Good Roman Catholic preachers and their homilies are rare, indeed. Even instructors of liturgical preaching will admit that the Protestants and non–mainline denominations leave Catholic preachers in the dust. So-called Roman Catholic pastors like Fr Mario Julian of St Anthony of Padua church in Troy, New York, make that observation an understatement!
Ignorance of, or worse still, Indifference to the Role of the Homily is Unforgivable in a Pastor!
“From some fissure the smoke of Satan has
entered into the temple of God.”
(Pope Paul VI, June 29, 1972)
Quite frankly and regrettably, I have to admit this is true, and the truth is right before our eyes in our Eucharistic liturgies on Sunday morning (or Saturday evening for you good Catholics who need to sleep in on Sundays).
Catholic preaching instructors and Catholic schools of theology and ministry rely heavily on non–Catholic sources
I can vouch for the fact that Catholic preaching instructors and Catholic schools of theology and ministry rely heavily on non–Catholic sources for their preaching resources because I was at the receiving end of that insidious and shameful practice. I say insidious and shameful because Roman Catholic seminary instructors have a wealth of Tradition and tradition to draw on for good preaching, but they appear to be pitifully ignorant of those great resources; admittedly, the great Protestant and Reformed tradition preachers are great presenters from their rather slanted heterodox perspectives, and it’s embarrassing for someone steeped and educated in Roman, Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic Traditions and traditions to have to deal with that, especially when I appreciate the immense sacramental value of a well–wrought homily or sermon.
Too Many Roman Catholic Priests and Deacons Preach Pitifully Poorly
A recent experience proved that not only to too many Roman Catholic priests and deacons preach pitifully poorly but that some have no clue what a homily is, and they are apparently totally ignorant of the guidelines on homiletics that govern preaching in the Roman Catholic assembly, especially on high holy days and on Sundays. As one early saint observed: “Our priests are ignorant and have no faith.” I’d add that they are egregiously ignorant of Holy Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers, and even of the most recent guidelines provided for them by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops!
The preacher should devour and digest Holy Scripture so that it becomes spiritual girth; Mario Julian’s girth has not come from devouring Holy Scripture, that’s painfully obvious.
That recent experience comes from a parish in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany in New York state. The parish, St Anthony of Padua church in Troy, New York. The so–called pastor, if I may so so loosely use the term, was a Roman Catholic priest, Mario Julian. The event: Christmas midnight Mass on December 25, 2015. The sacrilege: Julian didn’t provide a homily but played a secular Christmas pop song, “So this is Christmas,” and after the tinny recording had finished, launched directly into the Creed. If the local ordinary, Edward Scharfenberger, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, lets this peccadillo go unnoticed, he, too, should be sent to a remote monastery to relocate his spirituality!
What’s worse still is that Julian apparently has the time to write a blog but doesn’t have time to craft a suitable homily for a major Christian feast day. That’s reprehensible.
When I was doing my studies at Saint Bernard’s School of Ministry and Theology (outlets in Rochester/Syracuse/Albany), one of my degree requirements was Liturgical Preaching. It was taught by a local priest—in all honesty a very clever fellow and a good preacher—and was a requirement for masters of divinity, training for the deaconate and the presbyterate, etc. The course was based on required readings, and practical homily writing and presentation. The readings were exclusively non–Catholic authors. I found that odd; wouldn’t you? I aced the course but left with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. It seems that even a Roman Catholic seminary college is following the mercenary lead of the secular colleges; short on education big on fees.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s assume that you are a Roman Catholic seminarian or master of divinity candidate, and you are required to take a course in liturgical preaching. Wouldn’t you at least expect to learn something about the great RC preachers like Origen, Augustine, Chrysostom, Bernard, Aquinas, Newman (by way of exception I would include here even John Knox, the great Reformation theologian and dynamic preacher), among others? The works of Dante, Manley – Hopkins and Chesterton could and should have been included in the readings. Or at least the principal instructions on homiletics promulgated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (see below)? Nope. Not a mention of any of these in the entire course!
For The Express Benefit of the Ignorant and Lousy RC Preachers Out There, Let Me Just Point Out the Two USCCB Documents You Should Consult on Preaching
So, for you ignorant and lousy RC preachers out there, let me just point out the two USCCB documents, to which I’m referring and let’s see if you can admit honestly that you’ve ever heard of them, much less even read them: “Fulfilled in Your Hearing. The Homily in the Sunday Assembly.” (USCCB ©1982) and “Preaching the Mystery of Faith. The Sunday Homily” (USCCB © 2012). I’d also briefly mention by way of example Vatican II documents like Dei Verbum (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, esp. No. 8); Pope Paul VI call for missio ad gentes, Evangelio Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World), revitalized by Pope John – Paul II in his Redemptio Missio (On the Permanent Validity of the Church’s Missionary Mandate, No. 3) Pope Benedict’s exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis (The Sacrament of Charity, esp. No. 46). Verbum Domini (The Word of the Lord, esp. No. 1, 12, 59, 86 – 87122), and the list could go on ad infinitum ad nauseumque! But why bother. My point is made.
The more recent Preaching the Mystery of Faith (2012) either includes directly or paraphrases its precursor Fulfilled in Your Hearing, the latter being more to the point of giving helpful instruction on how to craft an effective homily for the Sunday liturgy. “Preaching the Mystery” goes into somewhat wordy detail in spelling out the reasons for its main points. You’d think that wouldn’t be necessary since the document expressly targets those “who by virtue of presbyteral ordination, share in the apostolic office to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ [citing the Code of Canon Law (CIC), c. 767, §§1 – 2]…also…those who are responsible for the formation and training of future priests and deacons as well as those who conduct continuing education programs for the clergy.” Now that’s pretty clear, isn’t it. If the “ordained” ministers of the word should be aware of these documents but if they are not those responsible for their formation and training should be. Who dropped the ball?
“Preaching the Mystery” calls the homily “an ecclesial act” and requires that the preacher be “a man of holiness” and “a man of scripture”, “a man of tradition” and “a man of communion,” and goes on to describe these concepts in detail. But as to the homily, and here’s a very important point, it states that “[e]very homily, because it is an intrinsic part of the Sunday Eucharist [viz. the Liturgy), must therefore be about the dying and risking of Jesus Christ, [H]is sacrificial passage through suffering to new and eternal life for us.” Now, Fr Mario Julian of St Anthony of Padua RC church, where did you find that message in “So this is Christmas”?
Fr Mario Julian: How on earth you could commit the sacrilege of bringing in a popular secular tune in lieu of the homily, an “intrinsic part of the liturgy?”
In fact, Mario, Sacrosanctum Concilium (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, No. 52), reminds us that “the homily is an integral part of the Eucharist itself”…it [the homily] is meant to set hearts on fire with praise and thanksgiving…a feature of the intense and privileged encounter with Jesus Christ…connects the two parts of the Eucharistic liturgy as it looks back on the Scripture readings and forward to the sacrificial meal.” The homily is a “connection between Eucharist and mission” and “[a] homily that does not lead to mission is, therefore, incomplete.” So, Fr Mario, I’m all ears as to how you managed to completely fall on your face when failing in all respects in the express purposes of the homily and how on earth you could commit the sacrilege of bringing in a popular secular tune in lieu of the homily, an “intrinsic part of the liturgy?”
Priests Don’t Know Shite from Shinola When it Comes to Homiletics
Maybe Bishop Scharfenberger will step forward to explain why his priest, his priests don’t know shite from Shinola when it comes to homiletics? How does one keep the faith when our priests cause scandal?
I think we all know and have seen the results of this sort of rubbish pasturing: its obvious effects is an insult to faith, a bastardization of the liturgy, a perversion of the ministry of preaching. When it goes uncorrected by the chief pastors and teachers of the church, the bishops, it is a clear and egregious dereliction of sacred duty, a direct violation to the Mystical Body. Just as we would prosecute and punish anyone who would assault and harm the physical person of another human being, we should not allow such spiritual assault to go unnoticed.
Shame on you Mario Julian and shame on you, too, Edward Scharfenberger
My heart goes out to those few remaining faithful who venture out into the night on that most special of eves to celebrate the coming of the Messiah, the miracle of the Incarnation, and who were spiritually abused by an incompetent and insensitive pastor, Fr Mario Julian, and subjected to a pop tune instead of a beautiful exegesis of the Christmas Gospel.
Shame on you Mario Julian and shame on you, too, Edward Scharfenberger, if you, too, are derelict in your obligations, and do not discipline Julian for this insult to the Church. And we all know the story of Narcissus, don’t we?
“Now the true soldiers of Christ must always be prepared to do battle for the truth, and must never, so far as lies with them, allow false convictions to creep in.” (Origen of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book VI)
If you haven’t read enough here, you may want to read “Preaching the Strange Word” by Bishop Robert Baron auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. (Bishop Robert Barron, “Preaching the Strange Word”, The Catholic World, Report, October 27, 2015 http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/4322/preaching_the_strange_word.aspx, last accessed on January 29, 2016)
Is there a certain Marist priest who is celebrating the Eucharist in a local funeral home on a regular basis? Yes! That’s pretty bizarre and weird—and it’s canonically unlawful—but it’s being done right under bishop Scharfenberger’s nose. Is he informed about it? We’ll make certain he can’t deny knowing about it. And we’ll have a closer look at other abuses in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. Stay tuned.
“Qui tacet consentire videtur ubi loqui debuit ac potuit.”
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