A Catholic Misfit’s Handy Dandy Guide to Priestly Homily Styles

We’ve all been there: you attend Mass at a new church, or a visiting priest is presiding, and when it comes time for the homily, you start to wonder. What kind of homily does this priest give?  Or maybe the deacon will deliver the sermon. What’s he going to do? How’s he going to preach?

Well, worry no longer. A Catholic Misfit has produced the Handy Dandy Guide to Priestly Homily Styles to help you navigate through such an experience. We’ve highlighted six major styles, complete with signs to look out for, and tips on how to respond and react.

There are no right or wrong styles, mind you. Personal preference on the part of the preacher is not an indication of the homily’s quality (or lack thereof). Our own inclinations say more about us than any particular style, too. This is simply a reference guide to assist you, and provide peace of mind when confronted with an unfamiliar situation. And have a little fun, too.


  • The Wanderer

Indicator: Immediately upon kissing the Lectionary, the priest descends from the pulpit or ambo and delivers the homily outside the sanctuary. He may stroll up and down the main aisle, or move from one side of the Church to the other.
Response: Try to maintain visual contact without undue exertion; do NOT crane your neck around if he walks past you! If you can’t see the priest while he wanders, just gaze longingly at the ambo, or the cute baby in the pew in front of you. If there are no cute babies in the pew in front of you, you’re on your own.

  • The Quizzer

Indicator: This style includes asking the congregation questions, with the expectation that someone will either raise their hand or shout out the answer. Sometimes The Quizzer will ask someone directly – typically a young child – with the hope he will respond with humorous effect. This is often combined with The Wanderer, so be prepared!
Response: Never EVER make eye contact with The Quizzer! You don’t want to be called upon. Keep your gaze down, looking at your hands in your lap. Forcibly restrain your children from raising their hands if you must. Offer up prayers for souls in Purgatory.

  • The Rambler

Indicator: In this style, the preaching branches off with multiple tangents without ever really making a point, or rarely coming to a tangible conclusion. Repeating the same point multiple times is another sign. Just when you think the homily is about to end, the priest stumbles upon another thread, and goes on for several more moments.
Response: Once the rambling and repetition starts, you have little recourse other than to suffer through it. Fondly recall the times your five year old child told you how their school day went, and how you learned absolutely nothing. Similarly, accept the fact you won’t learn anything from the homily.

  • The Comedian

Indicator: Begins the homily with a joke or anecdote, followed up by a couple more cute quips, and once the laughter dies down, attempts to tie in the readings and Gospel. And throws in a few more one-liners for good measure.
Response: Laugh if you want, but more than likely, you’ll remember the homily more for the mirth than for the message. There’s nothing inherently wrong with using humor, but you may be tempted to heckle. Don’t though. That’s all sorts of wrong.

  • The Yeller

Indicator: You’ll know as soon as the priest proclaims the Gospel. So self-evident, it barely needs explaining. There are varying degrees of The Yeller: there’s The Spitter (that ain’t Holy Water, for those of you in the front row. Grab a towel!); The Pounder (what did the ambo do to deserve such treatment?); The EM-Pha-SIZ-er (hittin’ those syllables with clockwork precision). And if the microphone is still on? Ouch.
Response: Yeah, there’s no escaping this one, even if you shepherd your children into the cry room, teenagers or not. Or the gathering space. There really isn’t a discreet way to slip in a pair of ear plugs, and earbuds are just poor taste. You just have to endure. And not sit in the front row next time.

  • The Reciter

Indicator: When the folded papers come out of the back of his missal, or from beneath the Lectionary. This style isn’t so bad – unless it’s a sheaf of pages containing single-spaced typed text. Then you’re in for a looooong one. This style has two versions: The Originalist (his own homily); The Historian (a homily from a 19th century priest or saint).
Response: These are easy to pay attention to, because there’s minimal distraction. The Reciter tends to be a reformed Rambler, so that’s good. Delivery is the key thing; if it’s too rote and dry, you may soon be nodding off, and risk doing that funny head-bob thing. Or drool. Or snore. Any of those would be bad. The only way it’d be worse is if the priest is also The Quizzer.

There you go! Your Handy Dandy Guide to Priestly Homily Styles. It’s possible we’ve overlooked other common styles – heck, it’s not like we did this scientifically or anything. If you know of other styles, leave ’em in the combox.

Photo credit: Spencer Means on Visualhunt / CC BY-SA

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Pope Francis to Pastors: “Be Merciful and Accompany Those Who Hear Laurel and not Yanny”

[ACMPress] – VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis issued a short message to Catholic priests this morning: Be merciful to those who hear “Laurel”, and accompany them in their journey towards accepting “Yanny” as the truth.

“Around the globe, people are asked if they hear ‘Laurel’ or ‘Yanny’, and all too often those who hear ‘Laurel’ are berated and made to feel bad. Among you this must not be so! No, I say! Be merciful to them, and accompany them to a greater acceptance of their truth.”

He said that those who claim to hear ‘Yanny’ are too rigid, and must be more flexible in living out their truth.

“While it is plainly obvious ‘Yanny’, we must not chide those who believe they hear ‘Laurel’. The Holy Spirit works in surprising ways, and we must never stifle His mystical working among all peoples.”

He concluded his short message with this familiar phrase: ” If someone says they hear ‘Laurel’ and is searching for the Lord in good faith and has good will, then who am I to judge?”

Photo credit: Aleteia Image Partners on VisualHunt / CC BY-SA

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Jesus on Calvary – The Hill Worth Dying On

Whenever I hear the expression “That’s not a hill worth dying on”, I sometimes think, y’know what? Jesus already did that.

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Preacher at ‘Avengers’ Movie Demonstrates How NOT to Evangelize

There are many ways to evangelize people, but this is definitely not one of them. Came across a story from a couple weeks ago at LosAngeles.cbslocal.com:

‘If You Were To Die Tonight’: Preacher Causes Panic in Theater at ‘Avengers’ Showing

An outing to catch one of the season’s most anticipated films turned into a panic-filled afternoon for some moviegoers Friday.

Armed officers rushed to the Harkins Mountain Grove 16 theaters in Redlands, where people had just finished watching the latest installment of  the “Avengers” franchise, fearing there might a gunman inside. Witnesses said when the movie was over, a man stood up and started yelling in what sounded like a preacher’s sermon.

“I think when he said, ‘If you were to die tonight, would your passage to heaven be guaranteed?’ — something along those lines — I think that’s when people started panicking,” Susie Arias told CBS2 News.

Arias said she and her partner were able to walk out, but they said people behind them started running and pushing in an effort to exit quickly.

“That’s when the kind of chaos happened in the little exit, where people were jumping over the railings, and kind of falling over, twisting their ankles and hitting their head,” recalled Adrian Arias.

The guilty party? Michael Webber, a 28-year old preacher with Truth and Triumph Ministries. In his attempt to spread the Good News, he instead frightened moviegoers into thinking he was going to spread bullets.

And get this. He’s done this before – though without panicked stampedes to the exits and subsequent injuries, I’m sure. According to the police, one woman needed to be hospitalized.

Dude – Jesus wants you to save people, not injure people. And evangelizing sometimes puts your life in peril, but never the intended audience.

The final graph of the story is priceless.

Webber has been charged with a misdemeanor. He told CBS2 this will not deter his evangelizing, but he might reconsider his setting.

I would hope so!

This perfectly illustrates that Oliver Wendell Holmes was correct: a man cannot falsely shout “Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Or Hellfire, in this case.

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