Better homilies, better readers: That’s the ticket

VATICAN CITY — The need for better homilies and the importance of lectors carefully, slowly and clearly proclaiming the word have been insistently recurring themes at the world Synod of Bishops on the Bible.

Auxiliary Bishop Anton Leichtfried of Sankt Polten, Austria, told the synod yesterday that for too many Catholics, going to Mass is like standing near a train station: every once in a while, a train whips by — the Sunday Scripture readings.

A Franciscan Friar at Rome's Termini Train Station (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

A Franciscan Friar at Rome's Termini Train Station. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

“The readings of the Sacred Scripture will pass quickly by the ears and eyes of the faithful who cannot get on board and stay on board,” he said.

Bishop Leichtfried asked the synod to suggest that all Catholics read at least the Gospel for themselves before going to church. And that those who preach really take on board the fact that their Sunday homily is probably the only Biblical reflection most Catholics will hear all week.

3 Responses

  1. The importance of having good readers is not reserved for weekend Masses. How many times does a parish “settle” for anyone who volunteers to read? There is also the problem pastors have with “legacy” readers and with those whom the parish wants to “encourage” by giving them the honor of reading at daily Masses.

    One parish I know of has both of the problems mentioned above. One reader at weekly Mass has fine connections with the clergy, is reliable, and tries very hard; but he cannot read and has very poor judgment insofar as announcements and movements around the altar and speaking loudly before and after Mass. A reader at another Mass has a confidence problem; and when his nerves turn to jelly while reading, he makes up words, skips over phrases, and reads words incorrectly.

    If there is a reading at any Mass, those in attendance have the right to hear it pronounced correctly, so that they may learn thereby. The good done by the parish I have referred to in helping two individuals is far outweighed by the harm done to hundreds every week. It is time for pastors to set the standard for readers (not to mention music directors) and to make Mass a time of learning. Coaxing the timid and rewarding the reliable-but-uninspiring parishioner are matters to be taken up outside of Mass.

  2. I like the analogy Bishop Leichtfried used when he was explaining the Homily and the readings. It does feel like you are in a train station and the readings are passing you by along with other parts of the Mass
    His comment on biblical reflections is right on the money but to even go further than that; make these reflections part of your everyday life. Draw comparisons with the readings with your day whether it was a good day or bad day for you.
    I remember a few years ago I heard a priest say that he felt he was not preaching that well and to improve he felt he had to get close to a family in his parish and experience their daily lives. He stayed overnight at one of his families homes. The family had five children, ages 1 to 10. He said that when he saw how difficult it was for them to get to Sunday Mass with breakfast , getting dressed, etc. a whole different outlook developed for his homilies. He tried to make them more meaningful realizing where his parishioners were coming from and where they are at.

  3. I like this idea a great deal and concur with the observations regarding a train flying by. One other thing I would mention is to make some sort of concerted effort to tie the two readings and the gospel reading with the homily. Most of the time, a decent job is done making the homily reflect the gospel but I often feel as if the first and second reading is ignored. As someone who is currently undergoing RCIA and who has been going to mass for some time now, the readings and homily are a major part of the mass since I cannot take communion as of yet.

    As for the other comments, I agree as well.

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