Friday, January 22, 2010

Hushing horrid homilies & seeing the sacred in art

Sandro Magister writes (www.chiesa) :
ROME, January 21, 2010 – A stir was made recently by Bishop Mariano Crociata's criticism of the shoddy quality of many Sunday homilies.

Crociata is the secretary general of the Italian bishops' conference. Speaking at a conference on the liturgy at the end of the year, he called many of the homilies given from the pulpit every Sunday insipid "mush," almost an "inedible dish," and in any case "hardly nourishing."

His criticisms were picked up by "L'Osservatore Romano" and by Vatican Radio. There were some who retrieved a quip Joseph Ratzinger made when he was a cardinal: "The miracle of the Church is that it survives millions of terrible homilies every Sunday."

As pope, Ratzinger has made it abundantly clear that he thinks one of the primary duties of the Church is to elevate the quality of the homilies.

The homilies that he gives himself at public celebrations have become a characteristic feature of his pontificate. He prepares them personally, with extreme care. In fact, he proposes them as a model.
All well and good. One has to clearly discern the malady before understanding the remedy; and we can certainly give God thanks for the example offered by our Holy Father.

Massimo Naro, in a brief essay, "The artistic road to the sacred mysteries" (in the lower half of Sandro Magistro's above-linked post), reviews the latest volume of a three-volume work by Timothy Verdon – an art historian, priest, professor at Stanford University, and director of the diocesan office for catechesis through art in Florence – in which Verdon comments on the lectionary for Sunday and feast day Masses using masterpieces of Christian art chosen in conjunction with the Gospel of the day.

Whatever benefit this approach may have, it seems clear that what is sorely needed in Catholic seminary education is not only more exemplary models of inspiring and effective Gospel proclamation (such as a few of our seminaries have), but a deeper acquaintance with and deeper love for Scripture, and good, solid courses in practical biblical hermeneutics and the theology of preaching.


Rachel said...

Some of those mushy and seemingly horrible homilies are actually quite brilliant in their way, when you realize they're crafted to mean whatever the hearer desires. "The Eucharist is meant to be shared," said one priest who offered no further elaboration. I could take that mean we need to evangelize, and someone else could take it to mean we need to come out of Mass with a friendly attitude, and someone else could take it to mean that it's high time we jettisoned restrictions on non-Catholics receiving Communion.

Or again, "Let us give from our poverty and not from our wealth," said another priest, and I thought, "Well, that's pretty hardcore-- does he want us to give all we have to live on like the poor widow in the Temple?" But it might only mean "Give in a spirit of humility," or, "Don't be ostentatious like that rich guy in the Temple."

Or what about this, which I heard from a Presbyterian pastor but which closely resembles some Catholic homilies: "We need to be seeing and hearing where Christ has fallen into the concrete reality of somebody else's life." It sort of sounds good-- he mentioned both Christ and "concrete reality"!

I once heard Cardinal Mahoney speak here in L.A., and it seemed to me that priests in this diocese have learned their style from him.

But I've heard some very bracing homilies too, from religious priests. They've gotten very specific and direct about contraception, abortion, the reality of Hell, the necessity of Confession, the heroic lives of the saints, and the presence and power of Christ in the Eucharist. That kind of thing is not only more helpful, but also much more interesting.

Pertinacious Papist said...

I agree with your point about the mushy horrid homilies being "brilliant" in their own compromised way. Good point.

Sheldon said...

Rachel does make a good point about the brilliance of those who acquiesce in the watering down of homilies into ear-tickling banalities. Yet a large part of these mushy homilies, I would impute to simple lack of spine. They represent a spirit of capitulation to the cultural milieu of mindless sentimentality.