Are our Homilists “actively participating?”

Well, someone has to ask this question now and again occasionally. Being long of tooth and a born curmudgeon, I’ll take the blowback. But I don’t expect much to actually come my way in this life, at least.

To be brutally frank, I’m done, exhausted with, recoil from even reading or hearing this clumsy phrase, “active participation.” Expiating it in Latin ain’t any better, just sayin’.

I’ve never suffered from this malaise personally since crossing the Tiber over four decades ago. I don’t carry a bag of angry cats that, when I walk through the doors of a church, I display as a reason not to take up my responsibility as a worshipper. If in a foreign parish and someone announces a hymn or ordinary setting is to be sung now, I sing it. What else am I supposed to do? I chose to come to church, to worship, in the manner prescribed and fully because I like God, quite a bit actually, and love Him as Christ and enjoy the Spirit’s breath expelled that becomes both text and song in that most sublime of arts.

I noticed young Mr. Yanke’s article published today just before this one, I also saw it on Fr. Keye’s FB entry, so this Fr. Gismondi’s interview must be quite something. I’ll get around to it. Or maybe not.

Because, I’ve disavowed my own personal culpability for other folks’ bag of cats that keep them from full engagement in the greatest act, or drama that we humans can re-create that provides us with true succor and hope in this despairing world.

Besides, if a groaner/moaner about the sorry state of “singing in church” want’s to point a bony finger of indignation towards THE responsible party, I direct them toward the guy in the alb and chasuble. If the celebrant upon at the “presider’s” chair cannot or won’t manage to intone the “In Nomine Patris….” or any other orations as he is virtually disciplined to do in Musicam Sacram, well, I’d be surprised if the entrance hymn sung prior to that moment was lustily taken up by the congregation. (And have all of us who frequent here also had the recurrent thought “Thank God for the choir, bless their hearts” for taking up that slack, such as they are!”?) Because the equation of that mandated wisdom from 1967 (!) is pure simplicity in action, a physics truism even- for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction!

If Father, OTOH, chooses to lead and no matter how humbly or magnificently he chants his proper portions, and the response he receives is the chirping of crickets, Father should grab the processional cross and clear the temple of the rabble who are there for “other” purposes, lock the doors (keeping a server or two) and sing a private Mass honorably.

And, at long last, to the point of the title of this little rant, John I, 1. “In the beginning there was the WORD…..” The homily remains almost a sacrosanct vestigial remnant of a time when people actually had something to say to one another. Whether it was in antiquity with Cicero or St. Paul, St. Francis or Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards or John Adams, or in our lifetimes with names like Churchill, King Jr., Sheen, Ghandi, and their ilk, the act of one inspired soul’s words crafted with conviction and purpose to remind large gatherings of other souls’ to listen, to savor, to digest and to transform themselves through those noble thoughts bravely spoken seems to have all but disappeared from our ambos and pulpits.

From what I know of the historical Jesus, he wasn’t a song and dance sort of guy. He didn’t attract crowds of listeners like Cagney in a top hat crooning “I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy.” In the current cycle of Gospel readings we are reminded again and again of the unimaginable power of the story, the parable, the spoken word from a sage to the masses.

So, if we musicians must fret about something as it seems we must always, let us worry about how we can gently and firmly remind our clerical brothers that we choose our repertoire for a reason, we rehearse it thoroughly for a reason, we literally pray that it be taken up or listened to with intent that is pure and unabated by banality or poor improvisation and padding.

Just as every Sanctus sung is literally prefaced with the anamnesis that we are conjoined with choirs of angels IN THAT VERY MOMENT, every homilist ought to re-approach the ambo after the gospel reading as if he is to give the Sermon on the Mount.

4 Replies to “Are our Homilists “actively participating?””

  1. Homilists! Don't get me started. Once in a while I run across a homilist who can give a decent lecture. On the other hand there are homilists out there who ramble on about nothing in particular and whose goal seems to be to lull the congregation to sleep (may years ago I served Mass for a priest who, as he was vesting was muttering "What am I going to say?"). Most are modestly competent, adequate. Please, Father in Heaven, send your ordained minsters the gift of effective preaching!

  2. Or, tell them to shut up and let the liturgy speak for itself. Homilies at weekday Masses are only necessary because the Novus Ordo is so attenuated it would all be over in a quarter of an hour.

    Example: You are told what you are going to hear in the readings. You then hear the readings in an appalling translation delivered portentously by a lay reader. You are then told what you have just heard. You then flee from the church, tearing your hair out and seek out the nearest TLM.

  3. I'd like to delve further into the first part of Mr. C's post: priests setting the example by singing their assigned parts. I brought up the subject to one of our priests. I was dismissed, being told that I ASSUMED if the priests sang the congregation would too. I guess I did, but I also know about modeled behavior….

  4. Wow. Wow. I hope the seventh para is, I don't know, hyperbole for humorous effect. Because it sounds like saying, Church would work much better if we just cleared out all the ignorant, slack-jawed yokels cluttering up the pews. If only we could lock out the scum, the "rabble," then we, the bestest and the brightestest, could finally do it right. "Honorably," at long last, all by ourselves. I've heard some of today's seminarians talk like that. I'm never sure they aren't serious, either.

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