How Do Catholic Priests preach on Sunday?

Most Catholic Priests (at least on TV) seem somewhat scholarly and reserved in comparison to preachers in the more fundamentalist branches of Christianity. Are there any “fire and brimstone” Catholic preachers that will raise the roof and put the fear of God in you, or is that considered bad form in the Catholic Church?

Well, the quality of preaching at Catholic churches varies drastically. Remember that, at Baptist churches, the ministers are hired or fired by the local elders. The ministers’ preaching skills are of paramount importance as to whether they get hired and retained. So, you expect a Baptist church to have an engaging preacher. After all, to Baptists (as to most Protestants), Communion is not a sacrament. It’s secondary in importance to the preaching.

In the Catholic Church, Communion is the primary purpose of the Mass. reaching is secondary. Moreover, priests are assiged to parishes by bishops. The local laity has little say in the matter. So, even if Father Pat is a boring preacher, his job is not in jeopardy.

So, there are superb preachers and lousy ones. Not too many fire and brimstone types, but that’s more a reflection of CHurch teachings than of preaching style

The priests at my church usually comment on local or current affairs, and often intertwine the issues with relevant biblical and historical themes. Usually the sermons are relaxed in not too formal in style.

But I’ve never seen a Catholic priest do any fire and brimstone hellfire preaching, like in some evangelical churches. It is the nun’s job to put the fear of God into you :slight_smile:

Do you have EWTN on cable? I know, exciting stuff…but it’s services are fairly typical of mainstream Catholic churches in North America. In other parts of the world, where there is more missionary fervor, there may be more impassioned services. In more conservative parts of the Catholic world, services are probably more rigid.

I’ve found that it really varies from priest to priest. For example, my parish currently has three priests. The monsignor tends to have fairly dry sermons. Father Pedro’s (in English, I haven’t been to one of his Spanish or Portuguese Masses that I could understand well enough to describe) are similar. Father Bob’s tend to be a little more vibrant. They’re still not what you see in some Protestant churches, but his are…livelier.

The only Catholic priest I’ve ever really heard preach in a “fire and brimstone” way was one who became a priest after going from Catholicism to Pentecostal and back to Catholicism. He was very much like the ones you see in some Protestant churches.

As others here have noted, it varies. I was an altar boy for years, so I got to see a lot of priests. A lot of them, especially for early weekday masses, seemed to just go through the motions with a Prepared Statement. Then there’s the Academic Lecture. And the Motivational Speaker. The ones I like are the young ones who Get Into It, tossing in a few jokes. At the midnight Christmas Mass, one of the priests used to condemn the whole world. Really upbeat. But I’ve never heard a real Southern Baptist-style Fire and Brimstone harangue.

If you want to see how weird this can get, rent the Jack Lemmon movie Mass Appeal and watch the “Dialogue Sermon”:

http://us.imdb.com/Title?0087688

Lsura, how old is your monsignor? They don’t assign that title anymore, at least since the 80s, if I remember correctly. That guy has got to be ancient!

We had a monsignor back when I was in grade school, and he would go off during the sermon. Monsignor Curtin was his name, and randomly shouting was his game. It was almost like Austin Powers - he seemed to have no control over the volume of his voice.

OTOH, they do have reruns of the late Bishop Fulton Sheen’s TV show from way back when. Not boring at all. He hammed it up just delightfully, obviously he trained in stagecraft (and his chalkboard and full-dress episcopal cassock were nice-attention getters) . But then again, those were not Masses – and that’s another element, in the Catholicism of my early life, “sermons”, when they happened, were events distinct from the Mass. During Mass we got a “homily” which was kind of nap time. Hard-core preachings (in my Middle-School days usually on the evils of the flesh) were delivered during “retreats” and “missions”.
Another element that conspires to keep homilies dull – besides the Priest being a tenured “civil servant” in a large bureaucracy, and not having to justify his paycheck – is that Catholicism does not have the eschatological orientation of many Evangelical Protestant churches – thus not much urgency to yell “Repent! the Coming of the Beast is upon us!”.

Also, in Western jurisdictions where the congregation is seen as “soft” on commitment, and in “borderline” areas where the congregations are newcomers not yet firmly rooted, the institution has a tendency to avoid making a big public deal out of things that may make people uncomfortable, and that includes hard-hitting preaching. Conversely, where traditionally the Church has been an institutional part of life (maybe even as State Church, in parts of Europe and Latin America), where everyone is “just supposed” to show up, they have no incentive to be interesting.

Munch, the title of Monsignor never went away, it just fell out of favor in many American dioceses post-Vatican II. Some bishops never stopped putting candidates forward for the title; our pastor is in his late 40s/early 50s, and has been a Monisignor for many years.

Another difference between Catholic and Protestant preaching that has not been pointed out is that in the liturgical traditions (Catholic, Orthodox, some Anglican and Lutheran) the bible readings for each day are specified by the church. A Catholic homily is, ideally, a short sermon that is linked in some way to the readings for the day. So, this coming Sunday most priests will be preaching on something connected to the gospel, John 14:1-12.

One hand on the Bible and the other hand on the Alter-boy!


“I’m a nasty Pope!”- S. Kineson

it does depend upon the priest.

generally the homily is to be based on the scripture read earlier. so if it was about doubting thomas, they attempt to talk about doubting in our daily lives and whatnot.

we have three priests at my parish. monsignor bass (not ancient, i’d say maybe late 40s, i guess) has rather dry homilies. he prepares them in advance and types them out and reads. occasional humour will be inserted.

father brian [note that the monsignor is referred to by his last name, but the fathers are referred to by their first names; i’m not sure why] has general notes, and always tries to open with a little humourous story. he keeps his a bit more casual, more like talking with people.

father stanley is my favourite. his homilies don’t make any sense. :smiley: it’s not his fault, though. he’s from poland and his english, while completely understandable, is not fluent. he also has trouble connecting one bit of his homily to another. my mom hates this. his talk will wander all the way the hell (oops! :D) over the place and sort of touch upon the actual topic, sometimes.

but no fire and brimstone. most of the homilies have a general message of how to grow deeper in your faith, grow closer to god, and the like.

(Psst…if you’re gonna take a cheap shot in an unrelated thread…at least spell the word “altar” correctly…)

Monsignor is fairly elderly (from my 28 year old point of view) - he’s retiring next month, which I suppose means that he’s 75 or so.

And for cultural comparison: here in PR the word “monseñor” is thrown around casually to refer not just to priests who hold that dignity, but to bishops too; the former are extremely rare here. (Still, most of them are boring as all get-out)

As to the use of the names, notice that Bishops, also, go on a last-name basis. And that to people outside the priest’s particular congregation – or in a more formal, disciplined setting --it’s still Father Flanagan, Father Mulcahy. Using “Father Firstname” is more of something the basic priest at the parish does in order to bond more closely to the flock.

Yeah, that makes sense here too. Monsignor O’Connor is the parish head (or whatever you call them), and he is never referred to by his first name. Neither is the Archbishop (what’s his name? Can never remember). All the bishops I’ve ever known of use their last name. Then there’s the Parochial Vicars - Father Pedro and Father Bob (which, by the way, always makes me laugh a little. I mean, Father Bob???). They always use their first names.
When I was little, it was different. It was always “Father Lastname”. I never met a “Father Firstname” until I was in high school.