my parish.

You cannot satisfy everyone - unless you are the Lady with the handbag and gloves.

Perhaps Fr BT you should ask the Lady what she has in her handbag?
Also, will the contents help you sermons?

Francis M

Uncle Joe said...

Pretty often the sermons at my chuch sound as though they've been downloaded from the internet (the 'Homilies' section on Amazon). It's the fact that the priest / deacon just reads from a sheet of paper and makes it seem as though he's reading the wording for the first time.

FrBT said...

Uncle Joe

That is unfortunate and not true.

I sit and put together my homilies. I do this every Monday morning and plan what I am going to say for the week day and weekend Masses.

I am following Blessed John Paul II and what he told us we should be doing. A homily or homilette is what you get from me, written by me.

Fr Ray

I was just wondering - there seems to be two FrBT(s)participating in your blog.
Just to make it clear - we are two different individuals.
Many thanks

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