Why Fr. Russell is right! An opinion on Russell Pollitt’s homiletic standpoint.

In business, a project manager’s lot is not an easy one. Their discipline requires of them that they tell their sponsors what they need to hear and not what they want to hear! Well Fr. Russell has done just that and as a result he has attracted the admiration of many – particularly in the lay fraternity, as well as the vitriol of not a few antagonists. In June he wrote a piece (READ) describing how he had walked out of mass in protest against a mind numbing and banal excuse for a homily!

He recently followed up his initial opinion piece (READ) with a post containing some of the replies he had received in response to that initial blog piece and the following one in particular caught my attention:

“I am disturbed that you, as a priest, do not understand that Sunday Mass is about the Sacrament. Go back to the seminary and learn about the Mass! The preaching makes no difference.”

‘The preaching makes no difference’ – that is a sad indictment of the state of the Church’s teaching ability and perversely supports Fr. Russell’s point of view! Of course this statement, source undetermined, displays a frightening ignorance of the liturgy and reveals rather, a defensive retort to an alarming truth!

The homily is an integral and very important part of the liturgy, so much so that in 2015 the Vatican saw fit to publish a papal decree on the matter entitled ‘Homiletic Directory’.[i] The decree noted: “It is very poignant that Pope Francis wished to devote considerable attention to the theme of the homily in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium.” Pope Francis goes straight to the heart of the matter when he says: “The homily is the touchstone for judging a pastor’s closeness and ability to communicate to his people”.[ii] He goes on to say that the homily is not so much a time of meditation and catechesis but rather a dialogue between God and His people, much in the same way as Jesus dialogued with the local multitudes in Palestine 2000 years ago. The homily is meant to highlight the salvific mission of God and the covenantal undertakings between a God and His people.[iii] As Pope Francis clarifies: “The homily has special importance due to its Eucharistic context: it surpasses all forms of catechesis as the supreme moment in the dia­logue between God and his people which lead up to sacramental communion”.[iv]

Pope Benedict echoes this sentiment in his Exhortation, Verbum Domini when he says: “The homily ‘is part of the liturgical action’ and is meant to foster a deeper understanding of the word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the lives of the faithful”.[v]

So, contrary to the contributor’s viewpoint, it seems that the homily does form a very close part of the liturgy. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal is very specific about the place of the homily in the liturgy:

“The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is highly recommended for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life.” [vi]

In conclusion, it was a finding of the fathers of Vatican II, that the homily is critical to the growth of the Christian diaspora, and aiding in holding firm to the values of Christ.[vii]


  1. H.H. Pope Benedict XVI. (2010, Sept. 30). Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini – The Word of the Lord. Retrieved Sept. 20, 2016, from The Holy See – Apostolic Exhortations – Benedict: http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20100930_verbum-domini.html
  2. H.H. Pope Francis I. (2013, Nov. 24). Apostolic Exhortation Evangelli Guadium – The Joy of the Gospel. Retrieved Sept. 20, 2016, from The Holy See – Apostilc Exhortations – Francis: http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium.html#The_joy_of_the_gospel
  3. H.H. Pope Paul VI. (1965, Nov. 18). Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation – Dei Verbum. Retrieved 2016, from The Holy See – Document of Vatican II – Paul VI: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19651118_dei-verbum_en.html
  4. The Roman Catholic Church. (2010). The General Instruction of the Roman Missal. Retrieved 2016, from The Vatican – Roman Curia: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20030317_ordinamento-messale_en.html

[i] http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccdds/documents/rc_con_ccdds_doc_20140629_direttorio-omiletico_en.html

[ii] (H.H. Pope Francis I, 2013, p. Part II # 135)

[iii] (H.H. Pope Francis I, 2013, p. Part II # 137)

[iv] ibid. emphasis is mine.

[v] (H.H. Pope Benedict XVI, 2010, p. The Importance of the Homily # 59)

[vi] (The Roman Catholic Church, 2010, p. The Homily GIRM # 65)

[vii] (H.H. Pope Paul VI, 1965, p. Sacrosanctum Concilium # 52)


About Anthony

I am a married Catholic who is interested in Theology, History, Philosophy and the search for truth. I also have a penchant for photography.
This entry was posted in Observations, Opinions, Religion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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