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Mike Hayes
Our readers asked:

What should I do when I hear a lousy homily at mass?

Mike Hayes Answers:

It’s always uncomfortable for people to give and get criticism.  But when offered and received from a place of charity, it can often be a good thing.

A priest friend of mine some time ago told me that he welcomes criticism, especially on the weeks that he knows he was feeling a bit “off” in his delivery or preparation.  In fact he also says that he needs to hear from his parishioners to know whether he’s reaching them and ministering to their needs as a preacher.

I would say the following.  A homily criticism shouldn’t be the first interaction that you have with your priest.  He deserves an opportunity to get to know you and for you to get to know him.  Secondly, in the waning seconds after mass might also not be the best place to launch into a critique either!

Here’s what I do.  I do two things when I hear a bad homily.  First, I talk with the preacher afterwards briefly about setting up a time when we might be able to chat a bit more formally about the experience of Sunday mass.  I let him know that I’m struggling to hear the message that he’s trying to communicate and ask if he might have a few minutes to speak about that.  I’ve never been refused.

Secondly, if the problem is lazy preparation and I think that the preacher “mailed it in” that week (hey, we’re all human!), I usually reduce my collection offering and enclose a note in my weekly envelope explaining why I “cheaped out.”  I wrote a tongue-in-cheek article on that experience some time ago.  Feel free to read that here.

The Author : Mike Hayes
Mike Hayes is the senior editor for the Googling God section at BustedHalo.com.
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  • Bernard

    Your June 10, 2011 homily on Adoration reimnded me of the first time Benigne & I ever heard of the practice. We were at a Marriage Encounter convention at the University of Southern California in about 1973. At one of the whole convention talks (it took place in a huge auditorium) the husband of the couple making the presentation told everybody that they had arranged at a chapel, located just on the other side of the USC Experimental Rose Garden. What made the announcement so memorable was when he cautioned that Jesus DOES NOT WANT any of the roses from the experimental garden. Anyway, we visited the chapel (no, we didn’t cut a rose from the experimental garden; but the Monstrance had a pile of roses in front of it by the time we arrived all legal I hope); our experience was not as intense as Avery’s, but we began to understand. Twenty plus years later when a new parishioner at our parish here broached the idea of a 24-hour adoration one day a week, we signed up immediately and have spent an hour with Jesus every week we were near either our chapel or another place where he’s exposed.I looked this afternoon at the website for the Immaculate Heart station in Phoenix; it’s a sub-page of the main IH Radio website, so there’s no station-specific information available. What I did find on that page, however, is a listing of all the parishes in the Diocese of Phoenix with Eucharistic Adoration. The closest one to Payson with Perpetual Adoration is just off Indian School Road in Scottsdale, about 2 miles directly north of the Lowes store on McDowell where we purchased our rug last spring.

  • Deacon Jack

    Mike, I can understand your frustration but not your method of ‘punishment’ to the parish. By not donating to the general funds of the parish you are in effect punish your fellow members.

    Not all priests/deacons are good homilists and for those of us who have them we are truly blessed. I do believe that we need constructive feedback both to a poor homily as well as a good homily. When I’m told that my homily was good I ask them what they heard for themselves. I search out folks asking about how I can improve and folks have been honest with me.

    I think withholding your donation to the general funds is really not the way to go. My 2 cents!!


  • Mike Hayes

    Thanks everyone, I understand your point and thanks for pointing that out.

    I let the preacher know that I’m dissatisfied by doing that and I allocate my funds directly to another part of the parish’s plans directly. Parishes have a huge responsibility to deliver good liturgy in my opinion. And sure, anyone can have a bad week. It’s not like I don’t contribute anything. But if it’s clear that someone mailed it in–just didn’t try (and there are plenty of times when I can tell that this was the first time the guy looked at the Gospel that week–and I’m very involved, I’ve seen what the pastor has done all week) –then I lower the contribution and give the remainder to another parish ministry or a local charity.

    So I’m with you on supporting the parish and on understanding the workload of the priest, but I do support the parish intentionally and in a direct way and make a statement when someone’s work is lax at the same time.

  • Mark

    While I agree about giving constructive feedback, I am with cathyf and jcl76 regarding the collection.

  • jcl76

    I completely agree with Cathyf. It is terrible to donate less because the homily isn’t up to your standards. You never know what a priest is going through – he could’ve spent the week ministering to an ill parishoner, or staying up late to counsel a grieving friend, etc. You should support your church all the time, not just when the priest’s homilies are good.

  • cathyf

    I am rather appalled by the notion that you see a financial penalty to the parish (and its ability to carry out its mission) as a reasonable reaction to whatever failures a preacher had in a homily. In my parish we consider ourselves responsible for what the parish does. Our last pastor (an excellent preacher) was here a year, his predecessor (a terrible one) for four. Our current pastor (and sole resident priest in 2 counties) is another terrible preacher, although his English is poor enough that it is often hard to tell just what he is saying — and according to the Spanish-speaking parishioners his Spanish is even worse.

    We are extraordinarily grateful for what we have, and what we have built. Priests come and go, and we are still here, still keeping things going. The homily may be lousy every mass — or so incoherent that you couldn’t tell if it’s heretical — but we have mass. And regular access to Confession, and a pretty good chance of Last Rites if we die. There are people in our diocese who must travel great distances for that.

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