Tuesday 10 November 2015

The Failure of Today's Preaching

I am on record on this blog as lamenting the loss of the Traditional Liturgy (which that is reverent and God-centered in contrast to the Novus Ordo which is entertainment and man centered); the loss of a universal language (Latin) and the loss of the Catechism from schools. I have to add a fourth:  preaching.

According to Sacrosanctum Conclium of Vatican II, “The sermon, moreover, should draw its content mainly from scriptural and liturgical sources, and its character should be that of a proclamation of God's wonderful works in the history of salvation, the mystery of Christ, ever made present and active within us, especially in the celebration of the liturgy.” (SC35,#2) That we have been encouraged by Vatican II to preach on the readings of the day, and by scripture scholars and so-called expert homilists to ‘break open the word’, means we have failed to teach the living out of the Faith.

The result is a loss of huge proportions. It may well be true that before Vatican II all we got was sermons and little or no preaching on the word of God, but today we get homilies focusing on the word and very little if no preaching on the life of Faith, other than the renewal of society.  Now social sin does indeed need to be tackled, but tackling personal sin must come first –we cannot renew society until we renew ourselves; we cannot renew society if the people who make up that society are engaging in illicit sexual liaisons, contraception, abortion, homosexuality, drunkenness, dishonest dealings, violence etc. We simply cannot have a holy society which consists of sinful persons. We may as well try to establish a healthy population fed on nothing but the fats, salts and sugars of junk food, with heavy alcohol consumption and smoking. We are not doing so. We are not challenging personal sin for fear of upsetting people, or fear of being disliked or simply fear of being ridiculed as out-dated.

I grow increasingly saddened by the young families that have returned to Mass but have not returned to The Faith, and there is a huge difference. Returning to The Faith is a return to the living out of The Faith in all its many and varied facets; returning to Mass is simply fire-insurance Catholicism (going to Mass to avoid the fires of hell). In ‘fire insurance Catholicism’ folk return to Mass but simply attach it to their previous worldly lifestyle of excessive alcohol consumption, illicit sexual encounters, cohabitation, contraception, violence and dodgy dealings.  For them, coming to Mass is seen as enough to enter heaven, yet to attend Mass and not live the life of self-denial (and ultimately self-sacrifice) that is at the core of the Mass, is to fail to make the Mass and The Faith alive and active; Catholicism becomes mere attendance at a religious ritual; an external act that makes no impact on the inner man.

The restoration of The Faith is not as simple as being a ‘brick by brick’ restoration of the liturgy, although it certainly includes that; rather, it must include as a foundation a restoration of sermons and of the Catechism in schools. 

Because schools have not taught the content of the Catechism and because preachers have not taught personal moral doctrine but focused on social sin –encouraging the ‘be nice to everyone/social justice’ religion, we have nothing to build upon in those returning to Mass, who justify their sinful behaviors with “the world has moved on… everyone does it…it‘s just enjoying life”.  Sadly, they may very well enjoy life on earth at the expense of enjoying eternity, in that they have continued to live by the ways of the world while attaching Sunday Mass as fire insurance. Trying to get them to see otherwise is a losing battle if one is a lone voice, and I know of few priests who will mention contraception, homosexuality, drunkenness, dishonest dealings, violence etc, in their homilies –which leaves the preacher responsible for the loss of the souls to whom he ministers. One is reminded of the words of Ezekiel 3v18-19: “When I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and you do not speak out to warn the wicked man to turn from his wicked ways that he may live, the wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you have warned the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness, he shall die in his iniquity; but you yourself will have saved your life.”  I may not always go down well with the parish or indeed with my brother priests, but I have no desire to lose my soul or leave people in the dark just to be loved for being ‘nice’ by avoiding the hot-button topics. I may not always avoid sin myself; I may at times fall myself, but to go on as if personal morality does not exist just so as to avoid is not what God has called us to do; we are called to warn those in sin, not affirm ignore their sin or worse, affirm them in it. Until we get back to worship which is at once reverent, propitiative (God-appeasing) and God-centered rather than entertaining, man-affirming and man-cantered; until we get back to teaching the Catechism in schools, and until we get back to preaching personal morality -especially on the virtues and vices, the seven deadly sins, the four sins crying to heaven for vengeance, the three eminent good works, the four last things, the seven gifts and twelve fruits of the Holy Ghost, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy etc- we have no hope of saving the souls of our folk –or our own. 


  1. A commenter on Fr Ray Blake's latest post on his blog mentions the powerful moment when a visiting Priest said in his homily 'The teachings of the Church are hard and we know that you won't keep them - and (pointing) the Confessional Box is OVER THERE! I too remember that moment. I am sure that this one sentence made more impression on us than any other drawn out sermon on the subject might do in future.

  2. Thank you Father. What you have written is our Catholic faith. Sadly I fear that not many people - laity, priests, bishops even - will agree with you. Except for a few brave priests here and there, the faith has not been preached now for two generations and it has been lost. Even those good souls who are trying to be Catholic, who search here and there for a good priest or a half decent parish, very rarely find what they are longing for.
    I wonder how many people still know that the Mass is a propitiatory sacrifice? We can only stay close to Our Lord and His most Blessed Mother.
    God bless.

  3. Could not Agee more Fr Gary. When a bishop or a priest for that matter, has lost the faith, he has lost belief in the truth. In the form of doctrine into which he his was handed over at baptism, and the responsibility with which he was entrusted to preach, teach, uphold and defend as a leader of souls. When a leader stops preaching and teaching doctrine, especially on original sin, redemption and grace, he has stopped handing on faith, is no longer interest the Church's mission of evangelisation and is incapable of leading others to conversion and into holiness.

    1. To many bishops in the Church in the West have failed to make, and continue in this failure, to make the essential and critical connection between faith, doctrine and truth, between catechesis and evangelisation, and neither are they interested in it. They have simply abandoned the Catechism of the Catholic Church in favour of Episcopal Conferences when treating important issues in the life of the Church.
      We must always remember, a bishop reflects a diocese way of being. If he has lost the Church's faith, the prevailing culture is one in which almost the entire diocese is lost, confused and devoured by self-centredness and relevance. Currently far to many dioceses in the Church are captained by these types of degenerates who truly do not care if souls are lost, if the Catholic faith collapses around them, as long as they remain the captain. And, as long as Rome continue to appoint these degenerates as leaders nothing will change.

  4. Thank you for a very good sermon. You are quite right. I think the liturgy and the preaching go hand in hand. The NO leads to nice entertaining sermons. A moral prophetic sermon is best accompanied by the TLM. But this is a result of the protestantising effects of Vatican II.
    H. Sire in his book 'Phoenix from the Ashes' says it all and puts all the maladys of the contemporary Church in the perspective of history.

  5. I attended a Solemn High Mass in the Tridentine rite last week. I am old enough to have attended such Masses in my childhood. However I had forgotten just how different the atmosphere is at such Masses and how deep the feeling that I was the witness of something truly sacred. It was 'extraordinary' in all senses of the word and I concluded that anyone who held this form of the Mass in less than awe must, in some way, be spiritually deformed.

  6. Since i have been reading some of the teachings of the saints i have become aware of how impoverished i myself and many many other catholics are... and saddly i believe this lack of catholic education from pulpet to classroom has been planned so that we after many years will be willing to sacrafice the very truths of our faith in order to accept hersey as means of bringing into existance a false belief system that will erroniously promise the answer to mankinds suffering. Exactly the type of final trial the ccc expressly says we must undergo before the second coming of christ.

  7. Father,

    I did not know that Vat II had encouraged talk only on the (many obscure) readings of the day. Have read SC, a dubious document but must have missed that. However it explains a lot.

    Particularly with the abandonment of Catholic education and Apologetics in schools, what else can we expect but an ignorant and increasingly un-Catholic laity. But then perhaps that was the objective!

    The sermon is all that is left. It is now up to priests to preach Catholicism and Catholic doctrine. OK, taper it by all means to your audience, but preach you must. There is no alternative!

    And if some get up and walk out, that is their choice. No one has to be a Catholic after all!


Please comment using a pseudonym, not as 'anonymous'.
If you challenge the Magisterium, please do so respectfully.
We reserve the right to delete from comments any inflammatory remarks.
If we do not reply to your comment it is through lack of time rather than interest.