Sunday, March 23, 2014

He's technically proficient, but can't give a promo to save his life

I complain a lot about the Novus Ordo as it is typically celebrated. At the same time, I understand why the Reform of the Reform is either dead or dying. We've gotten used to silly music and ugly churches, and nobody likes sudden changes. Objectively, there's no reason why the Novus Ordo Mass can't be celebrated according to the Church's traditional praxis, but the silliness has been going on for so long that most Catholics think it's intrinsic to the rite itself. But there's another problem that's been killing the Church's witness: bad preaching.

If you went to Mass today, tell me what the priest preached about. Speaking for myself, nine times out of ten I can't remember a word of it after Mass. Most homilies I hear open with a corny joke, followed by a wandering summary of the readings, climaxing with vague assurances that Jesus loves us because we're such good people. Once in a while Father hits it out of the ballpark. And once in a while I heard rank heresy such as the real miracle of the loaves and fishes being that Jesus inspired his listeners to share their picnic lunches, though thankfully that's not so common anymore. I've invited Protestants to Mass. Those that come from a nonliturgical background don't know any better besides bits and pieces they may have gleaned from the movies. But what turns them off more than anything is wimpy preaching. Say what you will about their theology, but those old time evangelists really knew how to get people fired up for Christ.

That's why it's so important that you compliment your priest when he gets the homily right. If he gets more positive feedback, he's more likely to keep it up. The sermons at the local FSSP parish (St. Stephen the First Martyr of Sacramento, CA) are always good but today it was great.

Father gave an exhortation against lukewarmness. When we're driving, we don't keep our eyes focused on the hood but on the road. Catholics who are aiming for Purgatory will probably wind up in hell. It's a terrible thing to have a casual attitude toward venial sin. Venial sin doesn't destroy our relationship with God but it does cause wounds. If we get into the habit of deliberate venial sin then it won't be long before we fall into mortal sin. A Christian should not tip toe up to the edge of mortal sin just to see how close he can get without losing his balance and falling. Do athletes train at the bare minimum just to maintain their physique and their skills? Do soldiers take a few potshots at the enemy and then fall back behind the lines for the rest of the battle, having done the bare minimum? Not the good ones. Keep your eyes focused on God and going to heaven.

The life of the Church would be tremendously improved if, once in a while, Novus Ordo priests gave a good old fashioned doctrinal sermon instead of struggling to explain the more obscure Old Testament readings. There's nothing wrong with that - in fact, I think the GIRM asks them to do that - but the problem is not many of y'all are very good at it. No offense Fathers.


  1. The homilies are always memorable at St. Stephen's. At the 10:30, Fr. B preached on the Explorers. When he said "comfort makes you weak and lazy", my teenage son got up and walked out. But he came right back. Just an emergency bathroom break. Scared me there for a minute. :-)

  2. "[...] those old time evangelists really knew how to get people fired up for Christ."

    Not really. They knew and know how to get people fired up, like a lot of people still do for different causes. It just happened to be for Christ.

    1. Another solution I'd be okay with is if priests just an old sermon by St. John Vianney or the Church Fathers off of their iPhone for the homily.