From Bishop Hugh Lindsay SIR – Mr Clifford Wale (Letters, August 26) claims that a custom of “rigorous religious instruction from the pulpit” before the Council has been replaced by “Sunday sermons... always on the Gospel of the day”. He says this is not mentioned in the recently revised General Instruction of the Roman Missal (CTS, £9.95) Yet it says: “The Homily is part of the Liturgy... It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings... or of another text from the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.” That is based on the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. We priests and bishops are following both liturgical law and the new Code of Canon Law on the homily. Many of us do include some religious instruction, but within those limits.
In the 1950s many, if not most, churches had one sermon; the other Masses had no preaching or instruction at all. Later, some dioceses arranged systematic instruction at each Mass on three Sundays each month; even then, it was technically irregular. When the Council decree was published, that arrangement had to be changed; the Holy See’s instruction was that any syllabus had to be geared to the Liturgy. Our diocese tried to square the circle, but it proved impossible. The right place for catechetical instruction was, and is, outside Mass; but, as long as I have been a priest, far from everyone then comes to hear it.
Mr Wale’s “bold parish priest” who would “ignore it and start a systematic system of instruction” at each Sunday Mass would be acting against present Church law.
Yours faithfully, +HUGH LINDSAY Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria From Fr Anthony Milner SIR – Cliff Wale wonders where the practice of preaching on the readings comes from. Both General Instruc tion on the Roman Missal (n 65 in the new edition, 41 in the old) and the General Instruction on the Lectionary (n 24) state that the homily is “part of the Liturgy” and so should be should be “an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day” (GIRM). As an integral part of the Liturgy the homily should relate to it. It is not, therefore, appropriate to deliver a “course” via the homilies.
However a bit of ingenuity from the priest can enable him to develop a series of themes over a number of weeks. There is room for that provided that the priest keeps in mind the requirement to link the homily to the liturgy being celebrated.
Indeed, the Instruction on the Lectionary says that “through the course of the liturgical year the homily sets forth the mysteries of the faith and the standards of Christian life on the basis of the sacred text” – so we who preach do have a responsibility to do more than paraphrase the Gospel, and if we fail in that responsibility I, for one, apologise.
Yours faithfully, ANTHONY MILNER Crawley, W Sussex