While I totally understand the Church having only those with Holy Orders deliver the homily. Sometimes though I muse on the thought of having a homilist-pinch-hitter.
Too often I run across the monotone homilist or the homilist who gives almost a total deadpan delivery. The majority of the time I have found the text of the homily to be fairly decent and that it is the skill in delivery of the homily that I find deficient.
Protestant preachers seem to have paid a lot of attention to this skill set which is understandable since the sermon is pretty much the lynch-pin of a Protestant service. This emphasis explains why the preachers name is often prominently placed on the outside of a Protestant church and not at a Catholic Church. The charism of the individual preacher model though has it’s problems it that people will go preacher-shopping looking for the most entertaining preacher. The positive thing about the Catholic parish model is that having a good homilist transfer doesn’t mean that people will then go looking elsewhere. The parish model where the Mass is the focus reduces a personality driven approach.
Still I think many Catholic homilists could learn something from Protestants when it comes to delivery. Now this does not mean that we must succumb to the idea of the homily as a piece of entertainment. I’ve discussed the use of humor in homilies before in Humorlectics. What I have seen from the limited dataset of my own experience is often really bad presentation. The joys and mysteries of the faith come across as something boring since the preacher can’t seem to lift himself up to any excitement over it. There can be quite disconcerting to hear the disparity between the material and the way it is spoken. This disparity is funny in a talented deadpan comic, for a deacon or priest, not so much. The exuberance of a Cardinal Dolan is reflective of the other end – a well delivered homily. Trying to emulate his Eminence is not the goal as this would not be natural for most speakers. The speaking skills of the homilist are certainly of some importance and I do wonder how much attention is paid to this in seminary? If they are than I am encountering too many homilists that slipped through.
Though maybe what I really need is a pinch-hitter-homily-listener since instead of working harder to pay attention to even a poorly delivered homily I allow my mind to wander and compose blog posts on pinch-hitter-homilists.