Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Remedy for a Bad Homily

We've got a couple of priests and one full-time deacon in our parish, as well as a couple of regularly scheduled fill-in priests for weekend masses. On any given Sunday you have a one-in-five chance of getting the consistently outstanding homilist. The others are average. One usually hovers close to a high average and all can hit the heights occasionally. But there are those who live in the middle and sometimes dive closer to the depths. Those depths can be pretty shallow.

Now, we're lucky because these guys aren't straying from the truth of Catholicism (as I've heard occasionally when visiting other parishes). The worst that happens is that one remains uninspired, struggling to connect with God.

I know the point of the mass is not the homily. I also know that not every homily is directed at me personally and it might be just what someone else needs to hear. However, you can't deny that a good homily goes a long way toward enriching the entire experience as well as the week to follow.

I have fallen into preparing for Sunday mass beforehand, which is a good habit no matter what kind of homily you expect. There is nothing like being familiar with the readings beforehand for allowing you to sink into them as you hear them read during the liturgy. These are often the times when you are open enough to let God in.

With all that in mind, here are a few of my favorite resources.

Read the Sunday readings.
You can find them at the US Bishops' website 
where you can click on the handy calendar for next Sunday. 

Easy listening, worthwhile podcasts.
Just like a homily, let these reflections wash over you.

Word on Fire
Bishop Robert Barron's homilies
These are about 15 minutes long and come out on Wednesday usually. Bishop Barron often goes for an angle that I don't expect and which is almost always thought provoking. That makes them a perfect warm up to getting your head in the game. (iTunes link, website link)

Lanky Guys
Reflections and context on the readings
Fr. Peter Mussett and Deacon Scott Powell take listeners through the scripture for next Sunday's liturgy. They read each one aloud and dig deeper into context and background about historical, scriptural and liturgical connections. About 45 minutes long, it comes out on Thursday or Friday which gives me time to listen to it in pieces before Sunday. (website link, iTunes link)

Read up.

The Beauty of the Word 
by Anthony Esolen
I use this on Sunday morning. Anthony Esolen focuses on the Collect, Prayer over the Offerings, Preface, and Prayer after Communion for every Mass through the year. He draws the reader's attention to connections with scripture, the Mass readings, and Christ in our lives. This is an easy and quick read each week but I find the prayers have much more meaning when I've read this beforehand. (My full review here.)

Footprints on the Mountain: 
Preaching and Teaching the Sunday Readings 
by Roland J. Faley
I read this Sunday morning. It provides scriptural background on all the readings for each Sunday (nicely divided up into A, B, and C years), as well as at least eight ideas for reflection. The background also discusses why the readings complement each other and specific insights to be found for each. Plus, this is summed up in a brief but pithy reflection on what these readings and points mean to believers. (My full review here.)

In Conversation With God 
Series by Francis Fernandez-Carvajal
I read the upcoming Sunday reflection on Saturday with breakfast. I have been using this series for about 16 years and have yet to find one that is better or more complete. It follows the daily Mass readings, but has a separate reflection for each of the A, B, and C Sundays of the year. Topics range from the sacraments and virtues to family interaction and friendship. It is both practical and inspiring. (My full review here.)

There are obviously lots more good resources out there. Magazines like Word Among Us and Magnificat are some that spring to mind. These are just what appeal to me every week.

The real key is to pick one or two favorites and prepare yourself to encounter God in His Word each Sunday. Then a good homily is a nice bonus and a bad one is easier to tolerate.


  1. Thank you for the annotated links. My parish priest gives sweet, if uninspiring, homilies. Our deacon, what can I say? Someone told him that his life was the paragon of Christian spirituality. And he holds some not quite orthodox opinions, about which he harangues us. I wish our Diocese had better diaconate formation (ever deacon I've heard, in our diocese, offers a personal essay about his family life as the homily. Really? Their vacations are appropriate homily topics?

  2. Church repeated same mistake as priests ordinations in 70's. Ordain whoever applied.

    1. Not sure what that has to do with boring homilies. A great priest may not have the talent to be a great homilist.